On April 29-30, team Jabez and I had the opportunity to attend the Inclusion Fusion Live 2022 conference in Cleveland, Ohio put on by Key Ministry, a disability ministry, and the Tim Tebow foundation.
It brought together leaders and advocates from across the US to what many believe to be a under valued resource for the church.
An important aspect to all of this is that Team Jabez was involved and able to attend with me, thanks to the support of Classis GR South.
For those of you who are not familiar, Team Jabez is a leadership group composed of GRCC alumni, one current GRCC student, and a student from Cornerstone University.
This team are those who benefited from being a part of Jabez Ministries over the years and are volunteering to assist me in leading efforts on the campus of GRCC and to develop their gifts of fellowship and lay ministry.
Two team members have been with the ministry for ten years, the others about five. These are long term advocates for disability and campus ministry work.
Here are some highlights:
The opening plenary was give by Stephanie Hubach, adjunct professor of disabilities in ministries at Covenant Seminary. She has also authored a very good work on disability ministry entitled: Same Lake, Different Boat (P&R Publishing, 2006, revised ed. 2020), a book that I wholeheartedly recommend.
Bert, Julie and I attended a session given by Brandon Gaskin, founder of the “Deaf Millennial Project”, a think tank for disability ministry, who spoke on deafness and church inclusion. It was surprising to learn that, out of all the populations of persons with disabilities, deaf persons are evangelized and discipled the least.
I ended up meeting, talking, and networking with some authors that I’ve read and whose work I’ve admired, like Stephanie Hubach, Lamar Hardwick, Tory White, a new friend, Ron Sanderson, and an old friend, Erik Carter.
We became involved in engaging others and networking.
There was a great deal to take in and process in a day and a half.
We had an opportunity to speak with a young mother who has a son with Aspergers Syndrome who hopes to attend college. She is a bit concerned about what to expect and we were able give her some idea of the challenges and potential successes she and her son might face.
It was a moment of fellowship, sharing and pastoral care.
The most important thing I took away from this conference is the opportunity to discuss disability ministries with like minded people who are active in the field. People who look for the gifts of God in people with disabilities, not just focusing on the broken parts.
What I’ve outlined here not begun to scratch the surface of everything we experienced in Cleveland.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that John is a pastor colleague from Byron Center Baptist Church, and father of two of the members of Team Jabez. His observation, and one that I wholeheartedly concur with, is that we need to encourage pastors and church leaders to attend the next IFL2023 next year. John made the observation that more pastors, all pastors, not just those with disabilities needed to be at this conference.
Disability ministry is more than creating safe spaces and accommodating those with needs. It’s about adding rich components to the Body of Christ. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12: 22-24 is clear on this:
“But by much more the members of the body which are thought to be weaker are necessary, and the parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, these we clothe with more abundant honor, and our unpresentable parts come to have more abundant presentability, but our presentable parts do not have need of this. Yet God composed the body by giving more abundant honor to the part which lacked it.” (LEB)
I invite all who see this, and are pastors and leaders in your churches, to consider attending in 2023. I guarantee a very grace filled experience.
For more about we took away from this conference, please check out this link to the service at Byron Center Baptist Church, from Sunday, May 1. You can fast forward to 24:00 to catch our reflections and take-away from myself, Pastor John, my wife Alberta as well as a somewhat shorter and altered version of my conference presentation:
Here, also, is the link to the Key Ministry Facebook page. This will provide links to info formation on the group and next years conference. My presentation is on there as well on April 29, entitled: “Enlarging Our Borders: The Next Step In Disability Ministry”.
Thank You and Blessings!