It was my great pleasure to have a strong cup of barista-prepared coffee with my pastor yesterday morning. Updating him on the progress and plans of our ministry to parents of children with special needs resulted in a very engaging conversation. We had the opportunity to both discuss issues affecting every ministry leader and share funny memories of where God has led us over the years. I laughed as I recalled the point when I had first approached him with the idea of forming our ministry through his church. “Barb,” he said in his Kentucky drawl, “You’re just gonna learn by doing and making mistakes.” And he smiled and reiterated that what he said back then was true , “There’s no better business teacher than one who has been in business before!” I jokingly told him that he needed to explain that to all those I offended over the years as I was enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks!
As we got further into our discussion about the need for ministry specifically directed at those with unique abilities and their families, we couldn’t help but admit how woefully behind the church is in comparison to the secular world. We talked about the sad complacency of Christians who would rather come “do their time” on Sundays than get outside of their comfort zone with those needing the hope of Jesus who are perhaps right in their midst.
And then I brought up the ugly elephant in the room. I mentioned that I think the problem can also be taken all the way back to the fact that pastors are not equipped to deal with the issue of disability or special needs in our seminaries. Pastors are sent out into their congregations with no idea how to approach this issue.
My pastor disagreed. “I know what those running the seminaries would say to your point. If we spent time teaching our seminarians about every potential problem or situation their church members face, there would be no time to teach them about the Bible.” He went on to contend that the overall approach to ministering to every human being has to consist of compassion, first and foremost. The rest will naturally follow.
So I pose the question to you, Do our pastors need some level of training in seminary on disabilities or do we need to get better at teaching them compassion? Is compassion enough to carry us through? I’d love to hear your input!