Shifting From Doing Ministry For to With Others … and Why it Matters

This presentation by Wendy McCaig of Community Way in Richmond, Virginia is an excellent introduction to why and how we need to shift from doing ministry for others in the community to doing ministry with them. This brief video is worth watching even if you are a seasoned practitioner in some form of community ministry.


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What Does Inclusion in the Church Look Like?

The following post was written by David Morstad and originally appeared on his blog/website, Larger Table: Reflections at the Crossroads of Faith and Disability 

Special Worship

When it comes to people with developmental disabilities, integration into typical environments is always the best option.  Or is it?

One look at where people with developmental disabilities have lived over the past few decades demonstrates a decided shift away from institutions and, more recently, even group homes.  A similar move has happened in public school classrooms.  The number of self-contained special education schools and classrooms is a fraction of what it once was.  The future (and the present, for that matter) belongs to more independent and integrated environments.

Still, some specialized and dedicated activities remain and most people would agree that they are, in no way, viewed as problems to be solved.  Special Olympics is wildly popular and continues to offer important experiences that may be unavailable elsewhere.  These programs offer people an opportunity to experience success, camaraderie, joy and interaction.

As people of faith, this issue should grab our attention because the same philosophical discussion is going on in our ministries.

Where is worship for people with developmental disabilities most meaningful and inclusive?  Does it happen best when people participate as an integrated part of a congregation that earnestly announces its welcome and acceptance of all people, regardless of ability?  Or, is it more likely to happen in an environment specifically designed to accommodate different styles of expression or learning? As the reach of both types expands, the question – integrated, congregation-based ministry, or a dedicated, disability-friendly ministry – becomes more and more important to consider.

Understandably, people with disabilities and their families have learned to be wary of programs that seem to separate them from their non-disabled peers.  They may have become equally wary of the “You are welcome!” invitation with the implied understanding, “Please sit quietly in the back.”  Sometimes, worship that appears integrated really isn’t.  The hymnals are opened, but I cannot read.  The congregation is told to rise, but I am able to do so only in spirit. An atmosphere of quiet is expected, but I am unable to control the sounds I make. The sermons invite sustained attention and depth of thought, neither of which is counted among my gifts.  I am present here, but am I truly included?

Then, there are the alternative, specialized or dedicated ministries designed specifically for the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In the Christian tradition, there are several examples of organizations designed for this purpose, and their success is impressive.  The list includes groups such as Friendship MinistriesJesus Cares MinistriesRejoicing Spirits and a host of independent ministries. In every case, soft or loud, active or passive, the word is proclaimed, prayers find voice, and praise is freely expressed.  These are not environments merely of welcome and accommodation.  Differences are celebrated here and participants, the only ones truly qualified to judge, call them what they are: Inclusive.

The paradox, that the most inclusive environment for an individual may be one that happens apart from the congregation, is an important dialogue into which we are all called. And we ought not be satisfied with easy answers.

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My Name is Not “Those People”

Minnesotan Julia Dinsmore has known poverty all of her life and is no stranger to homelessness. Her childhood was marked by frequent moves, chaos and episodes of violence — her mother struggled with mental illness, her father with alcoholism. As an adult, she has struggled to support herself and her three sons through insurmountable medical needs and expenses. “My dream is to earn enough money so I can get myself situated and help my kids and grandkids,” she says.

Julia uses her gifts in creative storytelling, music and poetry to educate others on the effects of poverty. Below is a video presentation of her poem, “My Name is Not ‘Those People’”, which speaks to the importance of remembering the human stories and realities behind issues that are often looked at solely through a policy lens.mynameischildofgod_juliadinsmor_book

She has written and published a book, My Name is Child of God . . . Not “Those People”: A First Person Look at Poverty. “Julia Dinsmore puts a face on poverty and challenges readers to answer God’s call to respond to poverty and its effects.” (Amazon)



As Christians, we must continually ask ourselves what was asked of Christ: “Who is my neighbor?” We must also ask ourselves, do I think of my neighbor as “the other”? Does my voice, and my vote, build a wall between myself and “those people”?

Source: ELCA blog post, “My Name is Not ‘Those People’”

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Healing Peace …

I was reading some recent Advent postings and came upon this one from the blog, In Silence Waits. Reading and reflecting on these words brought me some much needed comfort, peace, and hope. I hope and pray they do the same for others who come upon them.

My Soul In Silence Waits

Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.
— John 14:27

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

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Congregational Resources for Disability Week (Oct 10-16)

Journey Toward Shalom

Disability Week (October 10 – 16) encourages congregations to grow in becoming places of belonging for everyone and places to engage their gifts in ministry—with a particular focus on people with disabilities.

Christian Reformed churches (CRCNA) and ministries are encouraged to celebrate Disability Week October 10 through 16, 2016. These dates correspond with Reformed Church in America (RCA) Disability Awareness Sunday and with various disability organizations in North America. Depending on your church’s calendar, other Sundays would be appropriate as well.

Continue reading @ Resources for Disability Week

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Congregational Resources for Disability Week (Oct 10-16)

Disability Week (October 10 – 16) encourages congregations to grow in becoming places of belonging for everyone and places to engage their gifts in ministry—with a particular focus on people with disabilities.

