Cynthia had no car. The elders did not want that to be a barrier to attending church, so they recruited members to bring her on Sundays. Imagine their surprise when the recruits discovered that Cynthia was not available on Sundays. She was willing and interested in attending the Monday evening service! No one had asked her about the plan to provide her with a ride to Sunday morning worship.
WELS Special Ministries offers many solutions to help congregations serve people who have obstacles to gospel ministry. For the right solution, you start with this: just ask what a person needs. Finding solutions doesn’t start with Special Ministries. It starts by asking the person.
When a WELS church wanted to reach out to the Hmong community, their pastor contacted a few reputed cross-cultural ministry experts about the best way to connect. The experts responded, “Just ask them!” It sounds obvious, “Just ask!” We complicate the process when we don’t start by asking.
When you encounter someone with a disability, struggle, or other barrier to worship, just ask them, “What can your church do to help you spiritually?” At first you might not get an answer, because so few people ask. When you earnestly pursue an answer, however, you’ll learn the difference between helping someone who was born deaf and someone who lost their hearing in old age. You’ll discover that one young person with autism loves to participate by lighting the candles in worship and another needs a seat at church shielded from loud music.
When it comes to volunteers, just ask. Provide clear expectations and look for someone qualified to help, but no one volunteers without being asked. Often helping a member at church is a task that suits people who don’t get asked to be a church leader, choir member, or Sunday School teacher. You don’t know until you ask!
Sometimes the congregation needs to provide a solution and the cost is not in the budget. Just ask the members about the solution. You may find that an anonymous donor or a memorial will provide funds for an electronic solution, a ramp, or other accommodation.
Some solutions are complicated. You don’t know where to start. Just ask Special Ministries. We have teams of experienced and knowledgeable volunteers and resources that you may not realize exists. We are committed to helping churches serve everyone. Just ask!
Some challenges seem to have no solution. Sometimes we know what the solution should be, but it seems impossible. Jesus invites us to just ask him! Pray for volunteers. Ask the Lord for help. Pray with the person you want to serve. Be persistent in asking. You know that the Lord of the church will not allow a barrier to gospel ministry to stand.
While you are trying to find help for someone, you may not realize you have an opportunity for asking that person to help, too. Special Ministries has found that some of the most active volunteers are people with special needs and challenges. The passion of a senior who is a recovered alcoholic, the talent of a woman who is blind, the mission zeal of a young adult with autism – you never know where the Lord might provide the gifts your church needs – so just ask them, “How would you like to serve?”
I once asked a man, “How can I help you?” He responded, “Don’t ask if you don’t mean it.” If you want to help someone hear the gospel and be part of your church family despite the obstacles, just ask!
By Rev. Jim Behringer, director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries
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