February 2009

This an e-mail I received from Jim Hukill and LIFT ministries.  I’m never put a solitictation letter on our weblog before.  However, I believe in Jim and his ministry.  Even if we don’t give financially, we can pray.

In today’s environment everyone is feeling desperation, financial stresses and a restrictive attitude toward many things. At Lift Disability Network we understand the pressure everyone is facing. That is why we don’t take for granted an opportunity to share with you a very important need. Before you continue, thank you for allowing me to share my heart.


Inspiring Our Family

LDN - Web Logo 2008

This year we are going to launch a new vision initiative.  Over the next two months our Board of Directors will be working to strategically designed our goals and objectives that will carry us in our mission through the next couple of years.  At this time it looks like our direction will be under the theme of “Inspiration”.  It would be appreciated if you would be in prayer for us during this time of development.
As a part of our year of Inspiration, we have a real need to assist an individual that has been very important to our ministry over the last 18 months.
Since 1998 Lift Disability Network has been an organization which consisted primarily of my wife, Rhonette, and me.  While there have been certain individuals who have helped us in varying capacities over the years, this individual has truly stood with us and carried the vision of Lift forward.  That is why I strongly believe that it is time to Inspire our family member, and we need your help to do it.
Brad Staton has been serving at Lift since the Fall of 2007 on a full time basis with no demands or exceptions.  I cannot over emphasize Brad’s importance in the future of Lift, specifically how he enables me to do the things that I excel at while minimizing my weaknesses with his strengths; we make a great team!  Here is an overview of his ongoing contribution to Lift:
Brad Staton’s influence on LDN
  • Provides a means for me to be mobile and effective.  Without this I have a limited physical presence in the community, i.e. going to meetings, meeting with potential donors, leading the Lift Network meeting, overseeing Operation Giveback, etc.
  • Provides oversight for the operational aspects of the ministry
  • Is the primary contact person in the ministry; sets and organizes all meetings and facilitates follow up plan and implementation
  • Provides set-up and take down for all meetings
  • Brings a 10 year background in ordained ministry and 1 year in the financial industry to the job.
  • Enhances the public perception of professionalism within the organization. 
While bringing Brad on is only a part of the vision that Lift hopes to see come to fruition over the next year I wanted to highlight him so that you can share in a sense of urgency with me. Specifically, to help our ministry help Brad, and therein help advance our vision. We need to raise immediately $5,000 to cover some expenses for this family member. During this time Brad will be helping me and our board shape our future, of which he is an essential part.
As I stated, this is a short term goal to make steps toward a longer term objective. You will receive a more defined vision from us soon, but I know in order for our success to be realized we must strengthen our ministry family.  By Inspiring Our Family, Lift will have the opportunity to continue in its mission of Elevating Life in the Disability Family.


There are two easy ways to you can help. First, pray for Lift and pray for Brad. Pray for his family, strength and provision. Secondly, give. This moment is a time when every gift, no matter what size, makes a difference. We just need your help.
Thank you again for letting me share my heart with you.


Jim Hukill
Lift Disability Network



There are two ways to help:
Pray for Lift & Pray for Brad Staton. Drop an encouraging e-mail to Brad Staton.
Give! To donote through our website go to Lift Disability Network and click on Donate. Or drop a check in the mail to:
Lift Disability Network
4700 Millenia Blvd Suite 175
Orlando, FL 32839


Once again, I’m reading the first five books of the Bible.  Again, I’m struck by God’s continual attention to detail in regard to how to live our lives.  God doesn’t mind if we endeavor to uncover the secret to success in his kingdom.  In fact, Proverbs tells us that it is God glory to have secrets; it is man’s glory to uncover the answer to those secrets. 

At The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, we have taken years to develop a financial base for our programs.  Most of this support comes from local congregations.  Developing trust from the pastor of a church is vital.  However, once you have an audience with the congregation or the missions committee, you will need to understand the rules that govern this interplay.

If you are meeting with a missions committee, they will give you a five to fifteen minute time slot.  DO NOT–under any circumstances–overreach that time period.  Speak in less time than you are given.  Then stop talking but do not move.  There will be questions.  Wait patiently for them. 

During the question and answer session, watch the clock.  As soon as your time runs over, apologize.  You can say, “I’m sorry.  I know my time is up.  I’d be thrilled to stay here all night answering questions and I’d love every minute of it.  But you have families at home.  You’ve worked all day.  I want to answer all your questions but please let me know when I’ve talked enough.”  Again, don’t leave your seat but wait for other cues.  If there are no more questions, get up immediate.  Thank the committee for their time and for considering your ministry.

Understand some things.  Begin and end your presentation by thanking them for allowing you to speak to them.  These people have worked all day.  They aren’t being paid for their time.  They do have families waiting for them.  Some of them didn’t have time for supper because they had to get a meal for their husbands and children.  They are volunteers. 

