Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Disabilities, Church and the Idol of Excellence

One of the most common core values for many contemporary churches is that of excellence. That is not necessarily a bad thing. We should want to do the things we do for God to the best of our ability. But there are times that excellence can become and idol.

I have heard too many stories of churches that put excellence over compassion and respect. Leadership feels the pressure to compete with professional entertainment. If they are going to impress visitors, everything is going to have to be perfect. Anything that takes away from the "show" is unacceptable.

What happens when there is a person with a disability in the congregation? What happens if they make some noise or some wild gestures? What if people with disabilities take away from what leadership interprets as excellence?

My intention is not to be critical of what some leaders are trying to create in a worship service. I would just suggest that we all need to look back to the early church and the things that they valued in worship. I understand that we do not live in first century Jerusalem, but there are things that we can learn. Our starting point may not be with how to impress people but rather to reflect what God loves in our worship. It is possible that people with disabilities can make our worship services more excellent in a fresh way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Certificate in Disabilities and Inclusive Communities

Do you have a passion to minister to and with those with disabilities? Are you looking for some formal training for preparation? Alvernia University offers a Certificate in Disabilities and Inclusive Communities and it is available completely online. You can find more information here.

Stanley Hauerwas on Disability

Presentation by Stan Hauerwas. "Stan Hauerwas on Disability" from the 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability Conference, an interfaith perspective on topics related to developmental disabilities, discussed by international theologians, scholars and authors.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Life to the Full Conference

Life to the Full
I am really excited about an incredible conference that is coming up on October 28-30, 2016 in Niagara Falls. It is called Life to the Full. How can you go wrong with a name like that? Life to the Full is a conference that will help the Church embrace and minister with people with special needs.

Who should attend this conference?

Pastors and church leaders would definitely benefit from this conference. Parents and other family members of those with special needs would also enjoy this. And those with special needs will appreciate the time together. In fact, just about anyone should attend this conference.

We are at a time when churches need to take disability ministry seriously. It is not just about having a formal disability as one of many programs. It is about being aware of special needs and being willing to minister in loving and respectful ways.

Life to the Full has some incredible keynote speakers and breakout sessions. You can tailor your learning to your goals and context.

The tagline for the conference is ability - belonging - community. It is as easy as ABC.

Please consider attending this conference. You can find all the information here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Identity and the Challenge of Disability

In this video, Jean Vanier speaks on the subject of disabilities and identity. Jean Vanier is a powerful speaker who is worth listening to.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Autism and Me

An interesting BBC documentary on autism.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Joni Eareckson Tada on a Theology of Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, discusses the theology of suffering. She encourages us by explaining how suffering can be redeemed in a manner that glorifies God.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Amos Yong on Disability and Theology

Presentation by Amos Yong."Disability and Suffering: Pastoral and Practical Theological Considerations" from the 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability Conference, an interfaith perspective on topics related to developmental disabilities, discussed by international theologians, scholars and authors.

Friday, May 6, 2016

What People With Autism Want the Church to Know

I had the opportunity to ask some people with autism about what they want the church to know. I'm thankful that a number of people responded. This is important because I can only speak for myself. I want people to hear other voices. I hope that you will hear these voices and have a greater sense of where people with autism are coming from.

This issue is very close to my heart, so while I know I've already commented, I'll contribute some more. The church is the one place above all else where we should be loved and accepted just as we are. I do not want to be changed, I do not want my kids to be changed. God made us perfect for His purpose. Please do not make assumptions about behavior, from **anyone**. I should not have to disclose my diagnosis to a stranger in order to avoid dirty looks. I should not have to disclose my sons diagnosis to avoid judgement on my parenting. LOVE. That is all I want from my church. The lights on the stage really hurt my eyes. Sometimes I wear sunglasses in the sanctuary and I get dirty looks. It's not enough to block the bright lights anyway so I stopped wearing them and suffer through it. The shaking hands part of the service is very uncomfortable for me, but I'll do it. I am terrified of trying new churches because inevitably a pastor will ask us to do something extremely invasive like "turn to your neighbor and hold their hand" or "everybody tell your neighbor ..." - Sarah
I'm very much of an introvert on top of the autism so prefer to be able to sit somewhere relatively quiet and out of the public eye. Services with a lot of really loud music and bright lights would be a trial for me even though I like music and lights that a bit more toned down. I believe there needs to be somewhere for us to go when we are feeling overwhelmed..We often do better in small congregations (providing the others are accepting of us). - Carmel
Churches are designed and built to have a massive impact on the senses, to awe and overwhelm, they always have been from the days of choir and stained glass windows lighting up the serf's beige existence and babbling to him in a language he doesn't understand. Even still now with things like electronic PA systems and organs. They are literally echo chambers and when full of people the effects are magnified. Not ideal places for the easily overstimulated. - Callam

Thank you Sarah, Carmel and CAllam for sharing.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Disability Ministry as the Church's Mandate

In this video from Lausanne Movement in Capetown 2010, Steve Bundy challenges to the church to take the initiative in reaching those with special needs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

5 Things You Should Know About Autism Parents

Autism Parents
Every parent of a child with autism is different, but there is some common ground I have found with many parents. If you wish to care for and minister to families with autism, there are five things you should know.

  1. Autism parents are exhausted physically. Many children with autism have sleep disturbances that affect the entire family. I went an entire year getting only three hours of sleep per night.
  2. Autism parents are exhausted emotionally. You can never let your guard down when it comes to autism. There is a need to be hyper-vigilant. Long-term hyper-vigilance can lead to PTSD.
  3. Autism parents have extra pressure on their marriage. The divorce rate is already too high in society, autism can make this worse. Even if the parents do not separate, it is easy for the marriage to just slip into co-caregivers.
  4. Autism parents are extremely protective. Nothing comes easy when it comes to autism. This includes getting services and treatments. Autism parents have to fight every step of the way. Don't mess with an autism parent.
  5. Autism parents love their children fiercely. Of course all parents should love their children, but something really special happens with autism. Love is not based on what the child can do or what the parent can do. It is a deeper love that is soul to soul. It may or may not be expressed with words but it is a strong and deep love.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Highlight of My Time at Church

I am a pastor and a father of two children with autism. My children live in a group home in another city and so have not yet been to the church where I have recently started pastoring. However, we do have a young man with autism at our church who is at a similar end of the spectrum as our children.

Knowing that everyone with autism is different, I have not tried to apply my understanding of my children on him. When I first met him, I said hello to him the way I would any other person.

He ignored me.

The next number of Sundays I greeted him again and he continued to ignore me (at least on the outside). Slowly, I noticed that he would give me a glance when I would say hello.

This past Sunday, after the service he approached me and asked me to pour him a cup of coffee. I asked him if he wanted milk and sugar, he responded and he got his coffee. It was our first conversation together and I was very happy.

I want to share this because you may meet someone with autism (on either end of the spectrum) and they may not respond to you. Do not push them but do not give up either. Make yourself available, show your interest, and let them come to you when they are ready. It is worth the wait.