“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, September 30, 2013

Video answers to questions...What are the hindrances to churches including persons with disabilities?

A question was asked by Tim, someone who viewed one of the other videos on this blog.
His question is important because we want to encourage churches to include persons with disabilities just like we would encourage churches to include anyone else. 


Sunday, September 29, 2013

"I wonder where these people would be?"

My son visited our Light and Power group today.  It is a group in our church, Trinity Church in Redlands, CA, that includes adults with various disabilities.  He visits on occasion, today to go out to lunch with me and our friend Mark who is a part of the group.  We had a great time of joking and fooling around over lunch.

At one point, however, he got a bit serious and thoughtful.  He said that as he sat in class, the thought crossed his mind, "I wonder where these people would be if there wasn't this group, this class?  They certainly wouldn't be here."  Our meeting today included prayer for a missionary friend who has adopted us and is heading back to the mission field.  We had about 15 minutes of prayer for what we were thankful for led by our music team.  There was other prayer and sharing for a great time together.  We sang the old Keith Green song, "How I love you" to God then to each other then as a prayer.  It was cool.

I hadn't really thought about his question, but it is a good one.  I wonder where many others like the folks who have become a part of our church family are today because they have no place like Light and Power to go to.  They don't have a place where they are celebrated or prayed for, or just told that they are loved.  It is a sad thought, particularly when I think of the people who have become so dear to me would have no place to go.

Maybe your church can be the place for folks like my friends to go.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Community integration as a metaphor for church integration

In the effort to move toward integration, people left institutions for residences in the community.  The end desire was not simply that people would have a home in the community (although a good thing in itself) but that people would be integrated into the community.  That is, they would be known, have friends, experience what might be called a "typical" life.  The difficulty that continues to be faced is that people do not sufficiently experience this form of social, community integration.

Applying this metaphor (perhaps this reality) to the church, our first desire would be to open churches to the presence of persons with various impairments.  This is a programmatic opening.  Perhaps now there will be a program within a church, a disability ministry.  This is comparable to persons who were institutionalized in the past, now living in the community. 

The next phase would be that people in the church would be a part of personal change for themselves, for other individuals and the entire congregation.  This is the "promised land" as with social integration for those in community residential settings.  This is the "not what we do but what we become" in the previous blog.

In both of these cases, what is needed is personal change: change in individuals in the community and the community and change in individual congregational members and the congregation as a whole.  We can develop programs/residences that evidence a form of physical integration, but we cannot be satisfied with that.

It sounds trite, but the changes we desire truly begin with us, whomever we are.  If I want community integration, I must facilitate it in my own life, whomever I am, being with people who would benefit from my efforts.  If I want faith group integration, perhaps I strive to be more like Jesus in loving others, particularly those whom society has devalued, or whose social skills or other personal characteristics make people uncomfortable.  Each of us have this power in our own social circles, and no one is excluded from this potential area for change and growth: secular or religious.

We need to think clearly about disability ministry within the church.  The presence of that ministry at a church is better than there not being such a presence.  But it only indicates that the church has taken a step of physical integration.  I cannot programmatically separate people from myself if I want to become what I need to become as a lover of other people.  I must not decide there are some whom I will love and others whom I will not.  Presence of people opens the door for the opportunity to love.  I need to step through that door and take others with me.


Disability ministry: It is not what you do it is who you become.

I was working on a document about leadership in disability ministry for the Joni and Friends organization this past week.  As I looked at the early draft, something seemed to be missing.  We were describing the development of programs and how those programmatic ideas might be infused into local churches.  Yes, programs are important.  But it occurred to me that what was needed in the document was a discussion of change and maturity development in both Christians who attend church and the Christian churches themselves. 

I can hire someone to develop and run a ministry that includes people with intellectual disabilities.  That program can be on the campus of the church and I can observe those people coming and going, but no demands are made on me individually or the larger church as a whole.  Disability ministry implies a change in both individuals and organization such that people with impairments no longer need to ask, "Why don't you love me?"  Disability ministry means that I have grown to the point that persons with just about any characteristic do not make me uncomfortable.  Disability ministry means that the congregation and the leadership have grown to the point that persons with any type of impairment do not make them uncomfortable.  But disability ministry also implies that persons with impairments are comfortable with others who also have impairments.  For example, in the group at my church that includes persons with intellectual disabilities, that implies that we try to facilitate their growth such that they are accepting of persons with autism and more severe disabilities.

We are all on the spectrum of need, we all find it difficult to love one another, so we all need to become something different than we currently are.  Disability ministry assists us all in that process of change and maturity.

Please don't be confused into thinking that disability ministry is just another ministry of the church, another program to be instituted.  It is about helping people become someone who is more like Jesus independent of personal characteristics.  That change is facilitated through the discomfort (for many) that comes through integration.  I will not learn to love someone with mental illness if I never am challenged to love someone with that characteristic.  The person that I would become if I learned that lesson will never be.  The church that doesn't learn that lesson will never be.

This is an area in which I need to embrace change and recognize that I am not OK the way I am.  Could someone look you in the eye and be justified in asking, "Why don't you love me?"  Do you care enough to prevent that from happening to you or your church by becoming something different?

Programs are fine, but they really are not what is truly needed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Free articles from the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability

The Joni and Friends organization's Christian Institute on Disability launched the Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability one year ago.  Subscriptions are available at their website.

You can also free copies of two articles from the first two issues.  This is something that the journal plans to provide with every issue: one free downloadable article.

The first free article is...

What Would Be Better?

Social Role Valorization and the Development of
Ministry to Persons Affected by Disability 
  MA R C   T U M E I N S K I   A N D   J E F F   MCNA I R

There is much that Christian churches can learn from relevant secular

approaches and adapt to support integration and participation within our
congregations for adults with impairments. One of these approaches is
Social Role Valorization developed by Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger. In this
approach, one considers the relevance of image and competency of devalued
individuals and how these two areas impact access to “the good things
of life.” This article applies these principles to the inclusion of vulnerable
congregational members into the life of the Christian church, asking the
question, “What would be better?” as a prompt for those in leadership to
reflect on their current practices with an eye toward maturity in their practices
as they intersect the lives of devalued people.
The second free article is...
Almost Friends



A survey was conducted of human services professionals working with
individuals with developmental disabilities regarding issues related to
friendship. Seventy-six percent agreed that there is a difference in friendship
between people being paid to be with a consumer of services and
those choosing to be with that same individual. The authors concluded
that it appears that those individuals serving persons with developmental
disabilities are “almost friends” in that although they are potentially
friendly, they are paid to be with those with whom they interact, and that
for these and a variety of other reasons are not able to be real friends.
To download these articles, go to the following website.



Thursday, September 05, 2013

A fantastic illustration of friendship

A student in the Cal Baptist Disability Studies program, Desiree Lesicko shared this video with me.  On one level it is just a beer commercial.  But the message is so fantastic.

There are many persons affected by disability who do not experience the kind of friendships illustrated by this video.  Instead they experience social isolation.  We need to choose persons affected by all kinds of impairments as our friends.  The benefit of such relationships is mutual.
"The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character." 
God bless,

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


At a meeting at Joni and Friends this morning, a video was shared which needs broader airplay.  It is about a photographer, Rick Guidotti.  I won't try to describe what he is doing, I would simply refer you to the YouTube video.  It is beautiful!

May God open the church to a perspective similar to this one...