Have you ever heard of the word GIDER? No, it is not the first part of the well-known Larry the Cable Guy’s saying, “GIT-R-Done!” Though it is something every local church should “get done.” If you are a Scrabble pro and you are tempted to grab your dictionary let me save you the time. You will not find the word GIDER because it is not a word. For this blog, we will be using the new word GIDER as an acronym. This acronym spells out the five simple steps to doing Disability Ministry the right way. So, what does GIDER stand for?
Disability ministry done right really is no different than ministry done the right way. Forget for a moment the thought that you have a special set of rules and exceptions for disability ministry. For most intensive purposes this is a false belief. God gives no asterisks in scripture. Why should you?
Did you know that Jesus himself commanded the church leadership of his day to do Disability Ministry? If you do not believe me stop this exercise and read Luke chapter 14. Not only does Jesus command the local church to do Disability Ministry he also models it by embracing the man that the church leadership was using as a prop. Pay careful attention to the words of Jesus in Luke 14:21. Jesus says, “go out quickly.” Jesus does not say, “form a committee,” or, “set a budget,” or “take some time and pray about it.” Jesus is saying the viability of disability ministry is not something that needs to be discussed in a meeting it is just something that needs to be done! So stop sitting around thinking about it. Get up! Go! Your disability community is waiting for you. Step one, Go, does not jive with the Field of Dreams “build it and they will come” ministry philosophy. You must be willing to leave the walls of your church and engage your disability community where they are.
Jesus did command church leadership to “go” and tell the good news to the disability community and then run back as fast as you can. This is not a “rake and run” ministry. There was a second part to Luke 14:21. Did you catch it? After “go out quickly” Jesus commands churches to “bring in” all who are poor and disabled. This is the work of inclusion. This is not a ministry of pity where people with disabilities are objectified. This is literally the missing piece to becoming a complete church. 1 Corinthians 12:22 makes that fact clear. It is the disability community, “those that seem to be weaker,” who are the most important and often missing parts of the body of the church. Without people affected by disability included in all facets of the church, the church is not as it was designed to be. It is incomplete.
Remember God makes no exceptions and uses no asterisks in scripture. All means all. God never said that he reserves the right to only give spiritual gifts to people with IQ scores over 70 or only for able-bodied people. Every believer in Jesus is given spiritual gifts. These gifts serve a very specific purpose. They are for serving others and building up the body of Christ. Before one can use their spiritual gifts they must first discover what they are. Sometimes people easily identify their gifting. Others may struggle to discover exactly how God has gifted them. This is where you come in. Take the time to really get to know people in your ministry. The more time you spend with people the easier it will be to help them identify their gifting.
The work of the local church is to empower its members to use their spiritual gifts to build up the Kingdom. Nowhere in scripture do you see that the work of the church was reserved only for the paid professionals, the Pastors, Priests, etc. All followers of Jesus are called to be “ministers” of the Gospel of Jesus. Time to get off the bleachers and get in the game. Time to start using those spiritual gifts. Time to start living out your faith. This can be frightening but remember that “God is working in you.” This call to action includes everyone in your Disability Ministry too! Remember if your friends with disabilities in your ministry are simply the objects of your ministry efforts you are doing Disability Ministry all wrong. Part of full inclusion means that all people are empowered to use their gifts.
Disciples making disciples is the goal of almost every church. The goal of your disability ministry should be no different. Disability ministry was never intended to be a holding tank. Disability ministry done right should look like a production line, a place where disciples make disciples. You “go” out and “bring in” people from your community to find a place of belonging in the church. You help them “discover” their gifts and you “empower” them to use them within the church. Then like every child that grows up there comes a time when you either let them go or you push them out the door! The time of “release” is their “go” moment. Jesus left his followers with very specific instructions in what is known as the Great Commission. These commands were meant for all people, including people with disabilities. Jesus wants people to use their giftedness outside the church walls to share the good news. This does not mean people are no longer welcome in your Disability Ministry it just means they are fully equipped and empowered followers of Jesus making a difference for the Kingdom.