Disability Concerns, Youth Ministry
“Doing Ministry with Youth on the Margins” Conference Wrap-Up
August 18, 2014
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Does your youth group have the ability to bring people in and embrace them as members of the body of Christ?
Are our churches and student ministries safe places for people to be themselves?
What practical steps can our churches take to better support parents of teenagers with disabilities, the volunteer leaders who work with these teens, and the teens themselves?
These were just some of the questions that panelists and conference attendees wrestled with in early August at a training event sponsored by Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns ministries: “Doing Ministry with Youth on the Margins.”
Over 100 ministry leaders from across North America gathered in Grand Rapids, MI, for an afternoon of discussion and learning about doing ministry with students living with autism; hearing, visual, and mobility impairments; mental health challenges; and other disabilities. Children and youth like these are often marginalized outside of the church and many of the leaders on stage challenged the attendees to make sure that didn’t happen in their churches and youth ministries.
Topics that were discussed included how to create a culture of inclusion in congregational student ministries; an exploration of the experiences of parents with children with disabilities; offensive and defensive strategies for redirecting challenging behaviors; resources for disability awareness and ministry; and a presentation on Young Life Capernaum’s work with students with disabilities.
With as many as 20 percent of those under the age of eighteen struggling with some kind of developmental disability (see Conner, Amplifying Our Witness: Giving Voice to Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities, p. 3), these topics hit home for many leaders. Among some of the key takeaways for me were:
What advice would you add to this list? Do you have stories you’d like to share about your experience doing ministry with students with disabilities? Are you a parent that would like to share your insight with others? We’d love to hear from you.
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