Last fall, Pastor Dave Vroege of All Nations Christian Reformed Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, approached Disability Concerns to ask for help. A woman in his congregation wanted to have her baby son baptized, but her anxiety about being in front of church made her hesitant. Disability Concerns gave Vroege several helpful suggestions about anxiety disorders and how he could accommodate this woman’s needs in the service.

After the baptism, Vroege wrote, “Your suggestions were so helpful in equipping us for this baptism. We did a practice run and had the baptism in our evening service where there are far fewer people. It was a joy for the mom, for her extended family, and for all of us there.”

About Disability Concerns

Disability Concerns logoThe Disability Concerns ministry of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) began to grow 40 years ago when parents of children with intellectual disabilities asked our general assembly to address the need for safe, Christian housing for their youth and adults. By 1982, the ministry received funding to hire a part-time staff person and to publish a newsletter to encourage CRC churches and assemblies to create housing opportunities. As staff and volunteers continued their work, they realized that Christian education likewise was another need, and Friendship Ministries was born out of additional effort.

As the team continued their work, they recognized that churches needed to minister well not only with people who have intellectual disabilities but also with people with other forms of disability. Guided by resolutions that had been adopted by the Church of the Brethren and the Mennonite Church, in 1985 the CRC pledged “to be the caring community according to I Corinthians 12, paying special attention to the needs and gifts of people with physical, sensory, mental, and emotional impairments,” and committed to removing physical, architectural, communication, and attitudinal barriers “in order to use the gifts of all people in our life together as God’s family.” (Acts of Synod 1985, pp. 702, 703)

Today, Disability Concerns summarizes its mission as follows: Disability Concerns strives to promote and foster relationships, communities, and societies where everybody belongs and everybody serves by assisting churches, agencies, institutions, and leadership within the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

  • to think and act in keeping with the biblical call regarding people with disabilities
  • to break barriers of communication, architecture, and attitude
  • to establish ministries with, for, and by people with disabilities and their families.

Our staff work with a network of hundreds of volunteers who serve individual churches as church disability advocates and who serve regional groups of churches as regional disability advocates. We work closely with the Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns ministry in networking, communications, and training events.

Although our focus is on churches in the CRC and the Reformed Church in America, we extend our work through partnerships with other organizations including Friendship Ministries, Diaconal Ministries Canada, CLC Network, Pathways to Promise, Christian Horizons, Elim Christian Services, and Joni and Friends. We offer email subscriptions to two different newsletters and have host of resources on our website:

Work with us!

We are currently looking for an additional staff person to join our work in Canada with a 30-hour-per-week position shared with the CRC’s Safe Church (abuse prevention) ministry. This person will work at the CRC’s Burlington, Ontario, office assisting Christian Reformed Churches in Canada in becoming safer communities where everybody belongs and everybody serves. The Volunteer and Communications Specialist will work in coordination with the Canada justice and reconciliation team through equipping volunteers, communicating with churches, and planning training events. Find the job description and application information at Application deadline is March 28.

We pray and work so that churches will never stand in the way of people who want to participate, but will find ways to engage with all believers so that everybody belongs and everybody serves.

By Mark Stephenson 

Bev, Nicole, and Mark Stephenson (L-R)

Mark has served the Christian Reformed Church as Director of Disability Concerns for 12 years after serving 17 years in parish ministry. He and his wife Bev have five living children, and a growing family through marriages and births of grandchildren. Their oldest daughter, Nicole, lives joyfully with severe multiple disabilities.