A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to gather with some incredible folks from our denomination who are taking an advocate role within their local church (sometimes region) to help foster congregations that are “accessible, inclusive, and missional; where everyone belongs and everyone serves.”
Through presentations, panels, and lots of dialogue, I walked away from this gathering with 4 transcendent practices (“pillars,” if you will) that can help undergird any disability work in a church: big or small, new or old, modern or traditional, urban or rural, youthful or aging.
Perhaps this seems cliché or overly predictable, but I’d contend that prayer shouldn’t just be a ‘pillar’ practice, but the ‘cornerstone’ practice for ministry. As I once heard it preached, prayer gives us:
- Communion with the Lord: affirming our identity is rooted in Him, not in our tasks. And we remember that He is the well from which any ministry can be birthed.
- Cooperation with His Spirit: to bear His fruit and be obedient to His leading.
- Compassion for those we serve: the act of praying for the people naturally postures our hearts towards care, awareness, and love. And prayer, in itself, is advocacy!
So, pray continually. Practically, you might even invite your church’s prayer team to pray regularly for the ministry, as well as recruit some prayer partners.
2. Develop Relationships
There are a few layers here.
- First, if you are the primary leader or advocate in your congregation, do not proceed alone. Build a team, ideally bringing together a diverse group that could include a pastor or staff member, elder/deacon, old, young, persons with and without disability, care-takers, parents, prayer warriors, etc.). A team opens the door for creativity, more can be accomplished, and accountability will be established.
- Second, whether these folks are part of the ‘team,’ it’s valuable to establish and maintain a healthy and consistent relationship and communication with church leadership (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.). They don’t need to carry every decision or facilitate every piece of the ministry, but they do need to catch the vision and be with you and for
- Third, relationships with individuals with disabilities has to be at the heart of what you do. Practically (and as referenced earlier), a diversity of ability within the leadership team is crucial; not at all for the sake of ‘tokenism’ or patronizing, but for the sake of practicing what the ministry is all about from the first step, which leads me to the third pillar…
Vinnie Adams is the Reflectors Special Needs Ministry Director and Campus Worship Leader at Faith Church in Dyer, Indiana. he and his wife, Kate, currently live in Crown Point, Indiana with their sons, Jakob (4) and Josiah (1).