In public special education, there is a growing trend of full inclusion classrooms across the nation. This allows students with disabilities to be included in a general education class for the entire day they are at school with just some added assistance where there is needed. This movement is seeking to promote more equality and friendships among children touched by special needs and their peers. Research has proven that social interactions with peers and same-age relationships can help the development of a child.
With a similar mindset, disability ministries in churches are often led by something called a “Buddy System.” This strategy provides every individual touched by disability with a friend to assist them wherever they need help or just make them feel most comfortable. My church has always been a strong advocate for this buddy system and so many of youth have strongly benefited from being a “buddy.” I have seen some incredible relationships formed from this system between an individual with a disability and a peer.
Both of these ideas present a common trend… working with someone who has a disability must be relational! I know one of the biggest reasons why I am drawn to this type of ministry and work is because I love getting to know a variety of people with so many different backgrounds. Disability ministry will always give you this opportunity to form the most fruitful relationships through the infinite grace and love of our Father. In contrast to a public school environment, disability ministry gives us a phenomenal experience to truly form a relationship with someone and be an example of godly friendship.
With this in mind, we must remember that being a buddy is so much more than just assisting; it is being a genuine friend and loving an individual just as Christ loves us. This care and love can be very sacrificial, yet is often unbelievably rewarding. While being a buddy, we must constantly be in prayer that we would love others in the most appropriate way by giving an individual complete respect and supporting their God-given uniqueness. Sometimes, we can have the tendency to rub off on people and try to persuade them to do things the way that we think is right. I am often so guilty of this. Yet, we must remember that God created everyone just as He has beautifully designed and our role to care for all people without trying to change them. As churches come more and more on board with disability ministry, we must be mindful of these things and promote the Buddy System in the most gracious and loving way possible. I am confident that Christ will pave the rest of the way in forming these long-lasting relationships.
“Our treatment of others must never depend upon what they are, or upon what they do to us.” Martin Loyd Jones