In addition, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that there are thousands of ministries who would beg for the opportunity you have to speak to this committee.  They have a limited amount of money and that money needs to go to places that are sound doctrinally and fiscally.  They are cheering for you.  They want to support you but you must prove that you are worthy of their attention and their committee’s financial support.

Remind them that you need their prayers.  Whether you get financial support from them or not, someone will remember to pray for you and that is much more vital than a few coins.  The finances will come, if you have prayer support. 

What have been some of your good experiences with mission committees?  What are some of your bad experiences with missions committees?

More than two years ago, I began trying to work the Sudoku puzzles.  You know, they are the puzzles where you must fill in the blanks with numbers from one to nine.  There are three requirements.  You cannot repeat any numbers in the nine number square, horizontally or vertically.  Sounds easy enough, I thought.  I bought an Easy-to-Do Sudoku book and began.  The only problem was that I couldn’t do them–not the easy ones–not the hard ones.

I knew there had to be a trick to doing them but I couldn’t seem to find anyone who could tell me what their trick was.  Finally, in reading the introduction of still another easy-to-do book, one phrase hit me, “You need never guess.  Let the numbers tell you how to fill in the other blanks.”  Okay, sounds simple enough but somehow that clicked with me.  It meant to me that my frustration was misplaced because somewhere within the puzzle the answer was always hidden.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been speaking about how to obtain financial support for your ministry.  Because The Special Gathering, a parachurch ministry within the mentally challenged community, expressly works through church budgets, I tried to share with you the things which we believe the Holy Spirit has taught us that have worked for us.  However, the basic thought of this entire series is that you must develop trust from local pastors and congregations for you and for your ministry. 

In working with pastors, I find that you need to

  1. become a part of a local pastors’ group.
  2. if possible, become a part of a local prayer and share pastors’ group.
  3. learn the rules of the group and abide by them.
  4. be careful about the amount of time you speak and what you share.
  5. in these meetings continually expressing your ardent passion for your ministry may be misplaced.  Every pastor in that meeting has an equal passion for their ministry and they could speak as eloquently as you, if they chose.   
  6. relax.  Let them see your heart by the getting to know YOU. 

Okay, this is another list and it’s a repeat of some of what I said previously.  However, you will want to ignore or break these rules in the beginning.  Resist that temptation. 

God wants to bless your ministry.  His heart is for the downtrodden and misunderstood.  People who are mentally challenged fit that into his heart as a unique population of individuals. 

Have you found other things which speak to pastors in developing a secure financial base?

Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We have more than 60 supporting churches from one county.  Church budgets are our support base.  We aren’t social workers or do social work.  We are ministers of the gospel.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.

Over the years, we’ve learned a few things.  These aren’t all my ideas but things which have been passed on to me by my mentors in the ministry.  Others would–I’m sure–put these guidelines more diplomatically.  Understand, your ministry needs financial support to survive.

As a pastor or director of a parachurch ministry, you will find that you are often neither fish nor fowl.  You are somewhere in the netherlands where people don’t usually want to be.  However, you find yourself there and you need to live.  Therefore, you need to support your ministry and yourself.  Please, understand that in supporting yourself, you are also supporting your ministry.  Because without finances, you cannot pay yourself a salary and you will need to get another job.  In the process, your ministry will be lacking.

Within the mentally challenged community, there are a growing number of  paid-pastoral positions–full-time and part-time.  This is a good trend because it shows that the Church is beginning to value the worth of people with disabilities enough to pay someone to do the necessary work. 

Several years ago, I was loosely associated with a person who refused to ask for support from anyone for her ministry.  Mary headed a small parachurch ministry that was similar to Special Gathering of Indian River.  She had been hired as full-time staff and several grants were paying her salary.  These grants would last for about four to five years.  In this way, she would have the time to raise her own support. 

However, she was stuck in the paradigm of George Mueller, who ran a successful orphanage and didn’t ask anyone for support because he believed that God would provide for all his needs.  (Of course, my question is, how did people know that Mueller didn’t ask for support if he didn’t write and speak about his belief.  And in writing and speaking about this belief, isn’t this a form of asking for money?  Oops, that is a different subject.)  She felt that if God were really in her ministry, He would supernaturally supply support for her.  No amount of conversation or discussion was able to dissuade her from her belief.  Her belief even extended to the point that her tithes went to other ministries, not her own.  My associate was lived on the grants and when they were gone, she had to leave the ministry because she had not been able to raise support.

While I applaude her faith efforts, she didn’t seem to understand that if she weren’t willing to give to her own ministry, why should others give.  Was she stopping the flow of God’s blessings and not allowing God to use her to provide for the ministry needs.  “God is my source,” she would tell me.  “If He doesn’t provide, I won’t have a ministry.” 

