IDENTIFING THE MINISTRY NEED

SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY

Over centuries religious leaders have set the model for ministering to the needs of people with various disabilities including but not limited to: the needs of lepers; to people with paralysis; to people who were lame, blind, deaf or maimed; and to many other people with profound problems.  Most of these people were considered hopeless and their pleas to faith communities over the years were desperate cries for help.  In this day and time, a community within the church for a ministry to People with Disabilities is needed and required if we are to be about the Great commission of bringing Souls to Christ.

 

The needs of people with disabilities are the same as people without disabilities.  People want to:

  • Understand who God is and the role God plays in their lives.
  • Understand God’s plan for each person on earth and how their special needs are a sign of their unique role.
  • Grow in the knowledge of God in developing a spiritual life.
  • Be fully accepted by their faith community so they can participate in the liturgy and religious ceremonies.
  • Receive education and information on the teachings and beliefs of a the Church.
  • Be prepared and trained to receive the ritualistic rights or sacraments of our religion, e.g., baptism, Holy Communion, confirmation, receiving Christ, etc.
  • Know their fellow believers will be there to advocate so that they receive fair treatment in education, employment, and housing.
  • Feel compassion, support, and openness from their fellow believers and experience a sense of oneness, community, and fellowship in their faith community.
  • Become a witness of the active hand of God in theirs and others lives to give meaning to their unique contributions.

Most of the nearly 14 million people with disabilities who do not  attend church don’t attend because they are not invited. Just as in other activities of life, people with disabilities are left out or pushed to the side. Another equally important reason that people with disabilities do not attend church is because in most cases the churches are inaccessible.

For example, most churches are not accessible for people who rely on wheel chairs for mobility. Most people who use wheel chairs for mobility can not get pass the entrance of the church, due to width of doorways.

Once inside of the church, if they were able to get inside,  these same people are faced with inaccessible restrooms, seating and/or visual areas.  We as people of faith have a great deal of work to do to carry out Jesus’ work  “In as much as you did not to the least of these, you did it not to me.”  Matthew 25:45.

Ask yourselves these 2 vital questions:  Shouldn’t we as a church have the desire to reach people at whatever level necessary?   If so,  wouldn’t this include people with disabilities?

 

If we are truly going to become the church that God has called us to be, aren’t we obligated to help those who others have forgotten?  God has commissioned us to reach out to all mankind.  Mankind includes people with disabilities.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS

The Sunday School Department, within the Church of God In Christ, will serve as the place to prepare church members for outreach to people with disabilities. 

If you agree with the above statement then let’s prepare ourselves and our Church for our Ministry of Outreach to people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are in our communities.  They live in their own homes, in small group homes, in large group homes, in residential care facilities, in assisted living facilities, in intermediate care facilities, and in apartments.  They live where we live.

Every state and the seven surrounding territories have a Protection and Advocacy for people with disabilities.  A Protection & Advocacy is federally mandated to advocate for people with disabilities in their specified areas.  P & A’s provide Advocacy services in Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), employment, primary and secondary education, accessibility, prevention of abuse, neglect or exploitation, housing, voting, and specified areas of guardianship.

 

Additionally, each state has a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency.  These agencies serve people with disabilities by providing job training, counseling, and job placement. These agencies can also provide names, addresses and phone numbers of Community Rehabilitation programs and other agencies that serve people with disabilities.  

PREPARATION:  TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION 

If we are going to reach out to people with disabilities, how we communicate is critical.

The words we use can create either a positive view of people with disabilities or can reinforce common myths. It’s not just a matter of semantics or being “politically correct”; the language we use reflects how we sensitive we are about treating people with disabilities with dignity and respect.

NEGATIVE PHRASES USED TO DESCRIBE

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

·         Retard or retarded

·         You must have ridden the “short bus”

·         Crazy, lunatic, schizo, psycho, insane

·         Deaf and dumb

·         A mute

·         Brain-damaged

·         Crippled

USING PEOPLE FIRST LANGUAGE

People First Language puts the person before the disability and describes what a person has, not who a person is

            A “person with a disability” not a “disabled” person

 

AFFIRMATIVE PHRASE

·         A person with an intellectual disability

·         A person who is blind or who is visually impaired

·         A person with a disability

·         A person who is deaf or who has a hearing impairment

·         A person who is deaf

·         A person who is hard of hearing

·         A person who has multiple sclerosis

·         Disability NOT handicapped (that’s what you have in golf)

HANDICAP OR HANDICAPPED IS INAPPROPRIATE

Understanding the terminology and origin of negative phrases will aid the Church ( Sunday School) in creating a barrier free Sunday School.  Such words include knowing the origin of Handicapped. 

A legendary origin of the word “handicap” refers to a person with a disability begging with his “cap in his hand.” This is believed to come from our war veterans after World War II as a means to support themselves.  The proper term to use is disability.

  -From Kathy Snow’s, “Disability is Natural” website; www.disabilityisnatural.com

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Keep in mind that knowing how to react appropriately in every situation requires time and practice.

 

As with all other etiquette issues, when mistakes are made, apologize, correct the problem, learn from the mistake, move on–do not be discouraged, and above all,  keep trying

 

·     Ask the person with the disability about his/her needs

·     Consider the communication situation (e.g., nature, length, and complexity)

·     Use a combination of aids and services with appropriate communication techniques.  For example, speaking clearly in a normal tone of voice, writing key words, using short sentences, gesturing, signing, looking directly at the listener when speaking.

INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT

Creating & Maintaining an Inclusive Sunday School Environment

What is INCLUSION?  Inclusion is actively involving everyone in order to pursue a common goal.

HOW TO DEVELOP AN INCLUSIVE ATOMSPHERE

Use posters and other visual displays that are inclusive of people with disabilities.

Provide ongoing training to staff, new converts, and prospective teachers regarding disability related topics.

      Disability Sensitivity/Basic Etiquette

      Common Disabilities

       Accommodations

      Types of Barrier Removal

      General Resources

      Education and Training Techniques/Strategies

Sunday School Staff modeling of appropriate conduct, attitudes, and knowledge.

EDUCATING THE NEW CONVERT

Assist the new convert in becoming confident and comfortable in participating  in the Sunday School and Sunday School activities by providing:

      Specific training/literature.

      Opportunities  to serve.

      Open discussion.

      Mentoring. 

 

We must take the word of God to those who can’t come to the church or who can’t get into the church.

 

Talk to group homes managers and house parents and agree on days that PWD’s can study the word of God or go to church.

 

When people with disabilities are invited to your church, make sure that people who use wheelchairs can get in door of the church and into the bathroom with little or no assistance.

 

There are millions of people depending on us to bring the word of God to them and introduce them to salvation. The Church of God in Christ International Sunday School University can take the lead on this very important issue.