As a leader, I hate to state the obvious, but sometimes we have resources for Christian disability ministry right under our noses that we never consider. For instance, we had been collaborating with another ministry trying to develop a rural respite campus over the past year. We funded and promoted every event on that property until the organization decided to end the collaboration with us and pursue working with others. Even though that collaboration ended, our rhythm of quarterly fun family events was still a part of our core operations. It left us wondering what venue we would use next for offering outdoor refreshment for families of children with special needs. Thankfully, I remembered one of my family’s favorite state parks and all of its accessible features.
Since the passage of The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), parks across this great nation have opened up nature to those in need of special accommodations. Accessible restrooms are only the beginning of the available services. The park we are renting for our event this month features paved accessible hiking trails and even rents sit skis in the winter. Adaptive kayaks, accessible beaches and cabins are also amenities offered in our state.
For ministries like ours, cost is also a huge issue. The facilities available to us through our state park cost us less than one-third of what the rentals on a piece of open property cost us. Because these parks are already ADA compliant and open to all, the framework is already in place for the needs of groups like ours.
Now lest I sound overly simplistic, let me state that homework is needed if you wish to rent park facilities. Every park is not for every group. But the good news is that information is readily available. Three websites I would recommend to fellow leaders are that of the National Park Service, StateParks.com and the US National Parks Travel Guide. I would also urge leaders to get in touch with County and Municipal park systems to uncover what resources you might tap into. From holding an outdoor accessible worship service to a simple recreational gathering, don’t miss this resource right under your nose!