Roof Rippers – Making church more accessible

Mark 2:1-5 tells us the story of a paralysed man whose four fabulous friends were completely convinced that he needed to meet Jesus.  But there were so many obstacles between their friend and Jesus that you might have thought they’d just give up. Not these guys!  Full of tenacity and determination, they have a brilliant idea – we can’t change our friend’s individual circumstances, but we can change the environment.  

That’s how we end up with all five of them on a roof – four ripping it up so one can get in.  Mark’s gospel tells us they “made an opening by digging through it”. I love that; can’t get in, can’t get round it, got to go through! They did all this because they were determined to remove the barriers that kept their friend from meeting Jesus. And as the man is dangled through the makeshift hole, Jesus sees their faith.   

Their friend’s greatest need was met at the feet of a Saviour who forgives.  Then it all kicks off – not about the roof, but the sin-forgiving.  Remember that next time you suggest changing something like tiles, or seats, or songs, or doorways so that people can get in.  There’s many things we can and should be open to changing and there’s some we really shouldn’t – like who can forgive sins.  It takes wisdom to know the difference. 

We at Faith in Kids are often asked for help on how to include children with additional needs in churches and children’s groups.  It’s very hard to give a blanket answer as every individual child and family is different and has different needs. But being a friend who is willing to rip a roof is where I’d start. 

There are children and families in our churches and communities who need roof-ripping Christian friends. Friends who will get to know them, love them, understand their strengths and limitations, think creatively and act bravely. Friends who will do whatever it takes to remove barriers so that the person who struggles to walk, see, sit, hear, understand or cope with sensory overload is able to get to Jesus. How else will they be able to know his love, enjoy his forgiveness and be encouraged by his people? 

For children and families with additional needs, the way for your church to start loving them is to agree on the roof-ripping principle.  Will we remove whatever barriers we can so our friends can get to know the forgiveness that Jesus offers?  Are we more interested in people than tiles? 

Then we go about the business of being like the four friends – friends first and roof rippers second.  Being a friend means knowing what they like, understanding what they find hard, enjoying their company and thinking about how we might change something to help them.   

For children with additional needs we’ll also need to talk with those who understand them best, usually their parents. Parents whose children have additional needs have learned to be the experts on their child. Their knowledge is hard won, so listen to them.  But they are also exhausted by repeating their story a million times, so it would be great if they had consistent people to support them who can become their advocate to others in the church. 

Here are some links to greater experts than us that could help you further.