For the first time ever, the catch phrase for the Olympics and the Paralympics is the same: “Inspire a Generation”. It’s a good phrase!
All over the world, the younger generation are being inspired by positive role models who are competing in the Olympics, and the same will happen when it comes to the Paralympics. The torch is being passed on to the next generation. (I loved that bit of the opening ceremony!)
I hope that all of this rising generation will be inspired by both events. That not just disabled youngsters but also able bodied youngsters will be inspired by the Paralympics.
But what about us as a ‘Church’?
Are we inspiring a generation? Any generation?
For all the children and young people in our churches, disabled or not, additional need or not, are we inspiring them to go forward in their faith? Are we giving good role models for them? Are we inspiring an older generation of people who have disabilities to go forward with God? Do we even have a vision for this?
How do we see those with disabilities and additional needs and are they even on the Church’s radar? Sadly, for most churches they are not. When you look at the figures of how many people there are with disabilities in our communities, it is easy to see that our churches do not reflect those figures….. And it’s not because they all get healed!
When the world is watching the abilities of the Paralympians rather than their disabilities and applauding their achievements, how is ‘the Church’ viewing those with disabilities in their communities? Are they seen as people who can be giants of faith, able to serve as well as receive? Or is it a case of a perplexed “what disabled people….?”
I’ve been speaking out for children who have disabilities and additional needs for over 20 years, and in the area of children - inspired by a generation of children’s workers, things are happening. More and more churches are trying to include youngsters with disabilities and additional needs. For these people I am extremely grateful - they truly are inspiring a generation of children with disabilities and additional needs and building them up in their faith. But what happens as our children grow up? Do we have the same heart and vision in our youth and adult programmes?
Maybe as these children grow, the Church will sit up and realise that something needs to be done, to see that working with these young people and adults is a valid ministry. I believe that our churches need to be ready to welcome those with disabilities rather than being surprised when they come. I want those with leadership responsibilities to look at this issue properly rather than skip over info and posts about disability.... as seems to be the norm! (Apologies for my outspoken moment there - but that is how it feels to many people who have disabilities and try to access our churches)
Why not raise awareness about this in our churches now? With the Paralympics, the idea of disability will be high in people’s minds. And this is the thinking behind moving “Disability Sunday” to just after the event.
Have a look here for a ‘Disability Sunday’ pack, and look at inspiring your church to be a Gold medal holder for accessibility.... on all levels.... in all generations.