The Catalyst and the Champion

The Future of Ministry within the Mentally Challenged Sub-culture

I Corinthians 1:17

When I was a teenager in the late 1950, my mother was the lead person with the youth.  She was director of the Youth department in our Sunday school and she was in charge of the Tuesday “play night” for the teen.  Later, a music director was hired and the youth choir became the center of all youth activities and ministry.  This was typical.  However, within a decade a revolution came within the church. 

By the 1970’s churches were forced to hire youth directors/pastor to minister to the young people in the church.  This was a direct result of the formation of the national organizations, Youth for Christ and later Young Life.  Youth ministry is now an establishment of the church. 

Currently, there are about 20 to 25 organizations that are within the mentally challenged sub-culture in the US.  To become more effective, is it necessary for a national, unifying organization and what will it look like?   Read I Corinthians 1:17.

Paul, as the architect of the church, was the catalyst the Holy Spirit used to form new congregations. Paul’s travels are well chronicled by history.  We love to look at the maps of his missionary journeys.   Paul did not see himself as the head of the church but a catalyst who formed small groups, trained leadership and then left. 

 He was an unimpressive man who had a passion for the message of Christ.  The message was his passion.  His persona wasn’t what made people passionate.  Other men, Apollo and Timothy, were the men who came in behind Paul and continued to ignite the people.  They were men with great personalities and drawing power.  They were the champions of the early church.

 In reading The Starfish and the Spider, there is an emphasis on people who are a catalyst and a champion.  Catalysts are connectors.  They bring people together and make connections.  They come into an area, form circles and then leave.   I’ve watched with chagrin as Richard Stimson has given away everything at Special Gathering.  Everything we have is now online.  All you need to do is go and get it.  While our information is copyrighted, it is free to anyone.

In addition, I’ve seen him try repeatedly to connect with other founders of specialized ministries.  Most of them are his friends.  However, almost every founder of a ministry wants everyone to come under his/her ministry.  This is a good thing.  Yet, ministry heads seem to believe in a national ministry, as long as they are the head of this ministry.

Stimson has helped many people, including some ministry heads, to learn about effective ministry and he has been willing to learn from each one of them.  Stimson and our staff have traveled all over the US and Canada to learn from.   He has paid for other ministry heads to come to Special Gathering to see what we do and how we do it. 

Champions are people who will keep the small groups together.  They are men and women who will spend their lives ministering to a city group.  Champions must be raised up and trained.  Special Gathering is beginning an internship program in which we will bring in men and women who will learn what we are doing.  After a year of training, they will go some place else to begin a program within the mentally challenged program.

Is the formation of a national organization an important addition to effective ministry?  Will this be the key to bringing attention to specialized ministries to the church at large?

More than 25 years ago, two young people, Richard and Nancy Stimson, founded a fledgling ministry within the mentally challenged community.  The ministry they started,  The Special Gathering, Inc., has become the mother and umbrella organization for all  four chapel program corporations which house the eight geographically based programs.   

Over the years, the passion for Rev. Stimson and others who head ministries within the mentally challenged community has been how will we duplicate ourselves?  How will the ministries continue after the founders have died?  Who will replace us in championing this important population, introducing them to the life-giving Gospel of Christ, and discipling them in the ways of God?

Last night, The Special Gathering, Inc.  Board of Directors met to form a field education program beginning May 2011.  This will allow one man or woman to come to serve and learn under the direction of Special Gathering Board of Directors for one year.  The excitement of some of the women and men sitting around the table was almost electric.  Within a few months, a letter will go out to colleges and seminaries around the US asking them to help us find the right person to serve with us.

One wise leader of a special needs ministry said to Stimson,  “Determine if you want a person you can train and disciple or if you are looking for cheap labor.”  This set a fire in the spirit of Stimson.  Our field education initiative will be a discipleship program.  It is not quality labor for which we are not willing to pay.   

We are not and cannot currently take applications.  However, if you or someone you know is interested in this opportunity, you may want to contact us through this blog.  To find out more about us, visit our website.