Can the Church take the lead?

June 27, 2011


Several years ago, Jim Pierson addressed a group of leaders at the McLean Bible Church Accessibility Summit. As the group discussed best practices in inclusion ministry, Jim commented, “The Church always follows the public school (when developing and applying best practices.)”

From a practical standpoint, churches do have much to learn from the public school system. After all, schools are staffed with teachers, therapists, psychologists and specialists who have years of training and experience. In addition, schools often have access to equipment and materials  that help kids with disabilities  learn and make progress. Churches who want to successfully include families affected by disabilities can gain wisdom and perspective from working collaboratively with the public schools.

Let’s imagine for a minute that the CHURCH is taking the lead…perhaps not in clinical practice, but in providing care and support…what might that look like?

Harmony Hensley of the Vineyard Church in Cincinnati has had a glimpse of this. The  respite program started by Hensley and her team got the attention of  local hospitals and government agencies.  Respite care is costly and can be difficult to find; the Vineyard team has created a program that provides high quality care at no cost to families. The program has been so successful that Hensley has been invited to participate in a government coalition and also speak at the state level to advocate for such programming. She is the only person representing a faith-based organization on the panel.

At Fellowship Bible Church in Chagrin Falls, OH, respite programming is having a similar effect. After hearing about the program from parents of students in her class, one teacher asked a volunteer, “What is going ON at your church?! The parents in our class can’t stop talking about it!”

Churches might not need to  “catch up” to public programs when it comes to clinical practices. This is an opportunity for us to be humble and teachable. It’s also an opportunity for us to invite those who may not belong to a local church to take part in something very special. Learning as much as we can about families affected by disabilities, and how to reach and teach them helps us to be welcoming and truly include them in the life of the church. We don’t have to be the experts in therapeutic techniques and teaching strategies to accomplish this, but we do need to be willing to learn.

What the Church CAN (and should) do is to become the “gold standard” for caring. Our intensity of love and support should be such that families, schools and agencies are looking to us as a model for care that is not only “out of this world,” but “not OF this world.”

Can we do it?

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One Comment on “Can the Church take the lead?”

  1. Doug Goddard Says:

    The Christian community definitely needs to be a leader in disability programming………… mentioned in the article, it can also develope into opportunities with government agencies who are limited by certain policies and practice requirements.


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