Sometimes, a project takes on a life of its own. This has happened to me many times in the past—a training event, ministry initiative, or writing project can take over my focus making other important activities fade into the background. But never have I been so transformed by a single writing project before.
Because Sib Charles and I are both passionate about holistic family ministry, we agreed to co-author Doing Life Together, the most recent Irresistible Church book. Every workshop I’ve led, regardless of the topic, has emphasized the unique challenges disability places on the family. I’ve trained dozens of churches on offering respite to weary parents. I am deeply involved with the multi-faceted special needs ministry at my home church. Because of this background, I went into the writing project fairly confident that I was already helping our community do a pretty fine job of loving the families we serve well.
However, the more I interviewed Sib and other individuals for the book, the more I realized that there was so much more that could be done to truly help the special needs families in our church combat isolation and find community. Not to mention meeting their practical needs and to nurturing the spiritual challenges they face.
What began as a humbling awareness quickly transformed into a restless desire to equip my church to truly do life with families impacted by disability. My heart beat quickly as I envisioned the transformation of relationships I hold dear. I grew more and more excited about this project and the potential influence it might have on families all around the country. But, I also found myself wanting to stop everything I was doing and take the next steps towards truly supporting families. I found myself crying out to God, “I don’t want to write this book. I want to DO this book!”
I felt a deep conviction that the Church needs this book. I am confident that even our most vibrant special needs ministries would benefit from a closer look at supporting families in crisis, drawing them into deeper friendships, and establishing mutual care. It is my sincere prayer for the church and for myself, that we accept the challenge to go a little deeper and love a bit more intentionally.
This book changed my life—and not in the way I expected it to. As the project came together, I felt led to retire from a job that I adored to focus more of my energy on equipping my own church and community to better support families affected by disability. For me, this is a scary, big step, but I am convinced it will be filled with more blessings than I can imagine.
Ministry programs are important, but the end-goal is always to build relationships. I am more and more convicted that the families we serve yearn to fully belong. Will you join me in accepting the challenge to be more intentional in how we serve families affected by disability?
Debbie Lillo served as the Joni and Friends Church Relations Manager in the Bay Area for nine years and has led or co-led the Bridge Builders ministry at Saratoga Federated Church for nearly 15 years. She is the co-author of Doing Life Together, and she also authored two other Irresistible Church books. Debbie is passionate about supporting families and is deeply committed to the Irresistible Church movement. She loves equipping churches to be authentic communities, built on the hope of Christ that compel people affected by disability to fully belong.