After reading the last four blogs in this series, you may be able to identify what approach your church or ministry currently embraces. You may even have a better idea of what some of your deficits are. But when you want to make a philosophical shift in your approach to disability ministry, the big question is how? I’d like to offer three tips that may help make help shift your church’s perspective on disability ministry.
- Be patient: It will probably take time for the philosophy of your organization and your leadership team to shift. You see the need; you are the champion of the ministry. But, not all the people you work with will share your same level of passion or knowledge. You may be tempted to forge ahead with what you believe, but let me caution you to slow down. One of the most detrimental things you can do is to leave your team behind. You need a united front to be able to successfully make a philosophical shift. Change takes time, and that’s OK.
- Be present: Being present means more than just showing up. Being consistent in speech and in action is key. Most churches experience a turnover in pastoral staff every few years which means you will need to recalibrate as you work with new leadership. The consistency you model in your ministry will provide stability in a changing environment. As you model what you want your church to become, it will encourage others to follow your example. People, including church leadership, may be pleasantly surprised to see what amazing things your friends with disabilities are capable of. Make sure to celebrate every victory that you experience while you are being present modeling the change you want to see.
- Be persistent. Persistence is important—even Jesus pointed that out (Matthew 7:7). Your persistence can be seen not only in your presence but also in your speech. Sometimes it will require you to speak up and ask for help. That being said, there is a difference between being persistent and being a pest. Pastors are consistently overwhelmed and overworked. If they view you as a pest, they will no doubt try to avoid you. So, be wise and try to relate what you want to communicate to the church’s vision and mission. Be mindful of your timing, and avoid approaching your pastor on Monday morning or sermon prep day.
Following these three tips will help position your church for a philosophical shift. However, in some situations you will find that after prolonged periods of being patient, present, and persistent things are not progressing as you would have hoped. And the hard truth is, that sometimes it just doesn’t work. In those disappointing situations, the best advice I can give you is to brush the dust off your feet and move on. I know this can be heart breaking. But, take a deep breath and ask God to help you find a like-minded church in your area. Don’t give up as you try to find a like-minded church, and be an agent of positive change wherever God calls you.
Ryan Wolfe has a passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach the disability community for Jesus. Ryan works at Ability Ministry as their Program Development Director. He also has over fifteen years of ministry experience with the local church. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Ryan is an ordained pastor. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.