It’s been about six months since the Special Friends ministry launched at my church. Some of you have followed our journey by reading my blog posts over the last several months. I typically shy away from posting my thoughts and comments online. I have an old soul that prefers one-on-one, face-to-face communication. But I must confess that this blog has been an outlet for reflection. Every time I sit down to write a post I’m forced to be open and vulnerable with myself. I am compelled to consider how things are going with the ministry. Starting a disability ministry isn’t as easy as following a set of directions, and I want my experience to create a more realistic picture of what it’s like to start a ministry. That way, when others walk this road they can be uplifted and encouraged in times of doubt.
Doubt is a common plague for almost anyone in a position of leadership. To be completely honest with you, I’ve doubted my decision to start this ministry several times in the last couple months. I questioned whether I was the right person for the job. I questioned if it’s the right timing for my church. I doubted the confidence our church’s leadership had in me to run the ministry effectively. … But then God stepped in, as He always does, to provide me encouragement when I least expected it.
I’ve been reading through a Christian leadership book in preparation for a training workshop I will be teaching to the interns at Joni and Friends this summer. One of the chapters references the story of Moses encountering God in the desert. After God had instructed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses gave Him a laundry list of significant reasons why he doubted his ability to serve in this role. This struck a chord in my heart because it sounded much like my own list of doubts. After sharing this story, the author of the leadership book goes on to say, “God does not primarily delight in using what you bring to the table. Instead, He delights in using what you surrender to Him.”[i] This means our self-perceived strengths should take a backseat to our complete surrender to God. Because even in our strength, we must find brokenness to provide God room to work. Finding the humility to surrender our strengths to God allows us to be a better tool for His Kingdom work.
Now, let’s get practical. I already have a laundry list of doubts regarding my weaknesses thanks to my self-assessment. I can now go down the list and surrender each one to God, get out of His way, and ask the Holy Spirit how He can work through them.
I have doubts about my competency to run this ministry. But looking back over the last several weeks, I realize that God is running it. One family was able to attend a regular church service with their son who has autism because a volunteer came alongside them and gave them the support they needed. One family has signed up to attend a Joni and Friends Family Retreat because of the announcement made at church encouraging our whole congregation to get involved. Families affected by disability are finding more community and encouragement. And none of it was because of me.
I’ll just get out of the way now…
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.