What Does it Mean to Be Highly Treasured and Valued?

Written By: Emme Showler


February 21, 2024

We all want to feel included. We all like to feel seen and heard. We all desire to be accepted as God created us to be. So why is it hard for us to accept and love people who are different from us?

Perhaps it’s a fear of the unknown, or maybe we won’t know how to interact with someone who doesn’t act or see things the same way that we do. We have to learn that person’s behaviors or habits, which can cause us to feel awkward in a society that clings to the comfortable. But as the body of Christ, we’re called to press into the uncomfortable moments and strive to see others the way Jesus does.

At Woodside, we endeavor to create a culture of acceptance and inclusion for our special needs community and their families. Too often, families with children who have special needs are turned away, cast out, and unwelcome — not receiving the love and intentional care that they should be shown. God has entwined purpose, value, and importance in each individual with special needs. By God’s grace, we’ve been blessed to foster an environment that welcomes, cares for, and supports people with disabilities, along with their families.

Our special needs ministry is run by Greg McDougall and Scott Preisler at Woodside Troy. Every Sunday morning, the ministry meets for worship, fellowship, and to learn more about Jesus. Throughout the year, attendees and their families can participate in Bible studies, group hangouts, a special voices choir, parents’ and siblings’ groups, and more.

During Sunday morning class, ministry attendees are given worksheets to go along with the day’s teaching. One weekend, when presented with the question, “What makes you feel loved?” a girl named Lillian wrote down, “When people accept my differences and befriend me.”

“No matter where a person is at in their journey with disability, we’ll be able to minister to them,” Greg said.

Both Greg and Scott desire to wholeheartedly accept people with limitations while ministering to their families. Everyone with a disability is inherently treasured and valued by God. As followers of Christ, our mission is to value all people in that same way.

Scott puts it like this: “We want to move from tolerating, to accepting, to championing each of these individuals.”

Often times, people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to participate in the same activities that able-bodied people do. For some, attending a Woodside event dedicated to accessibility and acceptance may be the first time they are fully included.

This was true for a girl who attended Woodside’s special needs Easter egg hunt in April of 2023. Because she’s in a wheelchair, she had never been able to experience an egg hunt before. But for this event, Greg constructed a tool that allowed kids in wheelchairs to participate. It was the first accessible Easter egg hunt she had ever experienced, and she was ecstatic to be included. Afterward, she told Scott, “Hey, I really love this church.”

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” — Psalm 139:13–16

God creates each life intricately, with a specific purpose and plan. That includes those born with special needs — they are formed wonderfully and fearfully by our Lord. It was God’s intentional plan to create them as they are, full of light, life, love, and value. He has given each of them specific gifts, and as the Church, we need to encourage them to use their gifts for the glory of the Father.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ….As it is there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think are less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” — 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14–27

It’s a joy to watch the experience of a disabled individual when they are embraced with dignity and inclusion. The light that shines from them when they are seen for who they are is extravagantly bright. We are all part of the body of Christ, members working towards one cause: to bring God glory. If we exclude our special needs brothers and sisters, we are not representing the Gospel well, nor are we carrying out what God has clearly stated in His Word.

Each of our special needs members is an essential part of the body; we cannot function the same without them. The Church is called to put away division and rejection, and instead honor and respect every member of the body. At Woodside, our heart is to love and care for our special needs family as we champion them to fully embrace who God created them to be.

1️⃣ Do you know someone with special needs that would benefit from Christ-centered community? Help connect them to Woodside’s special needs ministry by visiting woodsidebible.org/special-needs-ministry.

2️⃣ Is God calling you to serve our special needs brothers and sisters? Visit woodsidebible.org/special-needs-ministry or scan the code to contact us about getting involved!