Bryan Roe is a successful youth pastor who experienced firsthand the emotions of a teen with a significant disability growing up with Tourette’s Disorder. Bryan joined us for Inclusion Fusion 2012, presenting on the topic The Greater Miracle.
Bryan is a graduate of Judson University in Chicago IL and currently serves as Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries at Crosspoint Community Church in Oconomowoc, WI. He and his wife Briana partner together to bring the next generation of young people into passionate relationships with Jesus Christ. They have two young sons named Stellan and Caedman, and they take their boys on small adventures whenever they get the chance. This past Tuesday, Bryan and his wife were blessed with the arrival of their first daughter, Brighton.
It’s inevitable. At some point, every parent of a child with special needs is going to wonder why. Why was our family afflicted with this? Why would God allow this transpire? Why can’t God just take it away? Throughout his deep struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, Bryan has wrestled with these questions and found comfort through one crucial truth in the Scriptures: God can use everyone-even those with special needs-to make his love known to the world.
Bryan took the time recently to answer a few questions about growing up with Tourette’s Disorder and ministry with teens with special needs….
IF: In your Inclusion Fusion presentation, you talk about your experiences growing up with Tourette’s Syndrome. How did your experience with Tourette’s as a child and a teen impact your spiritual development?
BR: When I reached middle school, my tics were so bad so overmedicated that I began to wonder, If God is so loving, why would he give me this? I also began to wonder if he could possibly have a plan for a person like me. This caused a massive cloud of depression and doubt to set in until one night, contemplating suicide, I prayed an honest prayer of surrender. From there, everything changed. Through a series of experiences shortly thereafter, God answered that prayer by showing me the miracle of redemption; God’s ability to save and use a broken kid with Tourette’s like me.
IF: What did you learn from your experience with Tourette’s that most impacts your ongoing ministry with youth?
BR: Simply that there are kids everywhere struggling with similar issues, looking in the mirror and seeing someone who is “less than” enough. The point is, God can use anyone and everyone. In fact, his typical bend tends to be toward the kids who don’t think they’ll amount to anything. If my story communicates anything, it communicates the fact that God can use you in spite of – and often times in light of – your weaknesses.
IF: What suggestions would you share with other youth pastors seeking to welcome and include teens and young adults with outwardly apparent or more “hidden” disabilities who don’t feel comfortable about becoming actively involved with church?
BR: These are the primary points I’m hitting in my message, but here they are in response to this question…
1. Regularly feature testimonies from adult leaders who have seen God use them in ways that he used me. Additionally, make sure that the leaders who are giving their testimonies make themselves available to talk to (and pray with) students who are impacted by their stories.
2. Create positions for serving in the church that can be filled by individuals with special needs. Invest in them this way and you add value to them. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment.
3. Communicate stories about how Jesus interacted with people who were on the margins of culture. Through this, build a case to the rest of your youth (or overall church) population about how we should be intentionally and genuinely reaching out to these kids rather than ostracizing them.
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