When it comes to special needs ministry, what if God isn’t waiting for us to have all of the answers, but God is waiting on us to simply accept the assignment of loving our neighbors as ourselves?
In the last four months, one significant and concerning trend I’ve noticed in social media conversations among ministry leaders has been the uptick in the need for suicide information. Reducing mental illness stigma and prevention are the techniques with the most impact. Here are some other approaches that may help.
I often say that my son Joel, who has autism, has been the greatest spiritual teacher of my life. The lessons haven’t always been easy, and sometimes they’re not clear until later. But year after year after year, Holy Spirit knowledge pours forth from this young man and blesses all whose eyes and ears are open and receptive. And that includes his church.
There are so many great ideas out there about starting a disability ministry. But unless we take these ideas and start walking, they will mean nothing. There are things that we’re going to have to throw off—much like Bartimaeus had to throw off his cloak to freely run to Jesus. What is your cloak? What is the thing you need to throw aside in order to take your next step in starting a disability ministry?
Keep listening to the voice of God as you ask: What gift has this person been given by God that might benefit those around them, and especially the Church? A person just being present is a gift to those around them. Who are we to judge who can and cannot have a relationship with God, or who can and cannot serve Him?
When I think about the scripture that exhorts Christ-followers to number our days correctly, I kind of get the meaning backwards. I think about things from a natural human perspective, when what I really need is God’s perspective. The verse isn’t so much about the volume of what I accomplish, but the quality and the purposefulness of what I do. It’s also what I let ministry do to change me. Without anyone reminding me, do I actually see the personal dignity of every person?
Worship for me was turned upside down when I found myself on the floor a few times in tears, literally. Pain, heartache, changes worship. Praising God for who he is and not what he does for us makes it come straight from the gut. Maybe that’s what God wanted all along from me, worship from the deep.
Many churches are at a place of that first talk with a pastor, where a concerned layperson might discuss whether churches should be worried about mental health. The American Psychiatric Association has created a guide is to equip faith community leaders to help with a mental health need, because “faith community leaders are gatekeepers or ‘first responders’ when individuals and families face mental health or substance use problems.”
God is the master director and storyteller. The most important story, of how He works with humanity and how He came to rescue humanity as fully God and fully human is of course the Big Story. But the Big Story is full of trillions of lesser stories. And I’m convinced the lesser stories mostly revolve around God breaking through the illusions we have in our lives.
As a young mom of four children, two of whom have disabilities, including severe intellectual impairment, I ask God tough questions. I imagine many ministry leaders wonder some of the same things I do, but fear asking. It’s natural to wonder and it’s okay to ask. It’s in wrestling with such questions, pressing into Jesus in prayer and exploration of His Word we not only find answers but gain a deeper understanding of who Jesus intended the Church to be.