SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRIES
Special Needs Ministries seeks to inspire, equip, and mobilize those who are differently-abled to serve God and community as expressed in the mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRIES
Special Needs Ministries seeks to bring wholeness to all in a world that is broken. A sense of “wholeness” is not dependent on the elimination of one’s special need, but is a rediscovery of a person's completeness in God. This ministry has a unique opportunity of not only proclaiming, but also emphasizing the value and dignity of each person. The Church is not only known by what it says, but also by what it does. Therefore, this ministry exists to coordinate and promote acceptance, support, and inclusion of people who have special needs and those who care for them. This global ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church encompasses ministry for and with those with different abilities such as the Deaf, blind, orphans, and those with mental health and mobility challenges. It also seeks to provide support for caregivers of those with special needs. At the heart of this ministry is the conviction that all have something to contribute and by contributing they have entered the journey toward wholeness.
SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRIES
The mission of Special Needs Ministries is built around the concept that while all are broken in some way, nevertheless, “All are gifted, needed and treasured.” This clearly suggests that the principle of inclusion includes receiving and sharing the benefits of participating in God’s mission. Through various means, this ministry brings to the forefront the recognition of the value and inherent dignity in every person. This is addressed through three areas of emphasis.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are over one billion (15% of the world’s population) with some form of disability. A disability “is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” WHO defines “disabilities” as, “an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.” (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs352/en/)
“An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.” (http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/)
Special Needs Ministries, while recognizing certain functional limitations, gives greater emphasis to the abilities and possibilities of the individual. Paul’s use of the imagery of the body to describe the fellowship of Christ’s believers is effective for explaining the importance of including all believers in church ministry. He begins by describing individual parts of the body as essential to the body’s ability to function as intended (1 Cor. 12:14–21). Barriers that exclude certain ones from the life and service of the church are dismissed. Paul reminds the reader, “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary” (v. 22). A vital part of Special Needs Ministries is to help bring a sense of awareness to others regarding the needs and involvement of these individuals. In addition, this ministry endeavors to raise awareness and support for the caregivers of these population groups.
It is important to focus on the development of each person’s abilities, talents, and desire to be part of God’s work. Special Needs Ministries blends the services of those with a disability with those without an observable disability into a bond of ministry—each returning to God the talents and gifts He has bestowed. These individuals will be involved in both receiving and sharing spiritual nurture and community outreach endeavors. The objective of this ministry is to actively involve all special needs members by discovering and using their talents and spiritual gifts in God’s mission of bringing hope and a life of discipleship to others.
Special Needs Ministries does not stand alone; rather, it supports and works with every ministry of the church and, where possible, with various community agencies. The church should view Special Needs Ministries as an artery that carries life to the entire church body. It is imperative for the church to build awareness and acceptance of the gifts and talents of these individuals and to accommodate this ministry by removing any hindrance for people with special needs. Then they, too, may receive and share the everlasting gospel and create a more vibrant and effective church community.
Specific steps are being taken by the Special Needs Ministries initiative. These include, in part, the following:
- The promotion, encouragement and development of Special Needs Ministries by denominational leadership at every level of the church organization - from the local church to the General Conference.
- The creation of task force groups that address the ministry and involvement of the Deaf, blind, those with physical, mental health and emotional wellness challenges, orphans/vulnerable children, and caregivers.
- The encouragement to make the necessary physical accommodations in physical structures and to provide for specialized training for local church members to enter into a compassionate ministry for those with special needs.
- The continued support of existing Deaf ministries and development of additional resources such as Hope Channel Deaf www.HopeChannelDeaf.org with captioning and signing, and AdventistDeaf.org www.AdventistDeaf.org.
- The launching of a resource website for all six special needs ministries: www.SpecialNeeds.Adventist.org
The above three areas of emphasis find an inclusive impetus in the Great Commission of Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (NLT). The whole ministry of Jesus teaches that the need is not only to minister to, but to also provide a ministry for those with special needs. There is an urgency to both care for, and to provide a ministry for these individuals. Jesus taught not only with words, but also with deeds of compassion. He commissioned His disciples to do the same. Disciples of truth – certainly – but a truth wrapped up in seeing in others the possibility that God sees. It is no wonder the greatest description of God is found in three words: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8). As His disciples, our mission is to reflect the same kind of inclusive love as Jesus did, including those with special needs. Jesus expects all to reach out to every segment of society and develop lasting relationships with all His children.