The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
From September 1, 2017, to August 31, 2018, Ability Ministry has focused all its energy on building an exciting new future. With a rich history of over 30 years of meeting residential needs in the disability community, the easy decision would’ve been to just keep on doing the same thing we have always done.
God placed a vision in the heart of Ability Ministry’s Executive Director Gary Spangler. A vision of the future where Ability Ministry would become an organization that equipped and empowered churches to do Disability Ministry and to reach the lost for Jesus Christ.
After hearing that less than ten percent of churches did anything to reach out to their disability community, Gary became burdened to do more for the one billion plus people affected by disability worldwide. He knew he could not simply continue doing what had always been done. It was at this crossroads Gary took a step of faith and hired Jason Morrison, Director of Marketing & Technology, and Ryan Wolfe, President.
A New Focus
Over the past twelve months, the Ability Ministry team has dug in their heels and worked tirelessly to build for that new and exciting future. Thanks be to God who has already blessed Ability Ministry for its obedience and faithfulness. Ability Ministry has already seen a return on their investment.
In this time of intentional refocusing, the Ability Ministry team realized that the organization needed a total rebrand including its name. The Christian Churches Disability Ministry (CCDM) would change its name to Ability Ministry.The name change was necessary because of the word disability. Disability in the eyes of the world is generally viewed as a negative or something to be avoided. The word itself when broken down carries a negative message. The prefix “dis” literally means “to be without.” To be without what? To be without ability. No thanks. The Ability Ministry team wanted to turn the focus to the positive and not to dwell in the negative. Dropping the “dis” from its name was a great way to proclaim that God has created all with “abilities” to build His Kingdom. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:22, God makes it clear that if those affected by disability aren’t present and using their giftedness, the Church is incomplete. Simplifying our name to Ability Ministry was a must.
With a new name and new focus, Ability Ministry turned its attention towards reaching out to a lost world. Evangelism, in general, has been lost to many people, churches, para-church organizations but NOT to Ability Ministry. Jesus gave a direct command to church leadership in Luke Chapter 14. He commanded church leadership to “go out quickly” and to bring in “all who are poor and affected by disability” to be a part of God’s family. Ability Ministry has responded in obedience to the mandate that Jesus gave church leadership with a sense of urgency.
Disability is vitally important to God. Why? First, because God is the author of disability (Exodus 4). Second, because Jesus declares there is a purpose for disability. “This happened so that the power of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9). God created disability on purpose for a purpose. That purpose is to bring glory to God. Ability Ministry strives to bring glory to God by being obedient to His word.
The realization of these revelations from God’s word by the Ability Ministry team was no doubt its greatest accomplishments from the past year. The truth from God’s word fueled all of Ability Ministry’s changes and successes.
To reach out effectively Ability worked towards becoming more relevant. This included the creation of a new logo, a new website, and engagement through social media.
To equip churches to reach out to their disability communities Ability Ministry focused on creating a vast library of resources.
One of the first projects that Ability Ministry undertook was the creation of their “My Friends, My Teachers” book. This book is truly a one of a kind. It is the first and only small group devotional book that was created to help churches start a Disability Ministry from a grassroots level approach. This book takes small groups through a progressive six-week journey of encounters with disability. Encounters that changed people forever.
“My Friends, My Teachers” wasn’t the only book that Ability Ministry published in the last twelve months. Ability Ministry partnered with great people at the Joni and Friends organization to develop the “Helping with Life Transitions” book. This book helps ministry leaders navigate through the many different life transitions that people and families affected by disability experience. This was such a needed and missing resource in the field. A look at Disability Ministry beyond the world of Children’s Ministry because children affected by disability don’t stay children forever.
Through the many consultations that Ability Ministry did over the past year a constant theme that came up was the lack of curriculum options for churches. Ability Ministry decided to meet this need by developing twelve months’ worth of curriculum for churches to use. This curriculum was designed to be used in classes or groups for teens or adults with disabilities.
Ability Ministry’s curriculum is already being used in churches across our country. Because of the great need the curriculum is meeting, it has reached beyond just churches. It has also been customized to be used by the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO).
To continually reach out to churches, organizations, families, and individuals affected by disability Ability Ministry have also been hard at work continually creating blogs. Over the past twelve months, Ability Ministry has posted over 100 blogs on a plethora of topics.
Connecting People to Jesus
Ability Ministry has a desire to connect people and families affected by disability to churches and ultimately to Christ. To accomplish connecting people, Ability Ministry created a Church Locator Tool. This tool highlights churches that have an active Disability Ministry across the United States of America. To date, there are over 200 churches in the Church Locator Tool. Ability Ministry consistently works on identifying and adding churches. We knew that this was a needed tool after receiving a phone call from an adult who identified himself as “autistic and lonely.” He said that he lived in Texas and that he was all alone and didn’t know where to turn.
Training and equipping churches and organizations to do disability ministry is what Ability Ministry is all about. Over the past twelve months Ability Ministry has worked with nearly 100 churches and organizations worldwide (91 to be exact!). Within these 100 was Ability Ministry’s first ever international outreach. Ability Ministry spent a week in Poland training churches and organizations this past summer. Two of the most exciting trainings took place at Southeast Christian Church and Johnson University in Tennessee. Ability Ministry had the opportunity to teach students in three different courses at Johnson University.
Ability Ministry also engaged with churches and leaders at eight different conferences in the past twelve months. We lead workshops at Next Level (Compassion Christian Church), Inclusion Fusion, Missouri Christian Conventions, ICOM, the Summer Institute of Theology and Disability in partnership with the Duke University Divinity School, and the I Belong Conference.
Serving Our Residents
In addition to the new organizational focus, Ability Ministry hasn’t lost sight of its rich history in residential ministry. In fact, Ability Ministry was able to add three new residents to Riverwood and New Hope. Riverwood and New Hope are now at capacity and currently have a waiting list.
The residents of Riverwood and New Hope use their God-given ability to minister to others. One of the best ways we see examples of this is through the many that come to our Riverwood Campus for short-term mission trips. Over the past year, we have hosted 18 short-term mission trips. These trips include over 300 unique volunteers. These volunteers may come as strangers, but they leave family after encountering Christ through our amazing residents.
Probably the thing that Ability Ministry is most proud of is being part of two baptisms. That is why we do what we do. We want to connect people to churches and ultimately to Christ. There are over one billion people in the world that live with a disability. Many of them are not connected to churches. Two may not sound like many, but it is the start of something special. Ability Ministry is hungry for more and won’t stop at anything to reach that one billion plus.
Will you help us? There are many ways to engage with us on this new adventure. Consider any of the following:
- Pray for the Ability Ministry team
- Let us help you start a Disability Ministry at your church
- Sponsor a resident
- Pray for a resident
- Send birthday cards to a resident
- Bring a group on a short-term mission trip to one of our residential facilities
- Financially supporting Ability Ministry with either a one-time gift or a monthly gift
- Help us identify new churches for our Church Locator Tool
- Buy a t-shirt and spread the word about Ability Ministry
- Purchase our small group’s book and use it in your small group
It is Ryan’s passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.