139 Disability Ministries – The special needs ministry of The Moody Church in Chicago, IL
This ministry seeks to eliminate barriers to the gospel and enable our brothers and sisters with disabilities to use their spiritual gifts.
The name “139” refers to Psalm 139 where David wrote, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:13-14, ESV). The leadership of Moody Church firmly believes that God made all people wonderfully – those with disabilities simply show us God’s wonder differently.
An authentic community built on the hope of Christ…
Over the years, sharing the hope of Christ with individuals and families impacted by disability has been on the hearts of the people at The Moody Church. In recent times, God has blessed this church with renewed vision to reach out to these individuals both within their church and the greater Chicago area.
In spring of 2014, the newly named 139 TMC Disability Ministries began under the leadership of Pastor Larry McCarthy, Jr. and Eric Targe.
One of their first steps was inviting individuals and families impacted by disability in their church to participate in roundtable discussions. They listened as families shared their experiences. One person shared the difficulty of navigating a wheelchair on the slanted flooring in the sanctuary. Another person who is blind wasn’t able to sing along with the hymns. As the 139 Team found small, practical steps to take, trust was built. Ushers were trained to assist wheelchair users in the sanctuary. Braille binders are now available at the welcome desk containing all of the music and Scripture readings. A passionate team was formed to provide leadership, administration, and coordination.
…that compels people affected by disability to fully belong.
As the leadership team listened, they learned that those they were serving wanted to have community with others in the congregation. They began “Buddy Time,” a class for adults with developmental disabilities. In this class each “139 Friend” is paired with a “139 Buddy.”
The Moody Church is in an urban context, bringing unique challenges and opportunities. Some of the challenges include limited parking, limited public transportation, and socio-economic factors.
The Moody Church is a regional church which means there is opportunity to reach out to people with disabilities in their local neighborhood as well as in the surrounding suburbs of Chicago.
Dreams for the Future
The Moody Church desires to impact families impacted by disability in Chicago who are not already connected with a church. They have begun monthly Family Fun Nights as a way to meet new families. They hope to expand their deaf ministry and develop Wednesday evening programming that would include a Bible study group of differing abilities, and support for parents of children with special needs.
The “139 Buddy Time” ministry was featured in an article published in the Chicago Tribune on January 20, 2016. The article told the story of Joan Anderson who is a full-time caregiver to her 45-year-old sister, Michelle. Joan has been in this role for nearly five years, since both their parents passed away. Thanks to “139 Buddy Time” Joan receives regular breaks three Sundays a month. On the remaining Sunday, Joan helps lead class as a 139 Buddy. She “…now has energy and free time to do what she enjoys, like singing in choir, attending a Sunday class with her husband, and developing new relationships at her congregation in Chicago.” This is a great testimony of the impact that a special needs ministry can have on an individual and community.
Karen Roberts, DWS, is the Academic Studies and Church Relations Manager for Joni and Friends Chicago. Click to read Karen’s full bio.