Marie and her 21-year-old son Joshua feel the joy of being included in the body of Christ every week at Pear Orchard Church. As a single mom caring for a young man with Down syndrome, Marie relishes the fact that both she and her son feel welcomed, celebrated, and affirmed as equal members of their local congregation. But it hasn’t always been like this.
Carl Kalberkamp, Associate Pastor of Pear Orchard Church, explains that things began to change in his church when they came to realize, “Those with special needs are the largest unreached people group… certainly in the United States, perhaps even in the world. Our church was very much unaware of that.”
Committing to reach, include, and integrate people with disabilities has transformed Pear Orchard Church. The congregation now gives a glimpse of the Joni and Friends vision: a world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity, and their place in the body of Christ.
Today both Marie and Joshua fill vital needs at their church. Joshua serves on the hospitality team, greeting people on Sunday mornings with his bright smile and distributes bulletins.
Joshua enjoys contributing at church, experiencing full membership and equal dignity. As he says, “I love this church!”
“God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
1 Corinthians 12:24-25
Marie can’t help but get emotional when she talks about the beautiful ways she and Joshua have been treated as integral parts of their church family.
She says, “I wish this was a world where everybody was exposed to special needs and would understand that we’re all different and yet we’re all the same.”
How can your church better integrate people with disabilities?
Joni and Friends can help you identify and remove barriers that impact people with disabilities in your church. In Luke 14 gives a call to his followers:
“Go out quickly in the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…. Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:21, 23 (NIV)
Your church can carry out this commission by creating a culture that sees all people as indispensable parts of the body of Christ, created in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect. Become a church that welcomes and embraces people with disabilities today! You can find resources that will both train and equip your church in serving families living with disabilities here.
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
You can contact a Joni and Friends church training mentor directly at [email protected] or by calling 818.707.5664. We’d love to walk with you as you seek God’s heart for people with disabilities in your church.