Salad bowls or Sectioned Styrofoam: Why our “serving dish” matters in ministry

June 8, 2011

Inclusion Strategies

The world lost a great man this past January…my Uncle Bob.  He leaves a great legacy…his wife, four grown children and fourteen grandchildren…two strong companies with thousands of loyal employees…a community that was better because of him.

And a salad bowl.

The salad bowl was a wedding gift to Tom and me. Bob and Genie purchased it on a trip to Brazil, where their son was living at the time. It sits on the hutch in my kitchen, currently filled with fresh, crisp apples. As I reflected on Bob’s life after his memorial service, I realized that he and Genie couldn’t have chosen a more perfect gift. It’s useful, of course, and lovely to look at, but more importantly, it reflects Bob’s character.

Bob was one of those rare and special people who could carefully and lovingly mix folks together, creating a whole that was definitely more than the sum of its parts. Just as a chef would carefully add herbs, spices and fresh ingredients before tossing a salad together, Bob gently connected the most unlikely companions and created community. I am richer because of Bob’s “tossing” and so thankful for his vision of keeping our extended family close.

Often, in ministry, we don’t function quite like this, do we? Instead of a salad bowl, churches seem, at times, more like a cafeteria plate, with styrofoam sections keeping each selection from touching the others.We tend to plan ministry around events and demographics and activities.

 This is a risky set up for special needs ministry in particular.When we compartmentalize families who are affected by disabilities into “Special Needs Ministry,” even when we are trying to serve them, we’re using the wrong “serving dish.”  By viewing  these families as our “project,” we fail to acknowledge and encourage the gifts God gave them to use for His glory. And we’re incomplete without the gifts of everyone. 

Does this mean that every child will be able to participate in all aspects of church programming without support?  Of course not…we need to find that “just right fit” for each child by considering strengths and needs.  However, as we plan for students, we need to be sure we proactively and purposefully welcome them as people, not projects. Our perception matters greatly, shaping how our churches welcome and include families affected by disabilities.

And as for me and my house, we’ll serve the Lord salad.


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2 Comments on “Salad bowls or Sectioned Styrofoam: Why our “serving dish” matters in ministry”


    Spot on, Katie! LOVE this!!!


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