Monday, April 26, 2010

A Patchwork Quilt of Care

A person's body is one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also. Some of us are Jews, and some are Greeks. Some of us are slaves, and some are free. But we were all baptized into one body through one Spirit. And we were all made to share in the one Spirit.
The human body has many parts.The foot might say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body." But saying this would not stop the foot from being a part of the body. The ear might say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body." But saying this would not stop the ear from being a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, it would not be able to smell.If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But truly God put all the parts, each one of them, in the body as he wanted them. So then there are many parts, but only one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-20)

There's possibly nothing more overwhelming than a disability conference. For souls wishing to help themselves or those with special needs, the mountains of information and areas that require attention can leave an attendee with a nasty case of sensory overload.

That's why I always find it intriguing when someone says, "I want to start a special needs ministry at my church." I find that remark as vague as someone saying, "I want to start an organization for girls." That encompasses an awfully huge area to serve. Nothing delineates the wide variety of service required in special needs ministry quite like a disability conference.

At a recent conference I went to, there were at least 3 dozen workshops and over 5 dozen exhibitors. Visitors to such an event could encounter everything from a companion animal group to a college just for individuals with special needs. There were professionals who had expertise in special needs trusts, and publishers of Sunday School curriculum. Camps for individuals with special needs displayed their information along side government programs and hospitals.

The point in sharing all of this with you is to emphasize that the special needs community is one huge mission field! Do you want to serve children? If so, at what ages? What about adults? Do you want to integrate these individuals into your church community? Are you looking to offer respite care?
There are as many ways to serve in the disability community as there are gifts from God. We have one woman who serves the special needs families by praying for them while she upholsters furniture in her workshop. I know many who blog about special needs. Even amongst those bloggers, some focus on one specific diagnosis. Several seasoned organizations run group homes or camps. Therapeutic riding stables are also a unique area of ministry. And many have been inspired and encouraged by those gifted in music who also happen to have a special need.
I've often explained the dynamics of these different areas of similar ministry as a "patchwork quilt of care". My square is to minister to the parents of children with special needs. Your area might be in youth ministry, and another in orchestrating worship services. But our little squares all intersect and butt-up against one another, overlapping and creating that full, loving quilt to wrap around the wounded. Without each ones specific piece, the quilt is not complete, it has holes in it and leaves the needy cold.

What square does your Creator want YOU to be working on? No matter what talent God has gifted you with, you have something to offer those with special needs. In turn, they have something utterly unique to offer you. Explore the possibilities of ministering to this under-served and largely un-churched population. You'll be glad you did!

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