Here at Irresistible Church, our desire is to see the Church become an “authentic community built on the hope of Christ that compels people affected by disability to fully belong.” This is a big dream, but we believe this vision captures the heart of God well. Ultimately, the dream must captivate and motivate the hearts of pastors across the globe. We want the local church to understand the value of families affected by disability and fully embrace them within their community.
If you are anything like I was as a pastor many years ago, you might feel ill-equipped or overwhelmed by the thought of serving and loving people affected by disability. Fear of the unknown, tyranny of the urgent, and various other factors can hinder the ability of a pastor to navigate this amazing avenue of ministry. The following ten tips provide practical steps for pastors as they lead their churches to embrace families and individuals with special needs.
- Provide a warm, friendly, welcoming environment where all people are included.
- Provide, promote, and participate in basic disability awareness training for the entire church. Pastoral attendance sets an example for the congregation and speaks value to the ministry.
- Improve accessibility because “architecture reflects attitude.” As you make facility decisions, strive to maintain a mindset that considers how your family members affected by disability are impacted.
- Know the difference between the emotional “why?” and the theological “why?” so you can respond appropriately. Take time to listen to the true questions of families and individuals.
- Preach about disability and preach about ministry to people affected by disability.
- Intentionally support your staff and volunteers as they support families with special needs.
- Know that you do not need to lead the disability ministry. Support the ministry through prayer, your presence, awareness, and through finances.
- Treat people affected by disability as a person…not as a crisis, illness, or a problem to be fixed.
- Know that disability and grief are often life-long companions that come with life-long needs.
- Allow and encourage people affected by disability to serve in the church using their gifts and abilities (1 Corinthians 12:22 – “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…”).
If you are a pastor, I believe you have been placed in your role for such a time as this regarding disability ministry, And, I hope you are encouraged by this list. Let us know if you have more questions, need more resources, or if there is any other way we might serve you and your church well.
If you have been praying about how you can encourage your pastor regarding disability ministry in your church, we hope that these ten tips might be something that God uses to open the doors of your church just a bit wider so that families affected by disability may fully belong.
Ultimately, disability ministry comes down to seeing others as they are, loving them as Christ loves us, introducing them to the gift of salvation, and walking together down the pathway of discipleship and ministry. May we all know the blessing of having friends who are affected by disability and may our hearts and churches truly be irresistible.