Is your church ready to minister to families with disabilities? Perhaps you want to but have some fears about how that would look like. The following are some observations from someone who is both a pastor and a father of children with disabilities.
1. You do not have the resources for disability ministry
You may look at your church and see that you you lack the staff, volunteers and budget resources to form a disability ministry. Churches need to start with the needs and not the resources. Even a very small church would do something for youth ministry if fifteen teenagers started attending regularly. It is no different for people with disabilities. Families do things all the time with their children with disabilities without staff or financial resources.
2. You are afraid what new people will think
You have worked hard to get your worship service to a place where most visitors are impressed. The music and all other aspects of the service are finely tuned to make it a good and comfortable experience. You fear that a child with a disability who makes a strange sound or some other disturbance might turn people off. While discussions with the parents should take place if a child is screaming through the entire service, the odd squawk or moan is not going to destroy a service. Reflect on the Scriptures on whether God is more interested in a nice production than on ministry to those in need.
3. Your people do not have the knowledge or experience
Even with a very common disorder as Autism, many people in our churches feel ill-equipped to minister to such a person. That is fair. But there are many resources available to help. One of the best is the family. I’m confident that they would spend some time with volunteers to explain the needs of their child. In many cases, the child or individual will teach you.
4.This introduces an unpredictable element
All disabilities are different but one thing brings them together is that they can be unpredictable. Anything can happen at any time. All sense of certainty will be gone. It likely will not be near as bad as you think. But surprising things will happen and you will probably find that many of them end up being a blessing.
5. It is a bad return on investment
Disability ministry takes a lot of work and resources. What will the church get out of it? If the church invests in youth, men or women’s ministry, there is development of people who will be active in the church, volunteering for ministry and putting money in the offering plate. Disability ministry gives no promises of such a return. As a former youth pastor, I will say that youth ministry has no promises either. But how do you know that the people with disabilities will not be active in ministry and blessing the church? And even if they don’t, where does the Bible say that we only minister to those who can eventually give back?
I hope that your church will work through its fears and become active in disability ministry.