And she was correct. 

Her steadfast beliefs made me reexamine my own faith.  Here are a couple of things I gleaned from her:

  1. If you don’t believe in the ministry in which you serve enough to support it, no one else will either.  As a staff person, Mary was doing the work of the ministry.  In supporting another ministry, she was supporting other aspects of the overall church.  However, her traget population were people eager to hear the gospel from her. They were eventually deprived of that honor because she had to leave the ministry. 
  2. It is selfish to think only of yourself in these complicated ministry issues.  Our focus must be the people who need to be evangelized and discipled.
  3. Asking for financial support may be more humbling than waiting for God to supernaturally provide. 
  4. While the scripture does teach, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.”  It also teaches, “You have not because you ask not.” 
  5. The principle of sowing and reaping is pretty specific.  If I sow corn seed, then corn will grow.  Beans and tomatoes don’t come from corn seed.  They come from bean or tomato seed.   In the same way, if I sow into the ministry of SpG, SpG will reap the harvest.
  6. Contributing to your own ministry does not diminish the work of Christ within your ministry but demonstrates that you are fully invested in this ministry.
  7. Asking for financial support doesn’t diminish God’s provision but allows the Faith Community to understand what your needs are.

I know that each of us must find our own faith paths.  However, don’t cut off one avenue of blessing because you are stuck in a paradigm that may not be where God wants to lead you.

What are some things you have learned about this faith walk?  Do you think the Mueller paradiam of support will work for you?  Do you think this is a more holy way of obtaining finances than asking for help?

Here is a wonderful story that Tracy Taylor, one of our Volusia teachers and elders, wrote on her Facebook page about how she began in Special Gathering.  Thanks, Tracy for your story.

Well, I would like to tell how I have been called to such a ministry as The Special Gathering.  One day in June of 1997 while I was in the Sunday morning service at the local church, our pastor had announced beforehand that there would be special guest speaker to tell about a special outreach ministry. On that day, Linda G. Howard was the featured guest speaker sent to talk about the ministry. She brought The Special Gatheringchoir to sing at our church. They sang several songs praising the Name of Jesus. They sang beautifully despite the fact that they are mentally challenged.

Then Linda G. Howard preached on the “God Makes Things Holy” It was beautifully done… She uses the New Century Version Bible which is the easiest Bible for most of the mentally challenged folks to read and understand. While she was preaching on the “God Makes Things Holy,” I heard a quiet voice speaking to me.  So I listened, “Daughter,  this is it.” And sure enough, I knew that it was God who was speaking to me through the Holy Spirit.

So I prayed about it and decided to obey God by calling Linda.  I asked her if I could volunteer to help. Sure enough, she gladly accepted.

The Special Gathering is now incorporated as an outreach ministry for the mentally challenged folks of all faiths and walks of life.  The ministry began many years ago in Lakeland, Florida  by Richard Stimson. Many of these folks were unchurched.  This ministry is designed to make disciples of folks who are developmentally disabled.

I am now an Elder and a teacher of the Volusia County’s Special Gathering. I teach a Sunday school style class to those who cannot speak and have low functioning capacities. I mainly use the object and/or pictorial lessons to convey the messages from the Bible so that they can understand.  I really do enjoy teaching these folks; and they love Jesus with all their hearts.

The Special Gathering meets as if we’re in the church, even though we are using the ARC workshop in DeLand. We fellowship before we start the worship service with the Praise and Worship music. Then, we continue in worship as the deacons pray for the various prayer needs and someone passes the offering plates for the offerings. Then, Linda preaches from the Bible after a few quick announcements. 

After the worship service, we pray before we fellowship with snacks and before breaking into the various classes. We have some members who can read, others who can understand the Bible without being able to read.. and, of course, the non-verbal, lower mental functioning class which I’m teaching now.  They can understand clearly, though they may not be able to verbalize their thoughts as plainly as others.  And at last, we take them home.

So now you know of one of my ministries. Yes, there are others. Right now at Special Gathering, we have prayed for a new director and God answered our prayers by sending a young woman who is now in training. We all know that she will be a wonderful director. Praise the Lord!

May God bless you always.

Again I plan to offend both genders equally in this post.  However, after the second paragraph no men will read it.  Therefore, I am sorrowful that I will probably only end up offending women.

Within the mentally challenged community, there is a need for evangelism and discipleship.  The Special Gathering has been formed with this primary mission.  For the past 20 years, I’ve served within the developmentally disabled community as a minister of the gospel.  I presently serve as Area Director for Special Gathering of Indian River.  Part of my job discription is fund raising.  We seek to raise most of our funding from churches.  We believe that Christ has commissioned the church.  We want to be a part of local congregations.  Becoming a part of ministrial groups is part of this process.  I want to discuss becoming a part of a ministrial group made up of women.

