I wonder whether the ministry at my own church would survive if Kathi and I were no longer involved in it? This question about ministry survival goes to the heart of the church, the priorities of the church and what it is willing to invest in. Nearly any church will have singles ministry, and children's (non disabled children's) ministry, and ministries to singles and seniors. Very often there will also be pastoral positions linked to these ministries. The hiring of a pastor is a statement on behalf of the church that this area of ministry is a given, a priority. Such churches don't expect or depend exclusively on lay volunteers to make such ministries go. They don't wait for a lay person to step forward to make a commitment to the ministry before they will start it. The church leadership (pastors, elders, etc.) have decided that the particular area of ministry is a priority to them and they make it happen.
At what point in the life of a ministry will a church embrace and adopt that ministry to the point of investing in it with resources, a pastoral position, etc.?
For example, my own church recently made the decision to commit resources to beginning a "Spanish language" ministry to persons living in the town who are largely Spanish speakers. They invested in buildings, hired staff, including a pastor, and have devoted significant energy to the project.
My question is not to doubt that the "Spanish language" project is worthy, but rather to ask why disability ministry is so often dependent upon lay people, and so infrequently an idea of the church leaders to be pursued as an important area for ministry development to the point of hiring staff to ensure it happens?
Can it actually be that after nearly 40 years of ministry, the Pasadena church will now refuse to support the ministry and ensure that it will continue? I can recall that there were many Sunday mornings where 60 or more developmentally disabled adults would participate in the church's activities. They lived in the apartments and group homes from all around Pasadena. Some folks we picked up, some rode the bus, and some were brought by their care providers. Very few were brought by church members, other than those working in the ministry.
Sometimes I think about going to a church other than the one I have attended for the past 14 years. Not that I am in some way dissatisified with my church. But more I wonder whether the 14 years that Kathi and I have invested in disability ministry there have made any difference in terms of the priority such ministry would have at the church if we were no longer there.
"Its too bad Kathi and Jeff left. We had a pretty good program going
on there for 14 years. Oh well . . ."
Church leaders, YOU should be taking the lead in ministries to persons with disability. YOU should ensure that such ministries are occurring at your church. Maybe put off your building program and hire a pastor to persons with disability instead. Make a statement to the community about the degree to which you are willing to go to serve others, rather than making another edifice to comfortable worship.
Earlier in this blog we discuss the Catholic Bishop statements. Statement number 9 (January 9)says,
"Our pastoral response is to become informed about disabilities and to offerAt least the Bishops see the role of their clergy is the development of ministry, if only becoming knowledgeable about disability in order to offer support. It is a good starting point.
ongoing support to the family and welcome to the child."