3 Benefits of Physical Disability/Chronic Illness Ministries
“My coworker said she was experiencing back pain…can you believe someone OUR age is having those kinds of pains? Are we really that old now? Do you have those kinds of pains?” A peer in my church’s young adults group asked.
“I mean, yeah,” I laughed awkwardly, “I have cerebral palsy.”
“Oh yeah…that’s right,” the peer said. “I guess it’s different for you.”
It is different for me. It’s different for me because I am different than the others in mainstream ministries. Or am at least made to feel different. As a young person with a physical disability, I don’t always fit in at church, just like I don’t always fit in at large. And while the church has made great strides in being more inclusive to those with intellectual disabilities, children, and their families through respite ministries, those ministries unfortunately don’t always meet my needs as an adult with a college degree, an apartment, and a full-time job. Enter physical disability/chronic illness ministries, which are opportunities for adults with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses to minister to each other. Here are three benefits to having physical disability/chronic illness ministries.
Provides Community In a physical disability/chronic illness ministry, no one acts shocked that I’m a 29-year-old with aches and pains. People understand the shame of being prayed over for miraculous healing and struggle with the stigma of being on government assistance. They understand each other in ways even friends and family members cannot. They address each other as peers and adults.
Provides Mentorship. Physical disability/chronic illness ministries are led by those with physical disabilities and chronic illness, The Problem With 'Disability Ministry' Leaders with disabilities understand and empathize with those they are ministering to in a unique way. As a person with a disability, sometimes it’s easy to think, “that’s easy for an able-bodied person to say,” when being ministered to, but being led by a fellow person with a disability removes that barrier. People with disabilities feel safer being discipled by and opening up to others with disabilities, and feel empowered, encouraged, and challenged when they see someone like themselves in charge.
Provides Accessibility One of my main challenges to not being involved more in Bible studies at my church is finding reliable transportation. Many physical disability/chronic illness ministries meet on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Not only does meeting on Zoom make it accessible for those in a particular church or local community to attend, but it also opens groups up for others in the disability community to attend from across the country and around the world. This global community is most welcome, considering many times, people are the only disabled person or one of the only disabled people in their churches. Spirituality among People with Disabilities: A Nationally Re... Other accommodations that physical disability/chronic illness ministries can provide are close captioning on Zoom calls, audio versions of study materials, and more.
Physical disability/chronic illness ministries can make a significant impact on the lives of Christians with a variety of medical conditions. If you are a Christian with a physical disability or chronic illness, consider using your challenges to encourage others. If you are a Christian without a physical disability or chronic illness, consult with those with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses about starting a ministry. Just like good missionaries focus their efforts on training locals to lead those in their community, churches should focus on training those with disabilities and chronic illnesses to minister to their own community.