Disability Ministry

How did we get started?

 

Our church mission statement says “Reformed Presbyterian Church exists to be a stream of God’s refreshing grace for people from all walks of life.” We are called to include people with disabilities in all aspects of our Christian community, so that they too may experience the Father’s healing grace, and in turn, minister that grace to others. At RPC, God has given us a heart for disability ministry by blessing us with covenant children who have different disabilities. Our congregation loves these children, and ministers faithfully to their families. We live in a society where a person’s value is determined by their productivity. God has used special kids in our midst to impress upon us that, in his economy, individuals have significance simply because they are created in the image of God.

 

What is our vision?

 

“By holding fast to the biblical principle that all human beings have value and dignity because we are created in the image of God, we aim to become a church that ministers TO and ALONGSIDE people with differing abilities out of our deep understanding of our common need for grace. It is our hope that faithful service at the local level will allow us to become a resource to other churches in the Lancaster area and the PCA.”

 

Who do we serve?

 

Disability Ministry serves individuals with varying degrees of disability who require assistance in order to fully participate in the body life of the church.” The reason we have defined our ministry this way is because, if you really comprehend disability, you realize that disabilities cover a huge spectrum. While we recognize the validity of each disability, our ministry historically has focused on those whose disability somehow hinders their full participation in the body life of the church.

 

What do we do?

 

Basically, we have four specific functions.

 

 

Barriers to meaningful participation in a group can exist in many forms. For a person who uses a wheelchair, access to fellowship with believers can be limited due to transportation problems, stairs or narrow doorways and halls. A visually impaired individual might be unable to participate in certain aspects of worship such as reading the scriptures or reading the words to praise songs and hymns. People with mental retardation or mental health issues often find difficulty with acceptance in the church community due to awkward social behaviors or weaker communication skills.

 

The beauty of the gospel — if we truly understand it — is that each of us faces a complete barrier to participation in the Kingdom of God due to the profoundly disabled condition of our hearts. The Good News is that Christ’s sacrifice applied to us makes our full participation in the life of God a reality. We must come with “empty hands” depending on Christ alone to facilitate that life for us. After the supreme sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, can we ignore the needs of those who are merely physically or mentally disabled and seeking to join in the fellowship of the local church?

 

We collaborate with RPC's Christian Education committees to include those with disabilities in the church's educational program as much as possible.  Our commitment is to create a “win-win” situation where each one in an educational setting experiences a deeper understanding of the gospel. We provide guidance and practical assistance aimed at including those with disabilities in the Sunday School programming, Children’s Worship, Youth Group and other RPC ministries.  

 

 

Years ago, the Red Cross had a Safety Badge with a motto imprinted across the top of it. It said: “Knowledge Replaces Fear.” The Disability Ministry committee recognizes that most adults struggle with a “fear factor” when first learning to relate to people with disabilities. At times the fear is based on a stereotype that must be overcome, or perhaps from the awkward feeling that arrives when we don’t know what to do or we’re not sure what to say. Our purpose in educating is to facilitate meaningful ministry. Ministry happens through relationships and relationships cannot flourish in an atmosphere of fear. We have used several vehicles over the few years to accomplish this objective. We have written regular articles in the church newsletter, we have held Disability Awareness Training Seminars, provided a Sunday School teacher training session devoted to disability, and had guest speakers come to youth Sunday School classes to teach a hands-on lesson about a Christian approach to disability. We've also conducted Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and Disability Ministry Sunday services with a disability emphasis. 

 

 

Our church body life is based on a small group model. Because of our size, members are encouraged to join a small group where significant, committed, caring relationships can be built. Our goal is to provide information, training and ideas for small group leaders on how they can best address the disability-related needs they find in their groups. Some examples of issues that might be addressed could include the following: Is the family receiving adequate respite care? Do the medical needs of the individual with special needs pose a financial hardship that the Deacons could help alleviate? Are there transportation issues? Are there relational issues? Are the needs significant enough to require the establishment of a support group on the family’s behalf? Working with small groups is still an emerging process for us, but it is one we believe will greatly strengthen our body life as a congregation.

 

 

At RPC, one of our unique privileges is our “downtown” location. We have a commitment to being salt and light right in the literal midst of our community.  Our location affords us some tremendous opportunities in disability ministry. For example:

 

 

Opportunities abound for ministry and outreach!

 

Why do we do what we do?

 

Our aim is that our ministry is one of Biblical, principle-driven vision.

 

 

To fully grasp the real vision behind disability ministry, we need to understand that it is a pro-life ministry in the broadest sense. As mentioned earlier, we live in a society that values human life as a function of productivity. As Christians, we are called to have a distinctively higher view of human value. The Bible teaches that our significance comes not from what we do, but from who we are and whose we are. It is being created in the image of God himself that imparts value to human life — any human life — regardless of the contribution that person can make to society. While we live in a culture where rights for persons with disabilities are greater than they have ever been, we are deceiving ourselves if we think those rights can never be rescinded. The rights that people with disabilities now enjoy have not emerged due to a cultural understanding of human significance as bestowed by the Creator—they are legal rights that can be eradicated as quickly as they have been granted. It is altogether possible that when the elderly and the disabled become too costly or too cumbersome for society’s taste, we will find ourselves facing increasingly challenging issues. If the church is not here to minister and embrace those with disabilities when the climate is easy, where will we be when the going is tough? Who will stand in the gap?

 

 

As with any mercy ministry, it is essential that disability ministry be “grace-based to the core.” If we do not use grace as a starting point, we will be prone to minister with condescension or pity, and out of duty—not out of identifying with others in our common need for grace. Only as we comprehend our own spiritually disabling condition can we possibly minister effectively to individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities from a posture that understands our own brokenness first, before it focuses on the challenges of others. A grace-based ministry will value the whole person and celebrate the unique contributions of all types of people with all types of abilities. In this context, an atmosphere of mutual edification, appreciation, encouragement and respect will be fostered. Working from a framework of grace, it is safe to have needs and safe to minister sincerely, albeit imperfectly.

 

Is someone in your family touched by disability?

 

Please let us know how we can serve you better!

For further information about Disability Ministry at RPC, contact Dwight McKay at caledon@ptd.net

If you are interested in learning more about Special Needs Ministries in the Presbyterian Church in America, please visit www.equalconcern.org