“Intentionality” seems to be a hot-button word in ministry these days. Intentionally making disciples, intentionally planning programs, intentionally choosing songs for worship. But what does it mean for disability ministry to be intentional? How can we be sure that what we do, day in and day out, is furthering the ministry, blessing families, and intentionally implementing what Christ would have us do for families affected by disability?
Regarding the man born blind, Jesus told His disciples in John 9:1-3 “this man was born this way so that God’s good work might be displayed in him” (NJKV). In this account Jesus tells us, the ministry leaders, to be intentional in the way we treat those affected by disability. We are called to more than care-taking. Jesus is reminding us that God can and will use those in our ministry to spread the good news of Jesus! He is reminding us that our role in the lives of special needs families is simple: make disciples of them so they can make disciples of others. We are to value their leadership. We are to honor their opinions. We are to teach them, exactly where they are. We are to believe they can learn.
So how do we do that? The best way for us to carry out our mission is to unite clinical expertise and the ministry world. We need to educate ourselves with techniques to effectively teach. Take the time to ask families what therapies they are using at home and at school. We can ask for meetings with therapists and equip ourselves with tools that can dramatically increase the quality of our time spent discipling individuals with special needs. We need to know the ways in which each individual learns best so that we can tailor our lessons to each learner. Furthermore, we should strive to have a basic understanding of behavior management and developmental approaches so that we can meet their practical needs. We need not be afraid of the clinical world. If we believe we can really teach the gospel to those affected by disability, we have to learn how to do so. Jesus called us to do more. Let us remove the gaping divide between therapies and theology. If we unite those two worlds, think of the impact we can have!
What do those in our ministry and their families long for? Ask them, do not assume to know. Do not presume that one curriculum, or song, or behavioral tool is what’s best for everyone we serve. When we ask family members these questions, not only does it aid in our ability to do our job, it also sends an invaluable message to the families: we care to know more. Flexibility and a willingness to learn is a fundamental building block for intentionality.
As ministry leaders we have been given an incredible opportunity. It is our charge to simply come alongside these families, equip them, and stand in awe of what God has in store for their lives. What a genuine blessing it is to watch His good works unfold right before our very eyes.
Gina Spivey is the Director of Special Needs Ministries at Calvary Community Church in Westlake, CA. Click to read Gina’s full bio.