If you become a part of group of pastors that is made up of women, there will not be men in the group.  The reason is not that men are not invited and welcomed as part of the group; but because men won’t come.  Therefore, I’ll speak specifically to women in this entry.

If you are part of a women’s ministrial meeting, there are still rules that need to be followed.  However, they aren’t unspoken rules and they are simplier rules.  They have probably been hashed out clearly.  Yet, when you first come into the group, you will still need to know the rules.

  1. Unlike a group where men are included, you can talk as much as you wish.
  2. What you hear must be kept within the group.
  3. It is hoped that you will speak openly and honestly about your needs.
  4. Outside the group, you will be expected to never speak about what you hear about other people’s needs.
  5. You should come prepared to share.
  6. You should come prepared to not share outside the group what is talked about in the meeting.
  7. Usually no subject is off-limits. 
  8. You will be expected to keep confidences forever.
  9. Trust will be given among the group but you will be expected to return that trust by not speaking about the things which are talked about when the meeting is over.
  10. Do not discuss with other members what one member has shared when the meeting is over.
  11. If a group of women have learned to trust each other, they will almost always become a closed group.  Don’t be offended.  Along the way, someone has spilled the confidences of one of more members.  They have learned from experience whom they can trust.

In case you haven’t figured it out–the most important rule within the group is that these people have shared openly and honestly and you must never share what has been discussed.  Outside of the meeting, you should assume that you cannot discuss anything that is mentioned in the meeting.

Women are pretty special folks and they aren’t fragile.  However, they take seriously the need to be able to trust a friend.  Trust can only be gained by being trustworthy.

We Should Serve Each Other in Love

Galatians 5:13

Central Theme:   We should serve each other with God‘s love.


Introduction–The first time I was employed by a church, I was in high school.  And during that time there was a big church fight.  Somehow I got into the middle of it.  

                1.    I was young and I did not know what was happening.

                2.    But it was good for me because I realized at a young age that there are people in the church and people do bad things

                3.    I also learned that we must continue to serve each other, even if we are not happy with the way they act

                5.      Have a member read Galatians 5:13.


       I.     Tell the story of Paul and the church in Corinth.

              1.  They were fighting

              2.  Paul wrote two letters to help them act more like Christians.

              3.  The letters that Paul wrote are I and II Corinthians.

      II.     God wants us to live in peace with each other but bad things happen because we are people.


              A. The worst things happen in the church because of gossip.

              B. Gossip may be true things that should not be told.

              C. Gossip is also telling a lie.

              D. We do not have to tell everything that we know about someone.

              E.  I have a very good friend who told some bad things about me that were not true.

                   1.  I knew some really bad things about her; they were true.

                   2.  Many, many times I have had the opportunity to tell those bad things about her. 

                   3.  God has given me the grace to not tell them.               

                   4.  I am happy that I have not told them; even though they are true, it would be gossip.

Conclusion–We have a gossip problem in Special Gathering.  We need to love each other and decide not to talk about each other, even if it is true.

Here is an e-mail I received that was a copy of an e-mail sent to advocates, supporters and citizens.

From: “Charlie Crist” <NFTC@eog.myflorida.com>
To: Betty5901@comcast.net
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 3:31:09 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: A Special Message from Governor Charlie Crist, February 20, 2009

