Many of you probably do not know this, but in my spare time, one of my greatest hobbies and passions has become the sport of weightlifting. Not to be confused with powerlifting, which is the deadlift, bench press, and back squat, weightlifting, or Olympic weightlifting, is the snatch and the clean & jerk.
I have been competing in weightlifting going on four years now. As my passion and interest grew, so did my desire to help others and grow our local weightlifting club. For the past year, I have been working at our gym as a certified coach.
Whenever I am coaching and see potential in an athlete, I love to approach them and ask them if they have considering competing at a weightlifting meet. More times than not, the eyes glaze over and their words come stumbling out of their mouth, typically with a variety of reasons as to why they cannot compete. Keep in mind, I have heard all of the “reasons” before and the fears that usually hold athletes back from stepping onto the platform are not unique. In fact, they are pretty universal and common.
The most common reasons include not wanting to wear a singlet (This one is tough to debate because I really don’t like doing this either.), the fear of having to lift weight in front of a room of people solely focused on you, a feeling of inadequacy in their lifts not being perfect, and finally, just the general apprehension around competing in something still very new to them.
And you know what? They aren’t wrong for feeling this way. It is natural. Going from not lifting weights regularly to stepping onto a competition platform wearing what amounts to as an adult onesie while everyone stares at you is a gigantic step. Yet, stepping onto the platform to compete is not something you necessarily want or need to rush into. There is a lot that has to take place before that happens to make sure you are prepared.
Ever talk to a church leader and ask them to start a disability outreach ministry? The reaction is not all that dissimilar. All the fears, doubts, and worries come rushing to the surface. The feeling of “I have to step onto the platform next week” takes over and the idea becomes so overwhelming so quickly that they lose sight of one simple fact.
All you must do is start.
In our weightlifting classes, we take the time to work with each athlete, because everyone is so different. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Each athlete needs different queues, different drills, and reminders.
But one of the greatest aspects about working with an athlete and having them sign up for their first competition is that they make that leap from “just exercising” to “training”. It is a marked difference in what their routine looks like. Rather than going from day to day, they have a goal to work toward.
Is our faith and outreach any different when it becomes focused and intentional?
I can’t help but see the parallels between weightlifting and disability outreach when it comes to these concepts.
Starting a disability ministry can seem like such a giant mountain to climb that it is easier to focus resources elsewhere. It isn’t that you don’t want to get started, but like weightlifting, you might feel lost in just where to plant your feet first and what the right path to walk down is.
If you do not have any disability outreach at your church, you are not alone. Did you know that over 90% of churches in the United States have zero outreach to those affected by disability? That is a staggering number, however, it might also be a reflection of some of the fears of what it takes to actually start such a ministry.
Where do we get curriculum? Who is qualified to teach it? Where in our building should have our class? What happens if someone shows up that I have no idea how to talk to? What if I say something by mistake? What if I don’t have all the answers? What if I mess this up? What if I make a parent mad?
It isn’t easy to get started. And it can become even more frustrating when you hear the statistics like the one mentioned earlier. That is why we would never just tell you to start something and leave you to fend for yourself, wandering around in the dark. Our goal is to partner with you to get you moving in the right direction. Maybe this is kicking things off with a full blown ministry. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is a small team of volunteers meeting to read through our book, praying for each other, praying for those affected by disabilities, and working toward starting the ministry. It is going to look different for each church, and we can be there each step of the way, offering a vast level of expertise to make the process easier on everyone.
This past weekend at Southeast Christian Church, Kyle Idleman delivered a wonderful message entitled “Take Heart” and he focused on courage and confidence. He posed a question I had never considered: Where does courage come from?
“Real courage requires real confidence. Confidence in the competence of Jesus is where we will find the courage not to give up.”
As the Church, we should have all the courage and confidence we need, which includes the courage and confidence needed to reach out to those affected by disability. All of the fears and hesitations will be taken care of.
All you must do is start.
Watching our athletes compete and perform on the platform is so rewarding as a coach. You get to see the hard work pay off. You get to see the confidence come through. You get to see them shine and achieve something that they might not have felt was even possible. They overcome fears, excuses, bad training days and everything else that told them to just stay at home and don’t worry about it. Watching this transformation is amazing.
It is also incredibly inspiring to others. As I quickly found out, people are watching. They are paying more attention than you realize. Seeing someone take the plunge and competing can give others more resolve and courage than they initially thought they might have. It is almost like that feeling becomes viral and spreads through the gym. The next thing you know, the next meet has twice as many people competing.
Going back to Kyle’s sermon, he wrapped up with Hebrews 10:35: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
Look, we get it. Starting a disability ministry is not something you can just wave your wand and make it so. There are many factors that come into play when considering this. But it is a group of people that Paul says are “indispensable”; we can’t do without, (1 Corinthians 12:22). We are called to reach people, ALL people. Seeing your new friends affected by disability serve Jesus is so rewarding. It is so inspiring. And it will spread.
All you must do is start.