Looking for Volunteers? Check with People with Disabilities
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
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 having volunteers:
- · Call church members who are in the hospital or in the nursing home.
- · Call or email church members who have missed a few Sundays to check on them. He/she can pass on any pastoral needs to ministry staff.
- · Establish and facilitate a disability ministry committee (see page 16 of the BWC disability ministries manual).
- · Do data entry on the computer or database.
- · Call or email church members to invite them to church-related events (use a service such as Evite.
- · Use Hubspot or your own templates to create or design newsletters or announcements for the bulletin board or to be emailed.
- · Be a greeter or usher with these tools from UM Com.
- · Assist 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.
- · Assist with the preparation of the Lord’s Table (e.g. bringing the bread and setting it up).
- · 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 on).
- · Make copies 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 God.
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.