Special Needs and Disability Coordinator

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One of the greatest tragedies in the modern church is how poorly they do at reaching out to and accommodating people with disabilities and their families. Most people with disabilities do not go to church even when they are believers.

This is not as much of a direct outreach position for a church but it is one that can lead to great outreach inside your community. This is a person in your church that looks after the needs of all adults and children with physical or developmental disabilities and their families.

The main goal is to make sure that the church is able to accommodate people with various disabilities. The coordinator works to make sure that the church is able to work to meet the needs of those with disabilities that come to your church and not have them fall through the cracks.

Here is a list of responsibilities that a special needs and disabilities coordinator can assume:

  • First is to make sure that the building is disability accessible.
  • Work with the church leaders to develop an atmosphere that is safe, friendly, and comfortable for people with disabilities.
  • Working with the leaders of various ministries to help them understand how they can make someone with a specific disability feel comfortable and welcome in that ministry.
  • Meet with people with disabilities and their families to see how the church can better meet their needs.
  • Contact disability support groups in your community and ask how you can better serve people with specific needs. This not only helps you meet the needs of the members and visitors of your church it also lets the greater community know that people with disabilities are welcome and would feel comfortable in your church.

This is quoted from
Dynamic Community Outreach
http://community-outreach.com/

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Community Builder

This month we are beginning a 'short-term' committee for Disabilities Awareness. We will be going throught the Disabilities Awareness survey from the denomination and plan to have a worship service focusing on worshipping as people of 'all abilities' in September. It will likely involve meetings with our building committee, worship committee education committee and council, as well as private meetings with the families in our church who live with the challenge and blessing of having persons who are develomentally disabled as part of their family. 

 If anyone else already has some experience in either of these areas, please message me. Thanks!

Guide

Geri, Besides the accessibility audit, Disability Concerns has many other resources for raising awareness as well. You will also want to encourage your council to adopt a church policy on disability. Thanks for your work on this! Mark

Hi, Geri. It's been almost 4 months since you shared about your short-term committee. First of all, how is it going? I hope you've received a positive response from your various committees as well as the rest of your congregation. Sometimes when you are trying something new, people feel nervous and are slow to change. Secondly, we have recently started a Disability Awareness Team with the blessing of our Council. Our purpose is to promote disability awareness through training and encouraging our ministry leaders to be ready to welcome children and adults with disabilities. One of our first goals was to be prepared to have children with disabilites feel welcome at our VBS. To do this we invited a speaker who has had a lot of experience working with children in the local parks department as well as Special Olympics to speak to the VBS staff on ways to be welcoming. He did a great job. I actually had a teacher come up to me during VBS and share that, because of the training, she was able to encourage a young boy with autism who was having a difficult time. I thnk the important thing is to keep reminding your congregation of the importance of disability awareness. Write newsletter articles, sponsor speakers, bring books into the library. I am getting ready to lead a series in our small group on bio-medical ethics which has a lot to do with how we as a society view people with disabilities. I hope your committee becomes a permament part of your church and not just "short-term."

Community Builder

Well, as you see, it's been over a month since you left your inquiry, and first I'll say "THANK YOU!" for caring enough to check up on me and keep us motivated to do this work. We have been busy! :)

The committee continues to meet, and we have accomplished some things, and are working on more things. We've accomplished the adoption of a Disability awareness policy in the church, getting it recognized in council. It has yet to be more publicly announced and noticed in the weekly/daily communications of the church, but each member of the committee is working to do so in their own volunteering and tasks as members of the church, as well as in our regular meetings.

Right now we are in the middle of a series of sermons based on the Sacredness of Life. We've focused on Life, Hunger, this week is Human Trafficking, then we'll have Restorative Justice and then the last week is Disabilities Awareness. We have Ralph and Carol Hondered coming for a luncheon and presentation of the Blessings of Inclusion on the 29th of September. Our Friendship Group is invited to this as well, and we hope to have other churches represented that day as well. Invites are going out this week.

Someone from our committee will join me and the Building and Grounds Committee at their next meeting for a discussion of better inclusion and access for those with phyically disabilities. We have a good start, but could do better for welcome with automatic doors and spaces within the santuary that make their inclusion more welcoming. 

We have dreams about being more available to the families who have a child or children with autism. We feel like we should be ready before we have the need. We've dreamed about offering a VBS to the community for those families, but haven't had the opportunity to share that with our church membership to see what kind of support we would have. 

We have other people inquiring (Larry Van Essen, Christine Hager, our classis Disability Concerns Advocate, a college student from Australia, a possible visit from Barbara Newman of CLC Network for an inservice with our local Christian School teachers) and we seem to be becoming the 'hot-spot' in Northern California. 

We're awed and humbled by the inquiries and pray for the strength and vision to carry out these tasks. Please pray for our team and ask God to equip us and protect us for the obstacles that will no doubt rise in front of us as we prepare to share God's love to all his children. 

Blessings and grace,
Geri

Guide

Geri, great to read about all that's happening. You'll enjoy Ralph and Carol. Such heart and knowledge! And Ralph is a fine, fine story teller. I praise God for you, your committee, and the work your church is doing! In the end, it's not just about accommodating and engaging people with disabilities, it's about being the body of Christ that God intended your church to be.