Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Nurse Holding Elderly Patient's Hand

Comfort, Confirm, Challenge – the 3Cs model of relationships from Special Friends Ministry  (http://specialneedsministry.org/2013/03/26/the-c3-relational-model-comfort/ )

 

I was reading this blog recently where the Special Friends Ministry Team explain their model for building relationships with the children and adults with additional needs they have attending their church and activities. Here is my understanding of what these words mean in practice. All of this is based on how Jesus met and related to people with disabilities in the gospels.

 

Comfort – coming alongside the people, getting to know them, understanding their needs and situation.

Confirm – them as a person, in God’s image, accepting them and making adjustments to ourselves and our environment so that they can be part of our church family.

Challenge – find the right ways to communicate the gospel; teach them their need of salvation and enable growth and maturity in faith.

 

I was intrigued by the fact they had developed a model and wondered at the need for such a structured approach. Don’t relationships happen more naturally than this? If we seek to be friendly and love as Jesus loved then won’t relationship happen anyway?

 

One of our team recently said to me that I took some things for granted because I worked all the time with people with LD and for other people it wasn’t always so easy. They found some training, advice and structure was needed so that they didn’t feel overwhelmed and unsure when building relationships with vulnerable people. It helped them feel safe and that they were ensuring the safety of the people with learning disabilities.

 

We are a church group and we make it explicit that we exist to make the Gospel and the Bible accessible to people with learning disabilities. Everyone who comes has this made clear to them. But at the same time we are building relationships and friendships because we are God’s family together and together we are learning and growing in our faith.

 

In practice we have structured our meetings in a way that we can Comfort, Confirm and Challenge.

Our first hour is craft, social and sharing a light tea together. This is the time that we come alongside our members and get to know them. We get to know how they communicate, what they like and how they respond so that we can Comfort.

We then have a 45 minute service where we move to the front of the main church. We learn from the Bible together and explain what it means in ways that hopefully Confirm and Challenge.  

All of this is followed up through relationship and being God’s family together.

 

What I love about this ministry is that while seeking to minister to others – I myself am comforted, confirmed and challenged along the way…isn’t that brilliant!

What do you think about this as a model for ministry for people with additional needs?

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