God used the 2×2 strategy over ten years ago to kick start the disability ministry at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio.
I will never forget the phone call I received from my friend, Tom, all these years ago. At the time I was the Family Pastor at First Christian a megachurch. In addition to that, I had two very young children at home. If there was one word that best described me at the time it was the word busy.
Tom and I had a long history together through the sports ministry at First Christian. Tom worked professionally in the disability community. He was made aware of a need for coaches in our local Challenger Baseball League. Challenger Baseball is an official division of Little League Baseball specifically for children affected by disability.
Tom also knew that I had a passion for children and families affected by disability, so he called me. Our conversation went something like this.
Tom: “Hey Ryan, how are you?”
Me: “Great! What’s up?”
Tom: “I heard about an opportunity and I thought of you.”
Tom: “Yes. The Canton Challenger Baseball league is in need of coaches. I thought maybe you can I could coach a team together. I thought of you because of how much you love baseball and because you are always looking for ways to help special needs families.”
Me: “Yeah. That sounds amazing.” Me (Of course in the back of my mind I’m thinking… Dang it Tom! Don’t you know that I am a professional Christian and I’ve got two young kids at home? I don’t have time for this! Gulp… How can I get out this?)
Tom: “So, should I let them know we are interested?”
Me: “It does sound amazing, but I’m not sure I have the time right now. I’m super busy.”
Tom: “Okay. Well think about it and let me know.”
Me: “Cool. Will do.”
I thought I had dodged a bullet. I thought I had gotten out of it. I was hoping that maybe Tom would forget. Fortunately, however, Tom followed up with me a few days later. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit was working on my heart.
This time when Tom called back, I was able to see beyond myself and that God was at work here. God was preparing to send us out 2×2 to be a blessing to our disability community no strings attached. We were going out with no agenda other than to be a blessing.
Tom and I ended up being the only coaches in the league that were not the parents of children on their respective teams. (I later recruited my wife and kids to help coach as well) We stuck out like a sore thumb. There was rarely practice or game that we didn’t have parents approaching us asking us who we were and why we were there. It became a perfect open door for us to have conversations as to why we’re there… to be a blessing no strings attached. We wanted to give the parents on our team the opportunity to just be fans and to enjoy the Little League experience.
Over the course of the season, we had multiple conversations with families and with the leadership of the Canton Challenger Baseball league. One the consistent question that we asked was, “How can we (or the church) be a blessing, no strings attached?”
Some of the responses we got were:
- Nothing. Just you being here to coach is a blessing.
- We need a place to hold a banquet for the league. Can we do that at the church?
- We need a place to hold a social event for the league. Can we do that at the church?
- We need a place to hold a fundraiser. Can we do that at the church?
- We need a place to hold a meeting. Can we do that at the church?
Those were all easy requests to respond to. There things that we could easily accommodate at little to no cost to the church. The return on investment was well worth our effort.
What we were not necessarily ready for was the following request:
We really need additional fields to practice and play games on. Do you think the church could build us a field?
Gulp. Be careful what you ask for right? It is one thing to go out 2×2 to seek to be a blessing and see what God will do with it. Offering up free space in your church for a meeting is one thing. Designating physical space on your property and raising $50,000 to build a field is a whole different ball of wax.
Strangely however when I was asked that question, I had a sense of confidence that this was something that God, in fact, wanted us to do. Obviously, it was the Holy Spirit working inside us. So, without meeting with anyone from the church or the leadership I responded at the moment and said, “Absolutely! We can do that.” I think I realized before I got those words of my mouth, I was offering something that I was not otherized to do.
Because we felt the confidence in being sent by God, we knew that He would not let us down. I received all the clearance that I needed to tackle this project from leadership. Their only request from me was that I raise 100% of the needed funds on my own since it was a non-budgeted item.
Remember God equips those that He sends. Not only does He equip those that He sends He promises to go with them and before them.
In less than one calendar year I was able to not only raise $50,000 from the community but I was able to build a baseball field on our church campus. We dedicated it to Canton Challenger Baseball and Special Olympics teams. We made the commitment to give the field away free of charge for the life of the field on our campus.
Naturally, this was BIG news. It made it in the newspaper and the radio across the country.
We didn’t set out to make a name for ourselves. We set out to be a blessing no strings attached as God sent us 2×2 into our community. It was God that sought a way to use us to bring Him glory. This strategy of going out was used by God to help kick start our disability ministry at First Christian Church.
A quote that I will never forget came from a parent after our field dedication. He told me, “I’m not the type of guy that goes to church. But any church that is willing to do this for my son is a church that I want to check out.” He and his entire family not only checked out our church but ended up becoming baptized believers. His family and many others joined our church and became believers.
So, if you are wondering how can I get a Disability Ministry started at my church? Consider for a moment the power that lies in the 2×2 strategy that Jesus implemented over 2,000 years ago. Consider going into your disability community to be a blessing no strings attached. You may be surprised what God has in store for you. You may be surprised where God is already actively at work amongst you preparing the way for you.
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.