I can’t believe it’s summer. It always seems to sneak up behind me, surprising me with its warmth and activity. Working at Joni and Friends means my summers are packed full of ministry to families affected by disability. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being the manager of our internship department means I have the great honor of leading intern teams to Family Retreats and on international mission trips with Joni and Friends. In just a few short days I will be traveling to Peru with a group of physical therapy students to distribute wheelchairs to people in Lima.
The more my calendar fills up, the more I realize how much I leave behind. Life doesn’t stop just because I get on a plane and fly to Peru. This is a reality I struggle with every summer. And it never gets easier—the older I get, the harder it becomes because I leave more and more behind.
This year, my thoughts have been turning toward the special needs ministry at my church. For the children’s ministry, summer is a time of transition. Kids are out of school, which means they come into Sunday school with ten times the amount of energy (the teachers love this). It’s also the season when kids can be promoted to an older classroom. For most kids, this is a long-awaited milestone in their adventure of growing up. However, for kids with special needs, transitions can be difficult. Transitions are full of unknowns; different classmates, unfamiliar teachers, and new schedules. I had hoped to be present for this crucial time, to help make the transition as smooth as possible. But I have to leave it behind. It makes me realize that transitions are hard for everybody—even me.
As I pray over the volunteers who will be managing the transitions of our kids with special needs, it leads me to my knees. I have so many hopes and prayers for our small ministry,
“God, I pray for the hearts of our volunteers, that they are filled with genuine love and care for our special kids. I pray for continued guidance from the Holy Spirit. I pray for a heart of humility to receive your direction. I pray for the hearts of others in our church to be changed as they witness your love being poured out on these special families. I pray for the salvation of our kids, that they may come to know you as loving and sovereign. God, I pray we will never grow weary of ministering to those you have called to Yourself. Amen.”
I am not a seasoned disability ministry leader, and I am very much still learning. So, I would love advice from anyone else walking this road! Do you have any tips on how to make transitions for special needs kids easier at church? If so, please comment below. I am grateful for the body of Christ and our ability to work as a team to serve families affected by disability.
Rachel Roleder serves as the Manager of the Cause 4 Life, Global Missions and Internships Department at Joni and Friends. Rachel enjoys learning more of God’s design for His church as she leads teams of interns on disability ministry outreaches all over the world.