I had the privilege of taking a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. At the conclusion of our time together, each of us students wrote a "final evaluation". Here are some excerpts from mine.
Welcome to Disability Concerns. My name is Mark Stephenson. I’m here to help you find the best ways for your church to become an accessible, warm, hospitable, and loving place for people with disabilities. At Disability Concerns we like to say, “Everybody belongs. Everybody serves.”
After receiving an M.Div. degree, I served as pastor of two Christian Reformed churches for a total of 17 years, and I have served as the Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed Church since July 2006. My wife Bev and I have four living children, including our oldest child, Nicole, who was born extremely prematurely in the late 1980’s and lives with severe, multiple impairments. That label does not define her. She loves magazines, loves interacting with people, loves roller-coasters and wild amusement park rides, and she loves to worship and to pray with God’s people. In any group, she shares her own unique gifts.
God used Nicole to lead me into a variety of involvements with people with disabilities and their families including these:
- Chairing the board of Special Education Ministry of Holland (a Friendship group)
- Serving with working groups for various ministries with people with disabilities
- Directing the Disability Concerns ministry of my denomination.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to speak to groups across North America about church and inclusion, and welcome such opportunities. Likewise, I welcome this opportunity to assist you and your congregation. If you cannot find a resource that you would find helpful, or if I can assist you in some way, please be in touch.
Crabtree argues that denominational and regional association leaders must derive success through others.
Seong Won asked me whether CPE has changed since I took my last unit 32 years ago. I told her that the structure of CPE hasn’t changed much, but I’ve changed a great deal. Naturally, she followed up with, “How have you changed?”
I’m more comfortable with answers than questions, authority than weakness, and qualification by academic degree than qualification by suffering. But I’m learning that effectiveness in chaplaincy requires me to walk into the circle of my discomfort.
A person with a disability is murdered by their parent or guardian about once a week. At least 219 such murders happened in the United States from 2011 to 2015.
CRC and RCA Disability Concerns ministries would like to put on a webinar. For those of you who have done webinars, do you have a how-to and best practice list that you'd be willing to share?
An article I read about churches hiring people with disabilities contained helpful information but their approach emphasized that hiring anyone with a disability is fraught with "landmines." Ouch!
Every time a rampage killing happens, like the recent horror in Las Vegas, people ask “Why?” For an answer, we need to look at ourselves and the kind of society we have created.
Children both amaze and inspire me to be a better person. As I see Christ in them, I know God has placed them in my ministry not only to learn as students, but to teach as well.
Joe, yes, this pastor's communication shows a wonderful sensitivity to this man, and shows a desire to teach the congregation how better to understand and interact with him both with the...
Joe, thanks so much for posting your reflections on looking for a new church with your friend. I'm learning so much by reading what the two of you are experiencing. It's challenging for anyone to...
Joe, it must be very frustrating for you and your friend to visit different churches and not find the kind of welcome that all of us long for. When Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Birmingham...
Joe, thanks for digging back through the archives to find this blog. The tide of public neglect and fear toward people who have autism and other disabilities is turning, but it takes a long, long...
Sarah, I'm sorry to hear about this. How painful for your daughter, you, and your whole family. When our children hurt, we parents hurt all the more. You may have some recourse. If this camp is in...
Dan and Doug, I understand justice to be an aspect of love. So yes, love and justice must go together because justice is one of the ways that God's love is manifested. For example, these verses...
Doug, I'm replying both to your and Dan's separation of justice from love. I don't see how justice can be so sharply separated from love. Focusing only on retributive justice, if one says that...
I'm not getting this idea of justice without love. Wouldn't God's justice without love simply be capriciousness? Wouldn't human justice without love simply be revenge?
Doug, when you write, "In my mind, "doing justice" (public or otherwise) does not give the appearance of, nor is it, "love."" you seem to be distinguishing justice from love, which implies that...
Millie, I'm sorry to hear it. Is there someone in your church leadership that has a heart for making your church a more welcoming place that you could talk to about it? Bringing about change in a...