“Through the Roof” training program equips churches for disability ministry.

By November 17, 2006

USA (MNN) — One of the largest under-reached groups of people in the United States is the disability community. Many are disconnected and feel hopeless, isolated and forgotten.

James Rene with Joni and Friends says they’re seeking to meet the great needs in this field that’s ripe for harvest. “There’s a significant disability population. There’s 54 million people affected by disability and many of them are unchurched, and over the years our field experience has shown us that 85% of churches do not feel equipped or have any kind of ministry or outreach. So it’s a pretty significant gap.”

But Joni and Friends is helping to fill that gap with their “Through the Roof” training program for churches. Based from the story in the Gospels about the four friends who carried their disabled friend to Jesus, Rene says it’s about connecting. “It’s our specific program to equip and train churches for disability ministry and outreach, and our vision is really to see that story in the Gospels be carried out all across the US, where the church is going out and reaching the disability community and bringing them to Christ and bringing them to His church.”

It’s a significant need, because less than 10-15 percent of churches do have an outreach. Through the Roof’s goal is to share the vision, the mandate (Luke 14:21-23) to reach out to the disability community, to provide awareness, training, equipping churches with resources, and providing leadership and ongoing support.

Those in the disability community want to be connected and want that hope. Joni and Friends is aiming to provide others with the tools to make those connections happen. So they’re training churches on the “how to’s” of outreach, and then, says Rene, “what we like to do is really connect them. Because we don’t want to just give them vision and provide them some training, but we want to provide ongoing support. So what we do is we connect them to a network of fellow leaders and workers and professionals, and connect them to one of our field ministry offices, so that we can provide that ongoing support.”

Rene says their desire is to do as those four friends in the Gospels did, and bring their friends to Christ. The hard work and financial constraints are worth it, says Rene, “It is a costly event, but the fruit is tremendous. You know, the vision of this is that we go into a key region and gather a group of people that are hungry and passionate for disability ministry and equip them and give them the vision, disability ministry is going to spread, like wildfire, and so it’s very worth the small investment, really, in comparison to looking at the big picture.”

Click here if you’d like more information about the Through the Roof training program.

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