February 20, 2009
Dear Friends,
Today, I unveiled my budget and policy recommendations for the 2009-10 fiscal year. My 2009 legislative priorities are aimed at investing wisely so that we can move Florida’s economy forward. These budget and policy proposals will make our classrooms world-class so that we train the best workforce possible. They will keep our air clean and diversify our energy. They will lower property taxes and ensure fiscal responsibility in local government. And they will help businesses thrive so they can create and retain the jobs that we need, now more than ever, to fuel our economy.
There is no doubt; these are historic times of economic challenge for our nation and for our state. But I believe that there are better days in store for Florida. Times like these provide a unique opportunity for elected officials to make government better, more efficient, and more accountable.
In developing my recommendations, my highest priority is to avoid further deficits – yet continue to move Florida’s economy forward. Now more than ever, we must create jobs for the hard-working people of Florida. Second, we must continue critical services to Florida’s most vulnerable – our children, elders, and persons with disabilities. And we must continue our investment in Florida’s classrooms and hard-working teachers, in public safety and in health care. The taxpayers of Florida deserve nothing less.
The $66.5-billion budget I propose includes $4.7 billion in federal stimulus dollars for 2009-10 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Without these funds, we would have had to tighten our belts another $3.4 billion. My budget proposal reflects Florida’s greatest needs – allocating $25.2 billion to Health and Human Services, $21.5 billion to education, and $10.3 billion to transportation and Economic Development. I also maintain my commitment to public safety, with $4.9 billion that will help keep criminals off the streets and our neighborhoods safe.
My recommendations include a significant increase in per-student funding: $183 more per student, for an average of $7,044 per student. That is increase of 2.67 percent over the current fiscal year.  The money we set aside for schools must be spent wisely. I want to thank Representative Robert Schenck and Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla for supporting legislation requiring our school districts to spend a minimum of 70 percent of operating funds on direct classroom expenditures benefiting students.
Strong universities are vital to creating the competitive workforce that will keep Florida’s economy vibrant for generations to come. I thank Senator Ken Pruitt and Representative Will Weatherford for supporting legislation that will clarify university governance and provide more teaching resources for Florida’s 11 universities — while maintaining access and affordability for students and families. Under the proposal, each board of trustees may adopt a tuition differential beginning in fall 2009, with Board of Governors approval. Overall tuition cannot rise by more than 15 percent a year, and 30 percent of the revenues must go to need-based student financial aid.
Despite the economic challenges facing Florida, the Sunshine State has been recognized as a national leader in terms of our greatest resource – our workforce. To continue supporting Florida’s workforce, I recommend $2 billion in workforce initiatives, including over $800 million for career education and employment services that will create or retain 3,000 jobs. I also recommend $621.2 million for school readiness. This investment is expected to create or retain more than 12,800 jobs for child-care providers.
Continuing my commitment to public safety, I recommend $4.9 billion to maintain support for Florida’s increasing prison population and continue programs that reduce recidivism, prevent juvenile crime and keep violent criminals off the streets. My proposed budget also maintains funding to support local law enforcement agencies.
We must make every effort to preserve direct health care services to our children, our elderly, and our disabled populations. I am recommending an increase of $45 million for cash assistance and food stamps for families and their children, and $52 million to support an additional 46,000 children in the KidCare program.
We must continue our efforts, started in August with Accelerate Florida, to maintain Florida as a friendly place to do business. I am urging the passage of legislation sponsored by Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Trudi Williams that streamlines and reduces burdensome licensing requirements for contractors and other professionals.
Now more than ever, as families are faced with economic challenges, we must reduce the tax burden on Florida homeowners and business property owners. I propose a set of reforms that build upon previous legislation resulting in the largest property tax cut in state history.
I support the proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Evelyn Lynn and Representative Carl Domino that encourages homeownership and enhances the tax savings provided by Amendment One. It further reduces the growth cap on non-homestead residential and commercial properties from 10 percent to 5 percent. The amendment also grants a 50 percent exemption, up to $250,000, to homeowners who previously have not owned a home in Florida.
Legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Fasano and supported in the House by Representative Marcelo Llorente protects Florida homeowners from having to pay more in taxes when market values are declining. The proposal repeals the automatic three percent increase on the assessed value of homesteads when their market values decrease. In addition, legislation sponsored by Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera provides fairness for property owners who challenge the property appraiser’s assessment of their property value.
Local governments, like state government, must be accountable in how they spend taxpayer dollars. Legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Haridopolos and Representatives Dean Cannon and Anitere Flores keeps our local governments accountable by limiting increases in local revenues to inflation and growth, based on the value of new construction. Only through super-majority votes by governing bodies can revenues increase by more than the cap.
I again call on the Florida Legislature to quickly approve the 25-year compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Over time it can provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools – with $150 million guaranteed in 2009-10 alone. The tribe also reports the compact can create 45,000 new jobs. I am also encouraging the Legislature to support SunRail, the proposed 61-mile commuter rail system that would serve Orlando and Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties.  A recently released economic impact study found construction and operation of the commuter rail project will infuse more than $1 billion over the next 30 years into Florida’s economy and create more than 13,000 construction and operations jobs.
I look forward to working with the Legislature on these proposals. Together, we can put in place new laws that strengthen our economy and make life better for Floridians. May God continue to bless the great state of Florida for now and into the future.

Disclaimer:  I hope in this entry to offend both genders equally.

Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We have more than 60 supporting churches from one county.  Church budgets are our support base.  We aren’t social workers or do social work.  We are ministers of the gospel.  Our purpose is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.

Over the years, we’ve learned a few things.  These aren’t all my ideas but things which have been passed on to me by my mentors in the ministry.  They would-I’m sure–put these guidelines more diplomatically.  Understand, your ministry needs financial support to survive.  Hope this helps.

Rules of the road

If you come into a group of pastors who are mostly men, there are some strict rules of the road.  All the pastors who are truly accepted adhere to these rules.  Male and female parachurch ministry heads are equal offenders of these unwritten laws. 

