What is it like to be a person with autism and to be a pastor of a church? That was a question that I was curious about until one day I found out that I had been one for fourteen years. …
At eight years old I was diagnosed with autism. The educational specialists and doctors informed my parents that I would probably never read beyond a seventh grade level, attended college, or have a career. My mom was determined to prove the experts wrong by developing my unique gifts. As Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve kings. He won’t serve obscure men.” For me to develop my skills and be a minister I had to overcome five main autism quirks. …
Does disability ministry require its own staff person or volunteers? Does it require its own room and time to meet? As a parent of two children with autism, I would just assume that any church that we attended would provide ministry even if there were no other children with special needs. It would never enter my mind that ministry would have to wait until “critical mass.” I am not criticizing churches that have organized disability ministries that have specific events for large groups of people with special needs. I am just saying that is not the only form of disability ministry. …
Thank you to all who attended the Building Communities of Belonging conference at Harvest Bible Chapel in Oakville! We hope that you found the conference encouraging and equipping. As a reminder, if you haven’t filled out the feedback survey yet we would encourage you to do so at http://fluidsurveys.com/s/BCOB We know that it can be …
You may already be involved with special needs ministry at your church, or it might be something that you know is important but don’t have many supports in place. Regardless, we always question whether what we’re doing is the ‘best way’, and the challenges we encounter send us seeking affirmation that we are on the …
Bryan Roe is a youth pastor with Crosspoint Community Church in Wisconsin. At Key Ministry‘s 2012 Inclusion Fusion he shared the remarkable story of his time with Tourette Syndrome during his youth. On the Disability and Faith Forum we tend to focus on stories where people currently living with disabilities experience and express God’s grace and truth, but Bryan’s is a story where he underwent a physical ‘curing’ of Tourettes. This story isn’t the tired reiteration of “believe and you will be healed!” however, since the (spoilers!) “Greater Miracle” for Bryan is not that his Turrettes was taken away but that God uses him in light of not in spite of this disability.
I highly encourage you to watch the video below and to check out the post on Key Ministry’s blog, but in case you don’t have time here’s a quick synopsis of some of Bryan’s primary points in how to welcome people with apparent or ‘hidden’ disabilities into a church community:
- Regularly feature testimonies from adult leaders who have seen God use them in ways that he used me. Additionally, make sure that the leaders who are giving their testimonies make themselves available to talk to (and pray with) students who are impacted by their stories.
- Create positions for serving in the church that can be filled by individuals with special needs. Invest in them this way and you add value to them. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Communicate stories about how Jesus interacted with people who were on the margins of culture. Through this, build a case to the rest of your youth (or overall church) population about how we should be intentionally and genuinely reaching out to these kids rather than ostracizing them.
In this free resource, made available by Covenant Theological Seminary, the director of MNA’s Special Needs Ministries offers firsthand experience, practical resources, and creative ideas for helping the church be more effective at ministering to and alongside of those touched by disability. Click here to view this valuable resource Since May 2007, Stephanie O. Hubach …
This is the fourth in a series of posts written by a mother of a son with autism, reflecting on her experience with her church community. Some of her observations serve as challenges to the way we do church, while others should be encouraging to the people who have made a difference in the lives of her and her family. The names in this story are fictional, but their experiences are not.
On the Joni and Friends Web Site I listened to an MP3 by Will and Arlyn Kantz and they really understand our needs. Our family can relate to almost every behavioral situation they spoke about, the challenges families face and even the fears of future challenges like puberty, programming, the workers, the sensory issues, congregational reactions, etc.
I would love to have a local church like the ones the Kantz’s help with inclusion programming.
Even one church like this in the area would be great.
I realize this particular couple (Will and Arlyn) not only have an autistic son but have great qualifications. They have done the work required and have put immense energy into the transformation. Their staged strategies for inclusion are thought through in a professional way.
Would a church body ever rise to this challenge on their own?
Most parents of children with disabilities do not have the qualifications, experience, energy, time or resources to instigate or even help implement something like this. Even as I write this, feelings of guilt resurface about not trying harder and doing more to figure something out for Michael. To be honest, though, we have so many things in his daily life that we have not figured out. It’s overwhelming to think of the energy and time required to figure out programming for Church as well.
There have always been people who have invested the energy and time to work out the programming for Nursery School, ABA and school. If a church really wants to work for inclusion or foster belonging for people with disabilities and their families a great first step would be listening to the Kantz’s MP3. Really, they have it right. Everyone in the congregation needs to be educated and not just immediate workers or teachers.
To the rest of the congregation this may look like an immense undertaking and adjustment, but think of how many more members would be able to join in fellowship and be ministered to!