3. Listen and Learn
As my father-in-law always says, “Do your research!” Ask questions, stay curious, listen well, take note. This pillar works hand-in-hand with the previous one. It’s so important that we don’t assume needs. The dual benefit of listening well is receiving the direction you need as well as giving dignity to those you’re listening to. Remember this when you have conversations with individuals with disabilities, but also remember this when you have conversations with church leadership. I’d venture to say that the less you take a ‘defensive’ posture and the more you take a ‘how can I help?’ and ‘partnership’ posture, the more on-board leadership will be. Don’t squelch concerns in any of these conversations. Allow space for vulnerability, don’t let the “how’s” drown out the “wow’s,” and (with Christ’s help) maintain the posture of a servant.
4. Vision and Facilitate
This is where the rubber meets the road; and if you’ve leaned-in to the first 3 pillars, the chances are very strong that where you’re going is good and will be effective. A few thoughts/tips in this process:
- Continue to lean into the team as you articulate vision and objectives as well as the practical/tangible steps that will get you there. Have compelling vision, but also S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives to get you there.
- Along the same lines, don’t make a plan that is too dependent on one person, for two reasons: (1) that person will be set up for burn-out, and (2) spreading out the work will help create a culture of shared ownership of the ministry/vision, which will permeate through a congregation far more effectively than the lone-ranger leader will.
- When proposing a project that is perceived to only be benefiting one person (e.g. an automatic door opener for a person who uses a wheelchair, or a hearing loop for a person who has hearing difficulties), utilize the principles of universal design and broaden the vision. Of course, don’t under-emphasize the value of “doing for the one;” some folks just need gentle guidance to see past numbers.
- Remember that wherever direction you go or steps you take does not have to look like what other people are doing. However, know that there are more resources out there than you’d imagine, and utilize them!
- Lastly, have the humility to be flexible. There will be things that you try that won’t work. Evaluate often to see if things need (1) more time, (2) adjustments, of (3) if you just need to do something else. All of these things are ok! Just keep your eyes up, and don’t stop leaning into the other 3 pillars.
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).