  1. Give your information regarding your ministry in sound bites of  information.  Men love sound bites.  The reason that our 24-hour-a-day cable news programs are filled with short snippets of information is because men want the bottom line.  News stories are written with a short summary of the information in the first sentence.  The first paragraph contains all you need to know about the article.  Then the information gets less and less important as you read through the article.  As a whole, we all process information in this matter.  Be sure that people know what you do but keep it pithy.
  2. If there are questions, keep the answers short and simple.  There will be one person who is interested in what you do.  S/hewill want to know more.  Don’t bore the rest of the group explaining things.  Ask if you can make an appointment to answer his/her questions.
  3. Silently, remain engaged in the flow of the conversation.  People want to feel valued and one way to make everyone feel valued is to look him/her in the eye, smile when they are talking.  Lean forward when people are speaking.  Listen and learn. 
  4. Don’t fake concern.  People can smell fakery a mile off.  Be truly engaged.
  5. Turn off your cell phone.  If it does ring, do not answer it under any circumstances.  While everyone in the room may answer his/her phone.  Don’t do it.  Answering your phone tells everyone that other things are more important to you than a pastors’ meeting.
  6. Greet new people.  Introduce yourself, sit with them, if possible, and engage them in conversation.  Men will especially appreciate these connections, while women may resent them.  Several women that I’ve endeavored to befriend have told me, “If you continue to monopolize my time in these meetings, I’ll never get to know any of the male pastors.”  On the other hand, male pastor ALWAYS come up to me months later and say, “Thank you for being my friend when I first came to the group.  Those first meetings your were the first–and sometimes the only–person to speak to me.”
  7. If you are asked to be the speaker for the group, leave them wanting more.  Keep it short. Sprinkle your vital information with short human interest examples. 
  8. If you are asked to speak, have notes that you can distribute and a pamphlet, if possible.  No information isn’t good but too much will be thrown in the trash.
  9. Pick out one thing that is vital to your ministry that you push one time a year.  I begin asking for prayer for camp in February or March.  Giving snippets, I try to arouse the pastors curiosity without boring them.  “Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how amazing it is to have 250 people with disabilities praising and worshiping God.”  Or “we understand that one day someone may have a serious health issue at camp.  God has had mercy for 2 decades, pray for his mercy to continue.”
  10. Let the pastors know that you appreciate their graciousness to you.  Pick out one pastor who spoke to you and write him/her a note or drop by her/his office and leave a message.  Say, “Thanks for being my friend.  You can’t imagine how much I appreciate that.”
  11. Remember the thing which draws these men and women together is a common bond in ministry and their love for the Lord.  Each one has taken time from his or her day to embrace each other and to gather strength and wisdom from each other.  They are basically battle-weary men and women who huddle together to draw energy and to be reassured that they aren’t alone in their struggles.  Let them nurture you.  Let them love you.  As they come to love you, they will come to trust you and your ministry.

Of course, there are more rules but this is a tiny bit of information that I hope will help.  Perhaps you won’t make the mistakes I made and I’ve seen so many other people make over the years.  Your ministry is important to the Lord.  You want to be sure that you present it with in the most positive way to the faith community.

What would you add to this list?

In discussing building a funding source, it is vital to obtain the trust of people who may eventually become sponsors of your ministry.  At Special Gathering, we understand that trust is not something that can be assumed.  Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our goal is to evanglize and disciple people who are part of our population.  To be able to accomplish our goal, we believe that a specialized ministry that is community-based is the most effective tool.  This means that we must have support from local churches.

Perhaps the first rule of thumb in gaining the trust of pastors and their congregations is to be patient.  Trust must be earned and that takes time.  Most people will have a small base from which they can spring.  There will probably be at least one pastor or congregation that knows and trusts you from day one.  These men or women may be willing to invest in your ministry.  If the Lord gives you special favor, they will be willing to spend their political capital on you. 

In building trust, most of your work will be done in networking situations–pastoral meetings or community prayer meetings.  Understand you must first promote yourself.  Then you can promote your ministry.  (Please don’t offended by my use of the word promote.  If you can think of a better word, let me know.  I’ll be happy to substitute it.)  There are some people who are fundamentally opposed to promoting their ministry.  I understand that.  However, your ministry isn’t YOU.  It is the people who need to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.   It is the mentally challenged people in your county who don’t have the slightest notion about how to be come a Christian or how to live a Christ-like life. 

Proverbs tells us that even a fool will be thought wise, if he keeps his mouth shut.  My advice in gaining trust at meetings where pastors meet is to be quiet for a long time.  Introduce yourself, tell the name of your ministry and a short tag line.  “I am Linda Howard, with Special Gathering.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.”  Then sit down and be quiet for the rest of the meeting.  Smile and show from the expression on your face and your body language that you are engaged in the meeting but don’t talk. 

Having been a part of ministerial meetings for more than 20 years, I’ve seen ministry after ministry come in and try to take over the meeting.  They talk too long and they try to say everything all at once.  Often, heads of parachurch ministries will become preachy and try to convict the pastors into supporting their cause.  That almost never works.  Keep quiet, smile, laugh and leave.

