When our team sat down in 2010 to engage in the planning process that led to the creation of this blog and all the other resources we make available to churches and families, we had some ideas about the direction disability ministry might take in the 2010s. In retrospect, God was clearly at work laying the foundation of a disability ministry movement with a scope and impact far greater than anything we could have imagined at the time. The last ten years have been characterized by:
- A massive increase in the number of churches actively pursuing some type of intentional disability ministry.
- Many large, influential churches embracing different types of disability ministry.
- Disability ministry training is more available – Live training events are becoming far more numerous and accessible, while we have experienced a proliferation of online resources for pastors and other church leaders seeking to start or grow ministries.
- Ministry leaders have become far more connected to one another and are making use of their connections for idea-sharing and support.
- Widespread recognition of the need for ministry strategies for welcoming and including individuals and families impacted by mental illness and the growth of ministries helping churches provide Christian-based mental health education and support.
- An explosion of Christian parents with books, blogs and social media presence offering encouragement and support while increasing awareness in the church of the needs of families impacted by disability.
- Events such as Night to Shine that have engaged hundreds of churches and drawn attention to the ministry needs of adults with intellectual disabilities.
- Substantial progress in inclusion of kids with intellectual disabilities and their families since the beginning of the decade so that their attendance at worship services is no longer statistically different than the general population.
The beginning of a new decade has provided our team with an impetus to brainstorm what the next ten years of disability ministry might look like as we develop a plan for 2020 and beyond. Today, I’ll share a non-exhaustive list of ten predictions for how the disability ministry field might evolve and grow over the next ten years. This list will serve as an introduction to a series of posts over the next few months in which we’ll do a deeper dive into each trend.
- The church’s care for vulnerable people will grow in importance as a strategy for gospel witness in a culture becoming increasingly hostile and skeptical to traditional Christianity.
- Disability ministry will be less ’siloed” – less of a stand-alone ministry and more of a collaboration with all of the essential ministries within the church.
- Live disability ministry training will become much more available – through seminaries, churches and parachurch organizations.
- Radical expansion of ministry with individuals and families impacted by “hidden disabilities” – this expansion will include mental health ministry and will ultimately encompass senior adults with memory loss and persons of all ages experiencing consequences related to trauma.
- The terms “special needs ministry” and “inclusion ministry” will slowly fall out of use.
- Ministry in the 2020s will be characterized by an expanded focus on care and support of families impacted by disability.
- Euthanasia of the disabled will become the pro-life cause of the mid 21st century.
- Disability inclusion in Christian schools will become much more common.
- The historically African-American church will play an increasingly prominent role in advancing the disability ministry movement.
- More ministry will take place by the end of 2030 with less funding available than exists in 2020.
What trends would you add to this list? Any items on the list that you disagree with? Feel free to engage with us and one another in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter or in the Special Needs and Disability Ministry Leaders group that we moderate on Facebook.
Consider joining us in Cleveland on April 24th and 25th for Inclusion Fusion Live, Key Ministry’s national disability ministry conference. Pastors, ministry leaders and families from around the country are coming together to be encouraged and equipped to better serve families affected by disability who attend their churches. Ministry intensives are offered on starting a special needs ministry, developing a mental health inclusion ministry and ministering with persons with a history of trauma. Choose a MINISTRY TRACK or a FAMILY TRACK to select from over 50 workshops representing ministry-focused and family-focused topics. Either ticket will give you access to all main stage presentations including our featured speakers, numerous quick takes (TED Talk-style presentations), and worship. Early bird pricing is available. To learn more or to register, click here.