Simple Forum 10.1 - Supporting A Pastor with a Disability
How would your congregation receive news that your next appointed pastor was an individual with a disability or who had a family member with a disability? Would some disabilities be more easily accepted than others? Blind? Deaf? A pastor who uses a wheelchair for mobility? A pastor with a mental health condition, but one that is being treated and still allows him or her to serve fully? What obstacles would that minister face to fully serving in your church? What benefits do you think your congregation would receive from the ministry of such a pastoral leader?Share your thoughts in this simple forum, replying to this original post. You will receive 5 points for adding your input.
Unfortunately our church and our parsonage are unprepared for this. I can remember when we assigned our first female minister unfortunately we actually had members leave our church due to this assignment. I personally feel we still have difficulty accepting our own members with disabilities. I can imagine the difficulties a leader with a disability would have with our congregation. Unfortunately I feel they would look at the negatives instead of the positives. For some reason we have difficulties and want our minister to be "perfect". I wonder how they would feel if John Wesley was assigned as our pastor. Here we have a man barely over five feet tall with long hair. What would our congregation think? Our attitude should be to embrace and be supportive of any minister appointed to us. Think of the many ways that we all could serve God in following and helping a minister with a disability.
My husband is 6'4" with long (mid-back) salt and pepper hair, ZZ-top type beard (Not quite as long), and I thought the church would not like it a bit when we went for his first meeting with them. During the meeting, the ladies got to know him and have been very accepting. He is starting his 7th year. While they were very accepting of Bob as pastor, there are other "types" that would not be tolerated for very long.
I feel the same way! We are not ready, however, I think my congregation could get ready with enough preparation.
One of the biggest obstacles would be the parsonage! And I feel like it is my responsibility to address accessibility with them even though we (the current parsonage family) do not need any accommodations at this time. It may be a HUGE issue as most housing I have been in in this area are not accessible - very old houses with narrow hallways and the tiniest bathrooms I have ever experienced!
I think the biggest hurdle is for the congregation, the pastor or family member already has some techniques which are tried and true for them so the newness is mostly living and working in a new location. The congregation has to adjust to something brand new. But they could gain so much by offering integration! It would be a blessing to see and experience life together in new ways and open conversation.
I would like to add an additional thought as we wrap up
Lisa Bachman let me borrow 2 additional resource book and a cd of stories for this class. Are there any resources you have come across that I could add to the media center at the UMB?
If you know of anything that has been particularly helpful, please send me an e-mail message (firstname.lastname@example.org) . I will see if we have it in the center, and if not, try to acquire it with some of our resources, the books she gave me are all from the UMW study.
Also know that she can teach the class and is willing to go through the information with local churches. I'm not sure what it takes for any of us to be "qualified to teach," but if you are interested in doing so. let me know that as well!
We already have a pastor who has a family member with a disability, so I would like to think we would be also be accepting of a pastor with a known disability, though I suspect it might depend on the disability. I think the biggest question a congregation would have is, "How? How will this person be able to serve and do all of the things necessary for the church?" I would hope that the congregation would be willing to find out that answer rather than just assuming it would be impossible or undesirable. I do think a lot of people might be wary about it though, at least at first, until it was "proven" to work.
Concerning benefits, the congregation would learn by experience that it is not only possible for a pastor with disabilities to function in the pastoral role, but someone who can also excel in the role. Also, this pastor would come into the congregation having more awareness of disabilities others in the congregation might have, and be able to better help the congregation help others in the community who have these disabilities. Everyone as a whole would be better informed and better prepared.
Well said. You mentioned several ideas that I couldn't think of how to put into words. (A weekend with the grand-daughters and my mind isn't 100%) Thank you for saying it so well.!
A bit off-topic, but while I was looking for some information concerning giraffes and broken legs, I came across this article about a Masai giraffe who has been happily and healthily living in the wild for 5 years with a broken neck. It seems he broke it while "necking" with another a male over a female, and while the deformity is still there and so he's not "cured", he was able to heal, without having undue trouble with food or natural predators.
No shame, exclusion, or stigma from the other giraffes, so perhaps there is something we humans could learn here!
That was very interesting to see! Thanks!
How would your congregation receive news that your next appointed pastor
was an individual with a disability or who had a family member with a
I think the majority of this congregation would try very hard to welcome anyone appointed to serve. As with every transition into new leadership, there would be a period of learning different styles and building acceptance. I think a pastor presenting with a disability might cause more anxiety than usual; but based on the support and full congregational acceptance I have observed, I would be surprised if a disability were, alone, deemed disqualifying. But I lack a crystal ball; nor am I saying that this congregation would uncritically receive anyone appointed. I have benefited from their feedback, and at other times I've had, gently, to assert my perspective and myself.
Would some disabilities be more easily accepted than others? Blind? Deaf? A pastor who uses a wheelchair for mobility? A pastor with a mental health condition, but one that is being treated and still allows him or her to serve fully?
I think the pastor's work ethic, dedication, good will, social skill and ability to preach and live gospel would be most important. The disability would probably be an object of focus, especially at first. But I don't think there is a particular disability that would create more worry than others.
What obstacles would that minister face to fully serving in your church?
Especially for a person in a wheelchair, the parsonage may need to be re-outfitted. The bathrooms are almost inaccessible. The counters would be too high. The altar is on a low platform and would need ramping. I think, to the extent the budget allowed, the church would be ready to customize an accessible and usable setting.
What benefits do you think your congregation would receive from the ministry of such a pastoral leader?
It is always helpful to live with a new person, especially one who has overcome challenges. This narrative is already part of the congregation's theology, and I often hear about people who are living testimonies of faith against limitations and challenges. There is an inverse to this perspective which also teaches. People who have a different approach to life, and who require different adaptations, may be gifted in ways that others are not. Recognizing these gifts allows personal and group development, especially by exposing one's own approach, limitations and adaptations, which formerly were taken for granted.