This is the ministry statement of our church, you can see more about it here. It seems simple…and maybe we do make it more complicated than it needs to be. This year we are seriously praying about and exploring how we disciple our adults with learning disabilities.
We don’t run our Good News Group through the school holidays, except for a BBQ that we are having on Wednesday. People miss it, but it also gives us as leaders, time to reflect and seek God for his plans for the coming year. When we took on the role of leaders (unexpectedly!) Bob, Gill and I agreed that we could not do it without a sense of God’s vision for the ministry. The first indication from God was to “reach out”. At the time we were concerned, each of us had commitments and other ministries that gave us very little time or opportunity to get out and about into our community, but we prayed… Thy Will be Done.
What we have seen is God building a ministry that is reaching out in ways we could not imagine in those early days. This blog and my website – www.reachoutasc.com with resources that people can use is part of that, along with the Disability Network we have helped set up. It seems like God’s intention has been for us to reach out to other churches and support them in their inclusive ministries…and there is more of that to come.
This summer God has been leading us to pray more and more about growing disciples. We have high expectations of God’s Word in our Bible teaching, we share and teach the Gospel and spend much of our time helping our members understand God’s Word. It is a joy to see how how members are growing in their knowledge and response to the Bible.
We already spend a good portion of our time sitting with our members individually and in small groups to talk with them about putting God’s word into practice in their lives. We have prayed with them and taught them how to pray. We listen to their problems and issues and help them apply God’s word to those. We encourage those that are able, to read the Bible for themselves (the Prospects booklets have been helpful for this, especially as they also come in a CD version for those who can’t read – see below) So far, this has been our experience of growing disciples.
But a new hunger is welling up inside us to explore making disciples in a much deeper way. I am currently chatting to our vicar about discipleship, and looking at how we can adapt and apply the principles and practices to our group. We would like to start with some small group or 1:1 Bible study where the participants have more opportunity to contribute and do some self study. The challenge is finding material that is either adaptable or has already been written with adults with learning disabilities in mind. We have done some in the past, using a variety of resources. One of these is the Easy English version of the Bible Click here to go to it, which is accessible online. It has been really useful to us in preparing our weekly teaching sessions but most of our group do not have access to the internet and so it isn’t very accessible to them! I’m quite excited about Biblical’s plant produce an accessible Bible, in partnership with Torch Trust, Prospects and Urban Saints and will be writing a blog post for them soon. You can see an article about it here…
This should be a natural extension of our discipling. If we are growing strong, confident believers, then they should be able to go out and talk to others about Jesus, whether that is within the other church ministries, such as the children work, to the other residents and carers who share their homes, or actually getting involved in missions further afield. This is something that will be wonderful to explore. We have begun but there may be much more we can explore as we reach out, grow disciples and see where the Lord takes these wonderful people we have the privilege to be joined in faith with. We don’t want to see their disability as a barrier or a limitation, but as a gift and opportunity to reach others for Jesus.
What are your experiences of growing and discipling children and adults with learning disabilities, or with autism?