Be humble.  These men have heard everything.  Your ministry isn’t a surprise to them.  They will ask your questions, if they want to hear about what you do.  Otherwise, they will not be impressed with your orations about the great need or how much God moves in your meetings.  Even when you are asked questions, keep your answers short and acknowledge that you could talk all day but you don’t want to bore them so you will shut up. 

Remember every pastor or ministry head there shares a passion for their ministry.  They could go on and on about what they do with equal passion but they don’t.  Therefore, be humble.  Humility, patience and trust are godly virtue that the Holy Spirit will use to touch the hearts of pastor.

When you become a part of the group–“one of the guys”–then you can meet privately with pastors and ask for support and you will probably get it.  However, that may be after several years.  Yes, I said, after several years.

Okay, this isn’t going to be as easy as you thought.  However, God is faithful and he will provide, if you will continue to be faithful and trust him.

In  regard to  building their trust, what are some of things you’ve learned about interacting with pastors?

Part 1–The Importance of Trust 

One of the questions that Special Gathering is now being asked by other ministries is how do you gathering supporting churches for a parachurch ministry, such as Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our members are developmentally disabled.  We have one purpose:  to evangelize and disciple people who are cognitively delayed.  In Brevard County, where three of our programs reside, there are more than 60 supporting churches.

As a rule, specialized ministries are on the bottom of the totum pole in regard to support.  It isn’t that local churches don’t care about our population.  It is almost always that local churches don’t know what to do with our population.

On occasion, their tentative foray into this type of ministry has ended in disappointment or even disaster.  I remember that for years I knew I was called to this population and I attempted to begin a ministry for people who are mentally challenged in my church.  However, I thought that doing this was impossible because of the different functioning levels.  Other local congregations have found the same obstacles and drawbacks. 

There are many things which are involved in garnering supporting churches.  I will touch on only one in this entry and that is developing trust levels.  Without a doubt, the foundation of our support comes from developing trust with local congregations.  We do this in varying ways.  First, we don’t try to usurp the authority or support of local congregations.  We keep our support mailing lists limited to pastors and missions committees in the local congregations.  We explain that we want their support but acknowledge that God has ordained the local church to evangelize and disciple.  We want to be an extension of local congregations.

We ask that local churches put us into their budgets–rather than our raiding their membership for monthly contributions.  In this way, we have a more consistent support level.  In addition, someone in this church has to think about us and will probably pray for us each month.  Each year, they must evaluate us and pray about renewing our support.  Some churches give us an annual lump sum.  Others give on a quarterly basis.  Still others give monthly. 

In addition, we don’t ask for the moon.  The most frequent starting amount given from churches is $50 a month.  However, as their trust of us grows, churches tend to increase the amounts given.   Most of our churches support us at the $100+ level because they understand that they can trust the fruits of Special Gathering ministry.  We celebrate and honor the churches that give a widow’s mite.  There are several churches on our list that give more than sacrificially.  I wonder how they can continue to give the $20 to $30 a month they faithfully contribute each month.

Have your found that trust is an important element in your ministry.  How do you work to develop trust in your community?

I spoke yesterday about going to Boston Market on US1 in Vero Beach with our Special Gathering program on Saturday for a dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  On Sunday, our Melbourne program made our annual trek to another wonderful restaurant, Charlie and Jakes Barbeque at 6300 N Wickham Road in North Melbourne. 

Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our members are developmentally disabled.  Many of our members are also physically involved.  Our mission is to evangelize and disciple our community.  We feel that the church accomplishes this through the instructions found in the Book of Acts.  We are to pray, study the scriptures and doctrine, and fellowship with each other.  As part of our fellowship, I see in the Old and New Testament that sharing a meal is a vital part of getting to know each other.

If you are new to specialized ministry or you’ve never tried to take all your members to a restaurant for a celebration, you may wonder why I would even mention these events.  It is the wonderful hospitality at these restaurants that makes them so special to us.  In years past, we have found it hard to find restaurants that were happy to have us.

I remember one trip our advocacy group took to Tallahassee, Florida.  We sat at a Bennigan’s for more than an hour while party after party was seated and our 17 sat waiting for a table.  Finally when another bus load to normal folks was seated almost immediately, we got the hint.  They didn’t want us there.  We left.  Again and again, we have been told by restaurants that they could not possibly accommodate our party after they find our who we are. 

However, it is extremely different at Charlie and Jakes.  They open their restaurant an hour early for us.  They give us an amazing price for our lunch.  The waiters and waitresses fight over who will be able to serve us on that morning.  In all, it make us feel like honored guests at their restaurant.  On Sunday, the general manager, who is no longer responsible for the event, made a special trip to visit with us, shaking hands and renewing old friendships, forged over the years of serving us. 

