What Does Your Family Think of Disability Ministry?

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It’s a common oversight on the part of Christians.  We throw ourselves out there to “do” ministry, forgetting that our mission field begins right underneath our own roof.  While we may be mindful to share the Gospel with our family, how many of us involve our immediate and extended relatives in serving those with special needs?  While I’ve often seen couples serving together in disability ministry, I wonder how many of us draw our parents, our children, our siblings and other family into the work.

Might I suggest that part of our “succession plan” could include our family members?  Since the early stages of our ministry, with my husband at my side, I have involved our children in serving those with special needs and their families.  Whether it is leading sensory activities at our local Kids Fest booth or serving as a buddy at respite, my family has rolled up their sleeves to work alongside me.  This has transformed their worldview and opened their hearts to those facing physical, emotional or cognitive challenges.  They admonish their friends repeatedly over use of the ever-pervasive “R-word”.  My kids have surprised me with their big-picture understanding of the great need to reach out to families living with a loved one who has a disability.  Once, when I was certain that I was going to throw in the towel, my children even told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to quit.  The mission was too important, they said.

Additionally, I speak with my sister who continues to perfect the inclusion program in the private Christian school she leads as principal.  We discuss best practices.  She asks questions.  I share resources.  It is a blessed exchange.

These encounters with family have surprised me far beyond expectation.  While I wanted to build acceptance and gain a few extra helping hands, it has been amazing to see what God has done with each family member’s involvement.  I have no idea what the future may hold.  However, I do know that the pebble the Lord dropped in the water through my leadership has had a ripple affect that begins with those closest to me.  My prayer is that every leader in disability ministry would, at the very least, have great influence on their family’s view towards those with unique abilities.  Changing mindset one person at a time, starting at home, is a worthwhile mission indeed.

Have YOU involved your family members in disability ministry?  If so, how?  We would love to hear!  Leave us a comment!

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

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  1. #1 by Mary Forrey on July 2, 2013 - 5:13 pm

    My problem with the disability ministry that I helped to start is that it has now “dropped the ball” on all of those original kids who were served. They are now young adults…and sit in church with their parents every Sunday, just like they did as toddlers, when no such ministry existed. Churches need to realize that kids don’t “outgrow” disability, and for most parent/caregivers of adults with disabilities, the road is much harder and lonelier NOW than it was when they were small. Our total culture needs to stop the infantilization of disability …a practice that draws in people to volunteer with the cute “other” kids…but does nothing to actually STAY with the families, long term. Disability ministry needs to be a long term, relational entity…just as other ministries are…such as ministry to the poor, ministry to the sick, etc.While it is true that families affected by those other ministries WON’T often need them long-term, persons caring for the disabled WILL. The commitment needs to be for the long haul. Otherwise, it leaves those of us in this group with shaken faith at being abandoned when our kids, and their quirky behaviors cease to be “cute”.
    Please understand that I am NOT criticizing ANY effort made toward disability awareness or those who have a heart for the disabled…that love and passion will ALWAYS be appreciated. I am just saying that these ministries need to grow and adapt, as the kids who are IN IT grow and adapt. This is a more common theme among the parents in our original group than anyone realizes…but no one has bothered to ask us how we feel about it….

  2. #2 by SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES on July 2, 2013 - 5:24 pm

    GREAT points, Mary! Our ministry has the core competency of serving parents. There is just as much work to do with parents whose kids are transitioning from grade school to high school and high school to adulthood as there is when children are first diagnosed. Overall, the church desperately needs to loving on every age and every stage of the special needs journey.

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