Churches can benefit from structure and operational systems. The challenge for most churches are that they hang from one side of the pendulum or the other. We have some churches that lean heavily on the organization and structure and fail to connect personally to the ministry side, the personal touch that relates and connects with an individual and their humanity. Then I have been in churches that lack in structure and organization, but seem friendly and personal. Which is great, but in these church that rank high in friendliness and likability yet struggle with structure and organizational systems which overlook crucial opportunities for ministry productivity.
Church systems of operation help break down individual ministry to ensure that not one person that comes in through the doors of the church is over looked or are not plugged in somewhere. The longer an individual lays dormate once joining a church, the potiential of a lasting membership is less likely, especially in this generation. The moment a person is plugged into the inner workings of a church is the moment that they become an irreplaceable and truly connected memeber of the body.
Churches that offer children's ministry, youth ministry, singles ministries, college ministries, and let's not forget disability ministry's (as well as others) can tailor programs that reaches individuals right where they are making a greater, lasting impact. Having such ministries creates opportunities to build relationships within ones given season of life. This makes these divided groups most effective at giving individuals a sense of belonging.
So why do so many churches struggle with developing disability ministries? 1 billion of people in the world ( http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability/overview) are effected by disabilities in various ways. Families that are affected by disabilities struggle with feelings of isolation and because of the demands of the care needs of their children or family memebers. It makes it difficult to participate within their typical age or life groups. Without the support of ministry in the church family, involvement is scarce which decreases their opertunities to feel that sense of belonging. When a disability ministry is established, a system is put in place to create opportunities for involvement and interaction with others on the same journey. Respite nights help moms and dad connect with one another without worries of their child's needs and for a couple of hours so they can focus on each other. Accommodations being addressed in Children's programs, youth, and so on, provide an oppurtity for friendships to be formed in 'natural environments' that may not otherwise be an option in other social settings. Classes that are tailored to the parents of special needs children can be pointed to the unique spiritual needs of their families around others that "get it". This is valuable to making lasting connections.
The relaity is that this foundation for the indidual with disabilities and their family is these bonds rarely happen without the support of a working system within the church. Just as our children need supports and accommodations, the parents of these children do as well if they are going to be an active memeber in their faith community. Without the support they will be forever suspended in the hopes of belonging to the body of Christ. The reality is the state of suppension will only last so long. The burden they carry from the day to day struggle is already more than they can bare. These families are in desperate need of a connection to great people and a spiritual feeding for their family as a whole.
Development of a disability ministry is no more of a challenge than any other working ministry of the church. Do your research and find out how others are being successful. Implement your program with key players involved that feel this is a ministry for them. Seek out seminars and conferences to attend to continue in growth and apply best practices for success. The secret is get the whole church involved. One body member can not work properly without the other. At the end of the day we all need one another in prayer and in ministry. The pendulum must be a balance of structure and genuine love.
For training and support in forming your disability ministry contact us at Stepscare.org. We love to help in forming disability ministry.