The waiters and waitresses sing with us and cry when we leave.  “This is what church should be,”  they have told us again and again.  “Try to come more than once this year,” the Sunday manager said to us as I paid the bill.  “It is such an honor to have you here.”

Do I recommend Charlie and Jakes to everyone.  You can be sure I do.  Do I pray for those young men and women?  Yes, yes, yes. 

Thank you, Charlie and Jakes and all your wonderful staff.

Have your found it hard to have restaurants and other places of business accommodate your members by being kind?  Is there a restaurant in your area that we could recommend that is especially gracious to your ministry?

On Saturday, our Special Gathering program of 40 people gathered at Boston Market in Vero on US1 for a Valentine “God is Love” Party.  It was a wonderful time.  The food was abundant and the staff was extremely helpful and polite.  Each year, in February we go to Boston Market for our annual Banquet

Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.  Part of our discipleship is fellowship.  This usually means  loving each other with fun and food. 

Because The Vero Special Gathering program is from 3:30pm to 5pm on Saturday afternoons, Boston Market welcomes us.  We take over the place and provide a healthy ticket during a normally down time for the restaurant business.  Just as we are leaving at 5pm, the faithful customers begin to gather in the restaurant.  Over the years, the non-disabled clientele have reacted in interesting –almost never impolite–ways to our invasion of their favorite eating spot. 

Saturday was an exception.  One woman in her sixties, showed in her face and reactions her displeasure with our presences.  In short, she was horrified with us.  She muttered and puttered around the restaurant for about 15 minutes gawking and snarling.  Finally, one of our sweetest and most congenial members, Lucy, walked close to her brushing the woman slightly with her arm.  In horror, the woman jerked away.  She took a napkin and wiped her arm as though it had been contaminated by the offending brush. 

Lucy and several of her friends was standing around a table, waiting for their driver to get her keys from her purse.  The woman glared at them.  I reacted.  In truth, I reacted badly.  I said to the lady in a stern, measured tone, “It’s all right.  She won’t hurt you.” 

I suppose the woman became aware of her bad behavior because she said.  “I was only curious and smiling at the girl.”  Without another comment, she moved away from us. 

“I’m sorry,” I said to Lucy, aware of her possible embarrassment.

“Oh, she didn’t mean it” was Lucy’s gracious and kind returning comment.  Then she whispered softy to herself, “I know she didn’t mean it.”

One of our volunteers said quietly to the young women gathered around the table, “But there is no excuse for rudeness.”

Lucy didn’t say, “I didn’t notice anything.”  She acknowledged the insult; but rather than take offense, Lucy chose to give her offender the benefit of love. 

I have never loved what I do more than that moment.  You see, as part of the disability community, I’ve come to know and love gracious people like Lucy.  She isn’t pretty in her face but her heart is incredibly lovely.  Some of her body was deformed by medications her mother was prescribed by her doctor when she carried Lucy.   Yet, inside there is a wholeness and holiness that whispers with love and understanding, “She didn’t mean it.”

 I’m not sure whether that kind of graciousness is a learned trait from years of offense, or if it comes from a heart trained by God’s love.  Perhaps it’s both.

Have you see your members be especially gracious in the middle of offensive behavior?  Have you been able to react with the same kind of graciousness?

We can help in the time of disaster

Philippians 4:13

Central Theme:  God desire us to be helpful in times that others are in a disaster.


Introduction–Our community has gone through some hard times in the past few years.  Hurricanes.  Sickness of our members.  Deaths.  I think God wants us to be people of action during this time.  We shouldn’t let our disabilities keep us from being like Paul.   Paul was a man of action.   

      A.     He seemed to be always getting into trouble.

              1.  God always gave him the ability to handle the trouble.      

              2.  He was shipwrecked and bitten by snakes and beaten up and put in prison.

              3.  Have a member read Philippians 4:13.


       I.     Paul was confident that whatever happened, God would give him the ability to handle it. 

          A. Tell the story of the shipwreck found in Acts 27.

                   1.  Paul was able to help the other people be calm.

                   2.  Paul gave them words of assurance that God would help them all stay alive.

          D. God wants to use us in a time of crisis.


      II.     Most of us faced some crisis times.

              A. There was a van wreck involving people who are mentally challeged about 15 years ago in Brevard County. 

              1.  Everyone was injured and 7 people were killed.

              2.  Everyone in the mentally challenged community came together to share the love and sorrow of that time.

              B. When family crisis hit, we can show love and courage and help our family and friends.

                   1.  Remind everyone about what Paul did in the shipwreck.

                   2.  All of us can do that Paul did.


Conclusion–Paul was able to save everyone‘s lives by helping them to remain calm and giving them instructions.  But the greatest thing was Paul was sure that God would save them.  We need to help others see that God will take care of them not matter what happens.

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