A few months ago the Joni & Friends disability ministry announced the launch of their new blog, The Irresistible Church. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to become a guest blogger and quickly said yes. Here’s my first post, which I hope will encourage those involved in disability, special needs, and inclusion ministries to continue the work God has called them to do.
If Disability Ministry Feels Too Big and You Feel Too Small
From the outside looking in, the prospect of beginning a disability ministry feels too big. Disability ministries require big programs, big staffs, big accommodations, and big equipment. All that bigness is daunting. It’s enough to make a person feel too small for the task.
Unless that person grew up looking at disabilities from the inside out. Like my siblings and I did. Our earliest memories revolve around caring for my father, who had multiple sclerosis. Many of those memories revolve include going to church on Sundays during the 1960s and 1970s long before disability ministries came into vogue.
Our church didn’t have the big things. No handicapped parking spots. No curb cutaways. No wheelchair ramp. No elevator to the basement or the second floor. No handicapped accessible bathroom. Come to think of it, our church had so many big obstacles, it’s a wonder we didn’t quit going.
We probably would have stop attending church if it hadn’t been for the people. People who didn’t let the big things make them feel small. Instead, they found small things they could do to include our family in the life of the church.
- The parking spot closest to the door was left open for our family.
- Men appeared the minute we arrived to get Dad into the building.
- Once Dad was inside, people immediately greeted him and visited without condescension or awkwardness.
- When Dad’s disease progressed and he couldn’t go to church, adult Sunday school classmates took turns visiting him during the service so Mom could attend.
- The pastor came over often to visit.
- Other men from the congregation often stopped by on their way home from work in the afternoons to chat with Dad, too.
- An elderly man took my siblings and I to the community Easter egg hunt every year.
Zechariah 4:10 says “Who has despised the day of small things?” (New American Standard). It’s my favorite Bible verse, perhaps because of the constant flow of small acts of kindness people showed to Dad and our family when I was a kid.
The Holy Spirit brings that verse to mind whenever disability ministry feels too big and I feel too small. His still, small voice prompts me to look for the little things I can do instead of dwelling on the big things I can’t accomplish. If ,like me, you have a heart for disability ministry, but go to a church that doesn’t have a formal program, I encourage you to memorize Zechariah 4:10 and begin praying for the Holy Spirit to show you small ways to minister to adults with disabilities and children with special needs in your church.
By taking those two small steps, your perspective about what disability ministry is will begin to change. You will find ways to make your church more inclusive. Those ways may seem small and insignificant, but they are not. They are the life of the church, the hand of Christ, and a light upon the path for future generations who need someone to show them the value of small things.
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