Lessons from World Down Syndrome Day

Source: Baptist Press

Yesterday, March 21, 2022 marked World Down Syndrome Day. For Round Grove Baptist Church, it is a reminder of the importance of incorporating special needs ministries into their planning.

Inspired by two members of their congregation with Down Syndrome, 48-year-olds Brant and Grant, the congregation has sought to create a culture that welcomes all people.

Reflecting on his relationship with the twins, Pastor Mark Fugitt noted that every time he mounts the pulpit on Sundays, he can count the twins’ encouraging “Hallelujah! Amen!”

Brant and Grant’s presence also inspired Fugitt’s wife, Laura, to teach a special needs Sunday School class, which the twins attend .  “They know the Bible. They’re all saved and baptized, and they’re not ashamed of it,” she said.

Seeking to combat the loneliness many individuals with Down Syndrome face, Round Grove is intentional about including differently abled persons. With an average attendance of 300, the Missouri congregation has developed special programming to minister to the needs of the population especially during the pandemic and the current phase of pandemic reopenings.

Because many individuals with special needs are immunocompromised, they are not easily able to return to pre-pandemic activities without taking major risks.

Prior to COVID-19, Laura Fugitt’s adult special needs class averaged 12-15, but now has only four consistent attendees.

To help create safe spaces, the congregation has designed limited attendance events and programming. Last year, the church organized a sensory friendly version of an Easter egg hunt with distinct physical boundaries and fewer crowds and noises. Another event the church sponsored was a special Vacation Bible School class with a mission curriculum designed to teach about current mission fields and scriptures that support evangelism.

“The need is there. You won’t see it if you haven’t provided some resources, but it’s all over the place,” Pastor Fugitt said. “We’ve learned over the last several years that you have to develop a custom plan for your families. Listen to them. Every need is different; every family is different.”

Additionally, this World Down Syndrome Day, the congregation made it extra special for Brant and Grant by throwing them a birthday to remind them of how much they mean to the congregation.

Source: Baptist Press