A pastor and father to a disabled child is pleading with churches to be more inclusive towards those living with disabilities.
Pastor Anthony Kidd, of Grace Community Church, in South Gate California, said he and other families with disabled children had experienced being 'overlooked' in some churches and that for some people with disabilities, it was their 'normal experience' of church.
Writing for John Piper's Desiring God website, he said disabled people were 'a neglected minority of a different kind' and that too few churches went beyond ensuring their compliance with regulations.
'Some churches do very little, if anything, to show the familial love of Christ to disabled members who long to be a vital part of their local church,' he said.
'It's a failure of leadership, but one that can be corrected by seeing the whole body as essential to a God-honoring, Christ-exalting, gospel-saturated church,' he said.
He added: 'There's significantly more to be gained by doing a series on Jesus's interactions with the disabled in the Gospels than by simply having wider bathroom stalls (although that's important too).'
Kidd has seven recommendations for pastors with disabled people in their congregations.
- Intentionally seek them out because they 'tend to stay on the fringes of the church'
- Give them a sense of belonging because 'they've had to navigate the various roads of discrimination, rejection, avoidance, and patronization almost everywhere they go'
- Preach the power of weakness as part of the church's efforts to foster an effective disability ministry and culture
- Mobilise servant-volunteers through training and discussion to better support disabled people and understand the barriers to inclusion that they face
- Model compassion
- Learn from other churches with thriving disability ministries
- Think long term and be holistic 'to enfold them into the full life of the church'.
He concluded: 'The goal of any ministry should be growth in discipleship and obedience to the word. It's no different for those with special needs.'