We all long to be included. We all want to be invited.
Inclusive is a word we often think about when we think about the church. It’s our goal as Christians to create welcoming environments and become inviting people. Even with hospitality as our goal, a group of people often get left out—our friends with disabilities. Even with our church’s heart for special needs ministry, it is sadly scarce the number of people within the church who have real friendships with people with a disability.
There are many reasons for this, most of which are based on fear. As the church, we must constantly step outside our comfort zones and aim to live a life that captures the whole picture of who God is. Without people who think, walk and talk differently than us, we are missing part of the picture.
You may already have people who are part of your community with special needs, but this may be something your community lacks. While I understand that this is new for a lot of people, it is actually much simpler than we think. There are some quick ways to implement friendship with the disability community.
All friendships start with a hello. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone at your you know who has a disability. They have just as much amazing friendship potential. Knowing their name shows them that you see their value.
You don’t have to understand their diagnosis. It doesn’t take research or history to be a friend. We don’t research the deepest parts of other people we are becoming friends with. Your new friend already understands how life works best for them, take their lead and get to know them as you would with any friend.
Find common interests. We have one thing in common with everyone, we were all created in God’s image. Start thinking this way and finding common interests will be easier. Someone’s chromosome count or sensory needs doesn’t change the fact that they have favorite movies, music or sports. Finding commonalities are much easier when you are looking.
Invite them. I have never met someone who didn’t love to be invited. An invitation is actually a simple task when we really think about it. You have space to invite them into your community, and you have a church who can’t wait to welcome them with you.
Inclusion is a lifestyle and it’s contagious. Look at your dining room table, is that a place where all kinds of people join to eat and share life? When you start living inclusively your kids and/or friend group can’t help but live that way too.