Disability in the church: Givers or takers?
Disabled, differently-abled, handicapped, special needs. Even though I have a child who fits these terms and I am well-versed in the etiquette of this community, I often feel awkward and confused about how to deal with other families in the disabled community. Because we are all unique, there isn’t a perfect formula for navigating this population.
Some may avoid people with disabilities altogether out of the fear of saying or doing something offensive. Others may be oblivious to their existence in the church if their lives haven’t been touched by it yet. Yet some may see a lowered capacity and even wonder, "Why does God allow disability?"
What Does God Say About Disability?
Back in Jesus' day, people often assumed that if someone was disabled one or both of the parents must of sinned. In John 9:1-3, the disciples inquire who had sinned to cause the man to be born blind. Jesus responded that neither parent had sinned; he was born that way to glorify God. Disability in our world can glorify God, just like the rest of us can in different ways.
2 Samuel 9 shows King David honoring his dear friend, Jonathan, by giving his lame son, Mephibosheth, a place of honor at his table. It’s a powerful picture of belonging that reminds us people with disabilities are equal in the sight of God and welcome at His table, too.
Finding a Place in the Church
1 Corinthians 12 talks about the body of Christ having many parts, but all are necessary and needed. These promises are true for everyone, including the handicapped.
Disability doesn’t negate God's promises, it actually expands them. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the apostle Paul writes that he rejoiced in his weaknesses because through his weaknesses, God’s strength can be more clearly revealed. The nonverbal boy rocking in the corner, the deaf person in need of an interpreter, and the blind lady tapping her white cane in the hallway are not only vital to the body of Christ, they are a benefit to it.
Givers, Not Takers
Even I’ve been guilty of thinking too small regarding disability in the church. At times, I’ve thought of my daughter as a burden in the church to be accommodated rather than a gift to be treasured.
I’ve been around long enough to boldly say, “People with disabilities are givers, not takers.” Disability doesn’t erase or negate a purposeful life serving Christ, but rather, it ignites a greater story to tell.
People with special needs can spend a great deal of their lives fighting just to live and access the world most of us take for granted. For the roughly 14 percent of South Carolinians who fit the term “disabled,” participating in worship and attending church services can seem overwhelming, making them wonder if it's even worth the effort.
But what if more of us saw people who are disabled as assets and let them know they are making a difference in the church?
What You’ll Learn From People with Disabilities
Those who volunteer in SpringZone or any other disability related ministries get a front row seat to these five life-changing elements of spending time with this vital part of the body of Christ.
- People with disabilities push us out of our comfort zones because they build bridges we might never consider crossing. They accept everyone without regard to age, gender, skin color, hair style, or clothing choice (1 John 4:7).
- They challenge us to think about the value of life and a life of value. Jeremiah 1:5 says God knew us before we were born. We’re all exactly who He created us to be. They remind us there are no mistakes.
- We all reflect the God who made us, but disability often reveals a uniquely sweet innocence that seldom fades (Genesis 1:27).
- Their extra needs can strip us of our pretenses and bring us down to the basics of life. How easily we can lose sight of all we are blessed with while focusing too much on what we are missing (Matthew 6:25).
- People with special needs come into the world knowing life isn’t fair. They push past their limits and inspire those around them to do the same. They teach us perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds (James 1:12).
God calls all of us to the table. In the Creator’s hand, all are beautiful, perfect and a vital part of His kingdom. Let’s throw open the doors and welcome the abundance of untapped potential beneath the veil of disability, the differently-abled, handicapped, and special needs.
Learn more about KidSpring’s SpringZone for children with special needs. Find your way to serve at newspring.cc/serving.