Hospitality to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families
Susan Q. Claytor
In discussion with other congregational leaders around the members of their community, a growing population seems to be absent. The individuals and the families of those on the Autism Spectrum Disorder are not present in our worship services. This neuro-different population is not participating in communal worship, nor are their family members. It is time for intentional outreach to this important and tremendous segment of our general population. Anecdotal evidence shows that quite often the parents of children on the spectrum are worried about both the reactions and welcome their child might generate and receive, and the disruption their child may bring to the service. However, the strong theme of hospitality throughout scripture, including the teachings of Jesus, compel us to be welcoming and accepting. Providing some basic education to the congregations will increase the likelihood of a community that is able to truly welcome and embrace the individuals and families of those on the spectrum. Additionally, embracing all of God's children, including those who are neuro-different, brings new gifts and talents into the gathering and ministries of the organizations. Pastorally, all people are in need of safe places to worship, grow spiritually and to receive care and support. In addition, many of the normal activities and programs of worshipping communities will prove to be greatly beneficial to those on the spectrum, proving unintentional intervention simply by offering acceptance and interaction. This paper encompasses the theological implications of hospitality, provides a four week educational series for all members of the congregation, and has some helpful hints and understandings for those in leadership or who volunteer in various ministries where they may work directly with those on the spectrum.