Andy Stanley serves as the founding pastor of North Point Community Church in suburban Atlanta. North Point has become one of the largest churches in the U.S. Their ministry yields enormous influence through leadership conferences they produce that are attended by tens of thousands of pastors each year. The family ministry strategies developed at North Point have fueled a movement that now includes thousands of churches across North America.
I’m a fan and supporter of their ministry. A friend of mine who connected with NPCC – now a staff member at one of their campuses – is one of the most passionate and authentic Christians I know. Other friends have attended there. Andy and his team do great work.
“When I hear adults say, ‘Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids…anybody else’s kids.’ You’re like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”
Andy was arguing in the moment that their church’s model of doing student ministry. Most people who make the sacrifices involved with serving in ministry are passionate about what they do and their approaches to ministry, especially if they’ve been fruitful. Andy demonstrated much grace while clarifying his comments in an interview with Christianity Today.
Folks in ministry can become VERY sensitive in response to real or perceived criticisms of the size of their churches or their approaches for promoting spiritual growth. Those of us who serve in children’s ministry, student ministry or disability ministry aren’t immune. Do we get too hung up on our own models for doing ministry as the solution for everyone?
Because disability ministry is still in its’ infancy, I’d like to think our movement might be able to create a culture in which all churches are valued for the unique ways in which they might share the love of Christ with persons with disabilities and their families. We’re being very intentional in developing a model for mental health inclusion that churches of all sizes can implement.
Why would God allow for megachurches and large churches and little churches and house churches and online churches if each didn’t fulfill a unique purpose?
Here’s a principle I’d suggest for our peers who are called to disability inclusion…
No church can effectively serve ALL kids and families impacted by disabilities, but every church can effectively serve SOME kids and families with disabilities.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 12:4-8 (ESV)
Churches of every size, worship style and approach to discipleship have gifts and talents to use for disability ministry inclusion.
Big churches have much to offer…
- Big churches often have much experience with assimilating newcomers and designing ministry environments that are engaging and welcoming.
- Big churches may have more resources for doing large events serving the disability community. Several in our home area offered proms last month with the support of grants from Tim Tebow’s foundation.
- Big churches may be better positioned to use technology (online worship, social media) to reach families impacted by disabilities.
- Big churches may have resources to hire professional staff to oversee and direct disability ministry.
- Big churches may be MORE open to change.
Mid-sized churches also have much to offer…
- Mid-sized churches are often capable of offering identified special needs ministries.
- Mid-sized churches typically have enough people to make available small groups and support groups.
- Mid-sized churches typically have less administration to impede disability ministry development.
Small churches also have much to offer…
- Small churches may be advantaged in offering sensory-friendly ministry environments.
- In small churches, the pastor is personally involved in caring for all families, including those impacted by disabilities
- Small churches quickly notice when people are missing.
We’re looking for churches of all sizes to join with us in welcoming families of kids with disabilities who lack an identified church home following the launch later this Spring of our Key for Families website. Click here to provide us the information we need to provide families a connection with someone at your church able to welcome them.
Bottom line…While I’d like to think our crew at Key Ministry has lots of answers, we don’t have ALL the answers to disability inclusion, just as no individual church has a monopoly on the best approach to ministry for ALL kids and families impacted by disability.
Key Ministry depends upon your generous financial contributions so we might continue to offer free training, consultation and support to churches seeking to welcome, serve and include families of kids with disabilities. Please keep our team in your prayers as we prepare to launch our new resources for families of kids with disabilities and consider a generous financial gift in support of the ongoing work of our ministry team.