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.
As I spent much time on bended knee, tending to this little girl with her endless needs, I experienced deeper worship than I’d ever known. I often found myself at the end of my own strength and skills, and I learned to depend much greater on God. Without a spoken word, she’s taught me more about Jesus than any sermon I’ve ever listened to.
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.
No one wants to think of themselves or their family as dysfunctional. And the mental image associated with the term special needs most definitely does not fit. Special needs seems like a suit that was tailored for someone else. But there are no other health conditions for which there are such lengthy delays in diagnosis and treatment solely because of denial. Ditching the camouflage that covers your minimized mental illness might be the best wardrobe decision you ever make.
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?
Whenever a group or congregation is talking about mental illness, there is a tendency to want to help the helpless. We are the powerful ones who can make a difference. As a result of my years of counseling, I saw myself as weak. But over the last year or so, the language I use about my ability has changed. I am no longer weak. I am resilient, remarkably resilient.
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?