Looking for Volunteers? Check with People with Disabilities
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It’s been in
existence for over 70 years. The observance was established to recognize those
with disabilities who make contributions to their community, even to their
nation. Although many people with disabilities are unemployed, many do work.
Regardless of their employment status,
people in general want to contribute, have a life purpose, and feel like
they’re making a difference. Year around, but especially during this month, churches
are encouraged to do more than be inclusive of people with disabilities (for
example, through accessibility); they are encouraged to empower their church
members with disabilities. Remember, employment is not exclusive to income, but
also includes volunteer employment.
Most persons with a disability will be able
to let you know what he or she cannot do. Certainly, the Holy Spirit bestows
spiritual gifts and talents to everyone (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Along with
this, the Apostle Paul describes how the church needs everyone through his
metaphor of how each body part is essential to the body. “God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts
that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to
make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about
the others” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). The beauty of this is grace is
extended to everyone.
In the spirit of NDEAM, consider recruiting
people with disabilities in the church or ministry setting. Some ideas include
members who are in the hospital or in the nursing home.
email church members who have missed a few Sundays to check on them. He/she can
pass on any pastoral needs to ministry staff.
and facilitate a disability ministry committee (see page 16 of the BWC disability ministries manual).
entry on the computer or database.
email church members to invite them to church-related events (use a service
such as Evite).
Hubspot or your own templates to create or design newsletters or
announcements for the bulletin board or to be emailed.
greeter or usher with these tools from UM
Sunday school teachers (or be the Sunday school teacher) or work one-on-one
with a child needing assistance.
Keep up the
UM tradition of eating together: organize and/or schedule potluck meals.
the preparation of the Lord’s Table (e.g. bringing the bread and setting it
Organize disability awareness events
(Disability Awareness Sunday, monthly topics to post on the website or bulletin
board, searching for articles or videos to post on the church website, and so
of the bulletin and folding it.
The list is endless, and that’s part of the
point. It’s often a matter of finding out what the spiritual gifts and
interests of people with or without disabilities are and connecting them in
ways that helps to lead or serve the faith community. Sometimes, we need to
change our mindset and stop looking at only their disability, but to see the
whole person who has gifts and graces for our church. By focusing only on the
disability and thinking they need to be served, we mistakenly set them apart and/or
possibly oppress them further. All people have a calling to serve the people of
Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. is a provisional deacon
serving as the chairperson of Commission on Disability Concerns in the
Baltimore-Washington Conference. He is also a caregiver for his father who is
Deafblind and his mother who has multiple disabilities.