I’m waiting to board a plane to DC. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am. I need this trip more than words can say. Tomorrow is the beginning of the annual Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (or Washington D.C. to those of us who fancy ourselves tourists).
Each April I find my heart thirsts for this place. I believe this is my ninth year attending and I come away deeply encouraged every time I come. It’s not often I find myself in a room full of people whose hearts ache for the exact same things mine does. The Accessibility Summit is a gathering of leaders from across the country who want to see a church that reflects the fullness of the Body of Christ. Our hearts beat to see our friends with disabilities included and engaged in something so much bigger than all of us. Our Kingdom isn’t as grand without them. We need their gifts to win this world.
I have the privilege of teaching two workshops this weekend. I am completely humbled every time I get to stand before a group of people and share my heart for inclusion. There are smarter, more eloquent speakers out there, but I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity and pray fervently that “he would be greater, and I would become less”. That he would speak through me.
I’ll be talking about Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, and How to Build an Inclusion Ministry. If you’re coming to the conference I hope you’ll join me. I have spoken on these topics countless times over the years, but this year it’s different.
I have generally spoken from a perspective of “I’ve been there”, but this year, not only have I been there…I find myself there again. Back at the beginning. Building a new ministry in a new place, and finding new friends to charge the gates with me. I’m at the bottom of the mountain staring at the summit; mustering the strength and courage to begin the climb.
My Husband and I have been on an interesting journey the last two years. My husband was invited to serve at a new church in a new part of town, moving us to a completely new area. While Skyler’s ministry world was changing, I was called out of my Pastor role at Vineyard Cincinnati to take my work with Key Ministry to a new level. An opportunity that I continue to relish, but with it comes a unique challenge of sometimes feeling disconnected.
I have struggled much of my life with clinical depression and anxiety. This season of change has left me in one of the deepest depressions yet. The enemy knows my “community” is not as tight, and I’m left vulnerable. I’m a leader with no one to lead. It’s a loneliness that leaves me awake at night, wondering if I can do it all again. Will God still want to use me in this new place? Some days the wave of depression is crushing, but I remind myself that I’ve fought this battle before, and it’s one worth fighting again. I have hope in the nameless faces I know we can reach in our community if we just step toward inclusion.
To be clear – I LOVE MY ROLE AT KEY MINISTRY. In fact “love” may not even be strong enough a word. I am doing what I was created to do, but there is a piece that is missing. I miss my tribe. The people you roll up your sleeves and sweat with as you tackle ministry that seems impossible. The people you break bread with when you’re celebrating another soul won for Christ. The people you laugh and cry and pray with through life’s peaks and valleys.
That being said, I believe I’ve left a piece of myself with each team I’ve ever built. Though I know it’s a part of life, and ministry, to “make new friends and keep the old”, some days it all seems like too much.
But then I get to the Summit and I’m surrounded with people like me. They too have seen highs and lows. They know the mountain I climb. They know the terrain, the joys, and the challenges. There’s an ebb and flow to what we do, and here, at the Summit we share triumphs and tribulations. We guard each other from the rocky edges of despair, and cheer each other on as we take the Kingdom to those who feel forgotten. Leadership can be lonely. That’s why the Summit is such an important place. No one is alone there. No one.
I am so thankful that for the next two glorious days I get to sit at the Summit, under the comfort, fellowship, and leadership of my friends who travel this journey with me, albeit from a distance.
As I teach my workshops I too will be learning and leaning into what God has for me this time around. Though there are many unknowns in how God will choose to grow disability ministry in this new place, the one thing I know for certain is that he is fully in this with me. He has a plan for my new church to reach families affected by disability, and as we faithfully climb this mountain He will guide our every step, correct our every shortfall, and bring us to a summit far greater than we could ever ask or imagine.
See you at the top.