You can foster the growth and development of others, particularly people who experience disabilities, in your church or community by recognizing their gifts and talents, presenting opportunities for them to utilize their gifts, and encouraging them to develop their skills.
Christian Horizons' fourth service principle contains countercultural messages that may powerfully impact the self-concepts of people who experience disability, transform the work of the church and benefit society as a whole if practiced effectively.
When policies and procedures are implemented merely out of compliance, they forget the heart of the matter. Accessibility is a heart issue first.
Isaiah presents a vision of the glory of the Lord being revealed when there are no barriers; the valleys have been lifted, the mountains have been made low and the planes are smooth; I could go anywhere and do anything regardless of my wheelchair.
In partnership with Christian Reformed Disability Concerns, the Christian Learning Centers (CLC) network has a helpful list of practical tips and resources to foster accessibility and inclusion which may be critical to a sense of belonging in your church.
The Lenten season serves as a powerful reminder that no matter how much I endure in this life, Jesus' sacrifice was much greater. It is humbling to recognize that my challenges do not qualify me for a monopoly on suffering. I am comforted and grateful for the fact that Jesus suffered more and yet overcame.
The biggest challenge for people with exceptional needs in relationship with others who may or may not have exceptional needs is often a lack of opportunity for reciprocity and responsibility. For example, for many years, I attended churches where little was expected of me. Everyone over-praised the fact that I showed up.
Faith communities can model the principle of promoting full citizenship by ensuring that people with exceptional needs are always welcomed into worship services and times of fellowship. Promoting full membership within the faith community might also mean ensuring that religious education is adaptable and communion or other liturgical components are accessible.
As my youth pastor lifted my chair and me onto the bus he quite literally embodied God's strength, breaking down barriers to belonging.
I was born with physical disabilities and I became accustomed to having multiple physical examinations and assessments at a very young age. Furthermore, my ongoing need for assistance with personal care has made me consider the vulnerabilities inherent in such experiences as confirmation of support and well-being.