When I Go to Church, I Belong: Finding My Place in God's Family as a Child with Special Needs, By Elrena Evans
When I Go to Church, I Belong
  • Length: 32 pages
  • Dimensions: 9 × 9 in
  • Published: September 19, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Kids
  • Item Code: A0667
  • ISBN: 9781514006672

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Illumination Award Gold Medal

Children with disabilities often struggle to fit in, but church can be a place where everyone is welcome and included!When I Go to Church, I Belong follows the story of six children, helping us better understand the experiences and feelings of those with special needs. And it reminds us that even though we have our differences, we also have so much in common.

Written by Elrena Evans and illustrated by Rebecca Evans, this message of inclusion and belonging can be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Also included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content.

Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God!

"Belonging is a fundamental need of every person. Belonging at church can meet that need in powerful and eternal ways. In When I Go to Church, I Belong, Elrena Evans assures children with disabilities of their place in their church family. In this picture book, children with special needs will find kids who look like them on its pages and hear their feelings given voice in the text. Caregiving parents will see their kids being welcomed, and the church body will discover new ways to follow Christ's command to bring all children into his loving presence. This book belongs on the shelf of every church library and every Sunday school classroom, so every child who enters the church will know they belong to Jesus."

Jolene Philo, coauthor with Gary Chapman of Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families

"Belonging is a critical element of faith, hope, and community, and this book provides a wonderful opportunity for young children and their families to learn that the church is a place for all people to belong regardless of abilities. This book is a much-needed resource for advancing the cause of disability inclusion in faith communities."

Lamar Hardwick, lead pastor at Tri-Cities Church and author of Disability and the Church

"When I Go to Church, I Belong is a terrific social story for children with disabilities that captures both the joys and anxieties of participating in large groups like faith communities. It is simply and respectfully written, beautifully illustrated, with diversity everywhere. I can imagine children with and without disabilities will enjoy it and come back to it."

Bill Gaventa, founder of Institute on Theology and Disability and author of Disability and Spirituality: Recovering Wholeness

"It is the lived-out love of Jesus Christ that makes any church a place of belonging—and it's all the richer when that gospel-love is made accessible to families with children who live with disability. In this beautifully illustrated book, the young reader will discover the many wonderful ways God's people can make their church a true place of belonging . . . for everyone!"

Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of Joni and Friends International Disability Center

"Throughout the book, we see a congregation that is committed to inclusion of all of God's children through their staffing, building, and other ministry decisions. The focus is on welcoming, not on the challenge of adapting. If I had seen a book like this as a child, I would have swooned. My sister would have, too. Yes, this book helps those with various disabilities find someone that can help represent them. But it also gives families a voice, as well as showing congregations different ways to expand the circle and draw more of God's beloved people into the community."

Practical Resources for Churches, May 2024

"When I Go to Church, I Belong by Elrena Evans is a beautifully told story that reflects the message 'come as you are.' . . . The illustrations are as beautiful as the story itself. They capture the sights, sounds, scents, and feelings of a community. When I Go to Church, I Belong is a must read and would be a great fit for any church or home library. It is a celebration of a life where everyone can belong. Highly recommended!"

Children and Teens Book Connection, September 2023

A Look Inside

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Elrena Evans

Elrena Evans (MFA, Penn State) is an author, an editor, a mother, a wife, a dancer, and a stand-up comedian. Her books When I Go to Church, I Belong and Special Grace: Prayers and Reflections for Families with Special Needs are both inspired by her experience as a mom of children with special needs. Elrena lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their five children. She doesn't have a favorite ice cream flavor because she loves (almost) all of them.