It is true that special needs ministry is still very much at the ground floor. The church still lags well behind the culture at large where inclusion, accommodation and accessibility are concerned. Unbiblical views of disability still poison much of the Body of Christ. And pastoral ignorance regarding how to minister to this population remains a challenge.
Nevertheless, you cannot do it all and do it well! Many of us in this area of ministry have found a “sweet spot”, if you will. We each have an area of core competency that needs to be recognized and continuously developed. You, as a leader are uniquely qualified to minister to some specific piece the larger disability community. And that particular piece “rings your bell,” as Willow Creek Pastor, Bill Hybels puts it.
Allow me to share with you an anecdote from my own organization. When we began a decade ago, there were a handful of disability ministries to be found. All I knew was that I sensed we were being called to reach out to other parents, but I didn’t have great clarity about it. I remember attending a conference put on by the now defunct Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities. Exhibitors and speakers included individuals from Joni & Friends, Jesus Cares Ministries, Special Touch, Rest Ministries, Lift Disability Network, and the former Agape Care Ministries (an organization for caregivers). While each of these ministries added tremendous value to us, none of them seemed to be an organization that we felt we could just be assimilated in to. On the flip side, we had people at home suggesting that we start a camp or a Sunday school curriculum or a co-op for resale of clothes or needed equipment. It became abundantly clear that we had a focus and that we dare not stray from that focus. Our area of expertise was clearly ministering to parents. With the encouragement an insights of fellow ministry leader, Dr. Steve Grcevich, our team committed to formulating a solid business plan that would be our filter for everything we do. Our vision is to make every parent of a child with special needs a full ambassador of Christ. And we have moved far more efficiently and effectively since we’ve committed to working only in our area of core competency.
What this means, ultimately, is that we also affiliate ourselves with others who are operating within their sweet spot as well! For example, we have found that Key Ministry does a fabulous job of training churches on how to offer inclusive Sunday School programming, so we send people to them for that type of guidance. When churches are looking for a turn-key curriculum for individuals with cognitive issues, we have found Friendship Ministries has a great deal to offer. With Michael Woods’ training in relational crisis prevention, Special Friends of First Baptist Orlando has amazing online training modules for those ministering to kids on the autism spectrum. And the list goes on.
Have you stopped being a “Jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none”? What do you and your leadership team feel passionate about? “Disability Ministry” is a broad field. Where could your organization be developing a sweet spot? We would love to hear from you!