I usually try not to post about the same thing on too many sites at the same time, but this week I am devoting my “ministry” posts to ONE thing and that is the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church. This is a conference for churches and congregants to learn how they can serve the Special Needs Community.
Now, I ask you to do something for me this week. Go to your church and look for the disabled. If you can get your hands on the stats of disabled at your church and that of the surrounding community, that would be even better. My fear is that you will find your public school system serving more disabled than your church … and THAT is a SHAME. What happened to living Jesus’ words, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)? Do we not believe the disabled and/or the families of disabled are weary and burdened?
A few years ago, I went on a search for churches that could provide what my son needed when we attended. I checked out some large, almost mega-, churches and saw not one wheelchair. I entered into the children’s ministry to inform them of my son’s needs and heard words like, “Yeah, we had an autistic child here once.”
What?!!! Once?!!! This church was HUGE and it had an autistic child once? Given the rate of autism is something like 1 in every 110, this church should have seen many more than one, not to mention those with other learning disorders or disabilities.
So why aren’t the weary (these individuals AND those caring for them) showing up? Probably because, for some reason, they do not feel welcome. Churches are waiting for the individuals to darken their doorsteps BEFORE they provide the services needed, saying, “Well, we don’t have any special needs families, so why create a ministry?” when really they should be preparing the services KNOWING they are needed, then going out and finding the burdened to serve. Believe me, they are out there … alone and isolated.
We’ve spent too much time over the last weeks judging a young man with autism and a mother who raised him for the senseless deaths of young children. Let’s do more than judge. Let’s act! Could churches engaging these families have changed the outcome? Who knows, but it’s worth a look! At the very least, by engaging, we will be more aware of potential warning signs. At best, we could provide opportunities for community where none existed before—In Christ!!!
Our churches should have MORE families with disabilities than the public school system, not less. Having mentioned churches with the opposite, I am compelled to tell you of one that meets this criteria—McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia. When I visited I saw parents holding hands of Downs Children, couples signing in the hallway, congregants leading blind members, and others pushing wheelchairs. It was awesome!!! The work of Christ was visible everywhere you looked. This church has made it a critical mission to serve these families, and better yet, can provide YOU with what you need to do the same at YOUR church. It’s called Accessibility Summit, a conference for churches who want to start and grow this ministry. It will be held April 19th-20th, and will feature Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson and mother of Max (who has autism).
I highly recommend you either attend or request your church send a representative to attend. You won’t be sorry! This is an opportunity to grow an important ministry serving those Jesus begged you to serve: The weary and burdened. And if you do this, I KNOW you will find a myriad of giftings among your new congregants which your church so desperately needs—important “members” of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:22 (NIV) “ … those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
So go out and find your indispensable members!!!
Connie is a 2012 Genesis semi-finalist for Women’s Fiction. She was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest for her entry, Why Not to Kiss on a Park Bench (aka. Harold and Violet). Come visit her on one of her other blogs: Living the Body of Christ; InfiniteCharacters.com