Christian Reformed churches (CRCNA) and ministries are encouraged to celebrate Disability Week October 10 through 16, 2016. These dates correspond with Reformed Church in America (RCA) Disability Awareness Sunday and with various disability organizations in North America. Depending on your church’s calendar, other Sundays would be appropriate as well.

Continue reading @ Resources for Disability Week

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Why Reformed Christians Hate Being “Reformed”

I greatly appreciated these words and thought they were worth sharing with those who read my blog.


The author of today’s letter is Audrey Edewaard, a 2016 graduate of Western Theological Seminary who was a Corresponding Delegate to this year’s General Synod. Send your #WeAretheRCA letter to, or if you’d like an additional layer of anonymity, drop me a comment and we’ll make other arrangements. 

Dear Reformed Christians and RCA leaders,

My name is Audrey Edewaard, and I unabashedly love the RCA (it’s actually a bit embarrassing). My denominational identity has been nurtured by a lifetime spent in the RCA, thoughtful professors at Western Theological Seminary and Calvin College, my exuberant family, my call to preach and to teach, and ineffable moments of humility. My love for the RCA is largely influenced by a Reformed articulation of Scripture, tradition, and witness.

One of the many fundamental characteristics I love about the RCA is its commitment to be transformed and transforming; reformed and reforming (whichever slogan you…

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Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering—Why You Should Be There

This summer from June 8-10 plan to attend “Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering” hosted by the CRCNA and located on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Read more . . . Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering—Why You Should Be There

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In Praise of Urban Public Schools


This is a reblog from The Twelve written by my daughter-in-law, Kate Kooyman

My oldest son is in kindergarten this year. We send him to our neighborhood school, and we live in an urban neighborhood. But don’t let that impress you.

Granted, I’m one of those annoying urban-public-school evangelists. I believe deeply that every kid has a right to a good education. I am totally convinced that racism shows up most visibly in our community’s educational disparities. I am sold that the solution is integration — I want more white folks to send their kids to city schools.

But here’s the truth: in spite of all those justice commitments, I’m not actually “taking one for the team” when it comes to our neighborhood school. I’m not saving it, or shaping it, or helping it, or fixing it. It doesn’t need me to do any of those things. My kid goes to a great school. My kid’s school has a perception problem, not a performance problem.

Here are ten things that I love about my kid’s urban public school.

1. I love his school uniform. I love that I can say “put on your school clothes” and that means one specific thing. He is more independent, and less stressed in the morning, making his mommy more sane and less mean. Plus he looks so handsome in his collar and khakis. Win, win, win.

2. I love witnessing the art of teaching. His teachers have perfected their craft. They are serious, they are educated, they are experts. When you go into his classroom, you see someone who is differentiating their style and content for such a wide variety of student needs it is astonishing. You see someone who is working fully 400% harder than I’ve worked on anything all week. We need to put an end to the Myth of the Bad Teacher. The teachers I know are the definition of professionals.

3. I love that there’s no culture of over-the-top birthday parties. Somebody wave a $25 Target receipt for a kid you barely know and who your child barely likes and say, “Amen.”

4. I love when my son asks me questions about something he overhears on NPR — “What’s a Muslim?” or “Where do refugees come from?” — and we can think of a classmate to help answer the question. I love that he has a little less to unlearn about an implied “us” and “them” because he belongs to a community that is diverse.

5. I love hot lunch, which is free for every student in our district, and is way more nutritious and creative than my turkey sandwich and baby carrots.

6. I love the local restaurant that raised thousands of dollars to buy tablets for our school. I love that our kids are going to be just as tech-savvy as any other American kid, and they’re going to know that it’s because their community is expecting that they will be opening businesses, running for office, pastoring churches someday soon. And their community invests in them so they can do it well — ‘cause their success is connected to our whole neighborhood’s success.

7. I love that my son is learning that his culture is not “the” culture. I love that he experiences moments of being the majority and moments of being the minority, and is gaining skills in navigating both those worlds. I love that someday he will be a better employee, a better church member, a better voter, a better person because he’s had both those experiences.

8. I love parent-teacher conferences. I get a stack of papers that all show tangible ways that my kid is making academic progress according to his own goals. He’s reading, he’s writing, he’s adding and subtracting at rates that surprise me. His school is a place where he is challenged.

9. I love that we can ride our bikes to school. (We’ve done that once, because I’m constantly late. But it was really charming when we did it.)

10. I love that one of his classes is Strings, so I get to watch him and 29 other 5-year olds try to play the violin together. It’s pure comedy, and totally adorable.

That’s just what I love today — ask me again tomorrow and I could come up with ten more.

I have a lot of prayers for my kid. But I think the one I pray for most often is for belonging. I want him to know that he is a miracle — unique, beloved, important. And I want him to know that he is part of a larger whole — a community of miracles, “woven together in a single garment of destiny.” I want him to know that he is vitally important, and so is every person he interacts with. I want him to see the very image of God in the faces of his neighbors, and treat them with the dignity that such holiness affords them. I want his life to reflect the reality that we belong to each other.

Our humble neighborhood school is showing me little answers to those prayers every day.

Thanks be to God.

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Needed: A Paradigm Shift for CRC Deacons

We need to shift from viewing diaconal ministry primarily as something done “to” or “for” others to more of one which does ministry “with” our neighbors, communities, businesses, and churches.

To read more of my post about and for deacons in the Christian Reformed Church: Needed: A Paradigm Shift for CRC Deacons | The Network

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