Monday, April 25, 2011

Teaching Those with Physical and Intellectual Difficulties

(This is a guest post from my friend Marda, who is herself blind and has had an effective ministry teaching the Bible to those with physical and intellectual difficulties of many types.-- Glenn)

Reaching and Teaching the World for Christ?
 Can you think of any population groups in your church or community that
may be under-served or not ministered to at all?

My name is Marda and my calling is to minister to and teach people of all
walks of life and classes who happen to have special needs.  These needs may
range from one-on-one mentoring during Sunday school and church services to
providing help to a person with medical needs to providing materials in
accessible format for visually impaired, blind or learning disabled students
to having a special class or group for those with intellectual disabilities,
to providing transportation for those who can't get to church  or to finding
various ways to welcome those who have serious mental illness.

In this series of articles, drawn from my years in disability ministry in
various settings, I plan to share some ideas which I hope will inspire you
to reach out to those who are often forgotten, people with disabilities.

Who am I?  I am a middle-aged woman, a special ed. teacher and music
therapist by profession and have been a Christian for over thirty years.
I've got the letters after my name and the diplomas to show my education
but, while it was a good one, most of what I am going to share comes from
life experience.  Within the Christian community I have worked in a wide
variety of capacities from starting Sunday school departments for adults who
have intellectual disabilities to teaching children and adults with a
diverse array of learning differences to working with families, caregivers
and other church members in helping to make the church experience a little
easier for those whom the world sees  as disabled.  I currently work with a
special ed. ministry in a church and with a Bible study for blind
participants.  In addition, I am working to develop a ministry resource that
can be used for increasing outreach to those who have special physical,
emotional and learning needs.  We all have these basic needs and most
importantly, everyone, no matter how disabled they seem, deserves to have
the chance to know the love of Christ and of His church.

What can you do, even as one person, to reach out to this special
population?  You can begin with those already in your church who seem
different and who often seem lonely.  I have a blind friend whose pet peeve
is that he sits in an empty pew every Sunday.  He feels frustrated because
he feels that he can't simply ask to sit with a group of people.  He doesn't
want to impose.  But he's a wonderful, fun, intelligent articulate person.
Maybe there is someone in your church like that.  But how would you know
unless you engaged that person?  Start with a smile and a greeting.  But
don't just stop there.  If someone is sitting alone, ask if they'd like to
join your group in the pew or sit beside you in Bible study class.  The
worst someone can do is say no and at least you know you've tried.

In future articles I plan to offer information about various special needs
groups and how you can reach out to and teach those who are already in your
church or reach out into the wider community to welcome them in.  I pray
that reading this will be the beginning of a wonderful journey as you get to
know some of your brothers and sisters that you may not have thought to try
to get to know in the past.  I pray that God will put that desire into your

(Marda's next article will be published tomorrow)

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