Ideas for Connecting & Advocating With People With Disabilities

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Disability advocacy can feel lonely. With years of advocacy experience, two veteran advocates both inspire and guide people who are working to help churches become the welcoming and engaging communities that God calls them to be. This presentation is geared especially to Regional Disability Advocates who both consult with churches in their region and recruit and encourage advocates in local churches. Written by one of the presenters, a guide for recruiting new church advocates is included below. 

This presentation was part of the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns Leadership Conference held August 8 and 9, 2014.

Regional Advocates: Ideas for Connecting & Advocating

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Community Builder

That is NOT a job I'd see myself doing, but I do forward your posts to people in my congregation whom I think might be interested because I know that their child or other relative has a disability. Yesterday we had a one-day retreat in which we discussed the future of our congregation and classis, and where we felt our church was in the life-cycle of a congregation, and at the check-out stage I presented my desire to set up a support group for people with mental health issues and their close relatives, while someone else said we should also set up a Friendship group.  I do NOT feel qualified or interested in doing both, but I would be interested in getting further training to become a peer counselor;  we already have a social worker in our congregation and the pastor is sensitive to the problem of mental illnesses because one of his daughters also suffers from schizophrenia.

 

Guide

Michele, I agree that you should follow where God is leading in terms of your time, attention, and energy. I thank God to hear that you are hoping to start a support group for people with mental health issues. I hope and pray that goes well. We have a couple resources that may be helpful. We produced a four-part Bible study a few years ago called Let's Talk! Breaking the Silence around Mental Illness in Our Communities of Faith. This includes a leader's guide and may be helpful to get your group started. Also, we invited people to share their stories and poems about their journal with mental health issues which we titled Stories of Grace and Truth; perhaps you or others would feel moved to contribute something for this page. Mental Health Ministries and Pathways to Promise also have a lot of good, free resources that are worth checking out; their Mental Health Ministry Toolkit for Congregations is hard to find but has some really good ideas and resources. Blessings, Mark

Community Builder

On another subject. I am somewhat hard of hearing and the loud speakers of my computer are weak.  Could you or would you make your videos close captioned in the future, so that I can hear what people are saying without straining and trying to boost the volume beyond the computer's capacity?  I already have an extra set of loud speakers and even with them I had such a hard time hearing the video that I gave up.  Thank you.

Guide

Hi Michele, We close captioned the brief videos we created that can be found on our homepage. I assume you are talking about the new children and youth ministry videos we just put on our website. Thanks for this suggestion. I hope that someday we will have the budget to pay for this in addition to the cost of producing the videos themselves. Mark

Community Builder

@ Mark,

I will look into the resources you mentioned and share them with my pastor.  In one of the sentences you wrote about the poems and stories you mentioned a journal. Perhaps you meant a journey?  Thanks for these resources.  I'll get back to you.

Guide

Right, their journey with mental health issues. Unfortunately, comments can't be edited so my error will have to stay. Thanks for the catch. 

Community Builder

I have some poems I wrote in the mid-1990s before and after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was one of the most stressful periods of my life.  One of them is on this computer ; its title is "Mountains".  Unfortunately I can't get it in this window.  I don't know how to, but I could send it to Disability concerns to publish in your newsletter along with the others.

 

Guide

Hi Michele, our newsletter, Breaking Barriers, follows themes, so it might be years again before we publish an edition featuring people's stories about mental health challenges; however, we have a page called Stories of Grace and Truth in which we have encouraged people to share their own stories, poems, and works of art. I'd really appreciate your sending us what you have written. The guidelines for submission are at the top of the Grace and Truth page