Faces of the Movement: Mike Beates (Part Two)

Congratulations to Mike Beates for his nomination by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as Best New Author of 2013 for Disability and the Gospel! Here’s the conclusion of a two-part interview with us last fall in which he discusses the book.

Yesterday, we introduced you to Mike Beates-father of an adult daughter with a chromosomal abnormality, theology professor, teacher, Joni and Friends Board member and author of the new book Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace

Today, we’ll complete our interview with Mike. He’ll discuss ideas for churches on reaching out to families touched by disabilities and serving families without a formal disability ministry “program.”

C4EC: In the book, you state “The church needs to reach out more effectively to those who live with disabilities.” What are some strategies you’d recommend to congregations who want to pursue kids and adults living with disabilities with no connection to a church? Since you’ve provided a “plausible apologetic,” can you suggest a plausible methodology?

MB: THIS is a tough question. I have told people that my book, Disability and the Gospel, is a book that seeks to address “Why” a church should embrace those who live with disability. Many others have addressed pragmatic issues in helpful “how to” books – and they are better than I could write. But a simple answer may be this: Every family with disability is unique in their needs and in the gifts they bring. If a church seeks to enter this vital area of ministry, they should start with those whom God brings to them. Learn ways to help. Never say, “Call us if we can help.” Rather, suggest ways to help – in fact, better yet, tell a family “We will come over on such-and-such a day. Then we can learn how we might be able to serve you and walk with you.” Show up! Learn as you walk together. Then God will expand your reach. As soon as families learn they are welcome and your church will take a risk, learn and grow, more and more families will come. And your church will be blessed!

C4EC: I liked your statement that “A successful measure of disability effectiveness in a local church would be that it would not need to have a disability ministry.” How might that be accomplished?

MB: A sub-text of my thesis in the book is that we are all broken people. As we embrace that idea, as we see ourselves as “disabled” (whether spiritually, emotionally, or more outwardly physically), we can better walk with those who live more openly with disability. When this happens, brokenness becomes the norm, not the exception.

Now, I also recognize that some situations require special accommodation. I was speaking with someone recently who said a family in their church was struggling with how to enfold a family whose autistic child was so disruptive that the entire worshipping body was distracted. I remember times when my Jessica would become upset, cry, even scream, at times when it was necessary to find another setting for her (at least for a while). We knew we were in the right church when brothers and sisters in Christ would follow us out of the sanctuary and offer to stroll with her so we could return to and benefit from worship.

Such situations will always require special accommodation – we treat some weaker members with special modesty and care (see Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 12). But as much as possible, we seek to bring all people into worship, under the means of grace of preaching and sacrament – God will speak to all in ways only the Holy Spirit will know.

Mike’s book, Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace is available for the Kindle at Amazon.com, and is also available in paperback through many fine retailers.

Updated March 13, 2013

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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