When asked about changing the world, Mother Teresa said, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." This strategy allowed one woman to impact nations on behalf of the poor. Unfortunately, when caring Christians decide community involvement is too heavy a stone to carry, we keep the gospel inside the church walls. But if we go into our communities to impact others in Jesus’ name, we cannot fail.
After a year of pandemic isolation, community events are opening up like tulips in springtime. Churches are no longer confined to online worship and zoom Bible studies. Praise the Lord! So, what’s the plan? How is your church seizing this opportunity to reach your neighbors—especially families affected by disabilities?
When Ramero was in elementary school, reading was challenging for him, making school very difficult. As an adult, Ramero’s desire was to connect with, and assist, similarly challenged children. After sharing this dream with fellow church members, Ramero recruited several children’s ministry volunteers to serve as mentors in a local school. Once they passed the required background checks, each was given the opportunity to visit a child once a week.
The mentors met together at church every Sunday to encourage each other and pray for the children they served. It wasn’t long before word traveled into the community that Ramero’s congregation cared deeply about children with learning disabilities. Several new families began attending worship, and a teacher from the school became a member of the congregation. This is just one example of how a strategic community partnership resulted in a better outcome for everyone involved. As the school gained helpful volunteers, children received better care, and the church became known for its outreach ministry.
Special needs ministry is rarely easy, but it’s better together—and more effective. There are numerous nonprofit organizations and social services with unique strengths working to improve the lives of children with disabilities in your community. As we partner with them, we not only learn from one another, we also fulfill Jesus’s call in John 20:21 (NIV), “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Disability Partners in the Know
A quick Google search for organizations serving children with disabilities in your community might surprise or overwhelm you. Networking can be challenging, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re on a mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s best to begin small with the concerns or interests of your potential volunteers, such as Ramero did in his church.
Here are a few questions to get you started.
• Where do families with disabilities in your community turn for support? Ask teachers, school counselors, physical therapists, community center workers, foster parents, etc.
• What special needs events are currently available for families in your church? Health fairs, camps, sporting events, library story hours, etc.
• Are there other churches in your town with special needs ministry? Respite programs, parent support groups, vacation Bible schools, etc.
• Can you volunteer at community events supporting children with disabilities? 5K runs, golf tournaments, concerts, wheelchair rolls, etc.
Disability ministry partnerships can make a difference by honoring God and showing Christ’s love. Ten years ago, a few men from a small group decided to invite a few children with disabilities for a day of fishing at the church pond. A decade later, over 800 people attended their annual Fishing Derby for the disability ministry at their church. Why? Because some men chose to love families affected by disability and welcome them into their community.
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
– Jesus (Matthew 4:19 NKJV)
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