As churches across America focus on outreach, it’s an unfortunate reality that often the special needs community is overlooked. There are often unique needs, resources, and efforts that are required, and it’s the churches job to see those needs and meet them. One of the ways this can be done is by creating a church special needs ministry, and specifically, a church blind ministry. This ministry focuses specifically on reaching, equipping, and ministering to the blind and visually-impaired in your community.
However, this can often be an intimidating task. How do you get started? What ministries should you offer? What needs do the blind have? As part of our series on training and equipping churches for special needs ministry, we will break down best practices on how to reach the blind.
As you think through your church blind ministry, remember that Scripture often talks about the blind both figuratively and literally. God sees them, knows them, and loves them deeply.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).”
Blind Ministry Resources
As you start to think through a church blind ministry, it’s important that you know you’re not alone. Churches and people have walked this path before you and have created resources that will help to create and establish a blind ministry at your church. There’s no need to start completely from scratch!
So, before we jump into the details of church blind ministry, here are blind ministry resources that will be helpful for you and the blind in your community.
- Bibles for the Blind
- Braille Bibles International
- American Federation for the Blind
- Clearer Vision Ministries
- WELS Ministry to the Visually Impaired
Keep in mind that there are more and more resources available in audio formats. As you look for curriculum and materials for your church blind ministry, make sure that there are audio versions available.
Tips for Ministering to the Blind
When working to start a church blind ministry and equip your teachers to lead it, the most important part is having a plan in place. Gather with a core team and work to come up with a plan for intentionally ministering to the blind. Remember, it’s always better to start small and build up to a larger ministry. Taking action on even one or two of these blind ministry activities will go a long way. Here are a few tips on blind ministry best practices to get you started.
Offer a Mobility Assistance Program
While many blind people are able to get around fairly well on their own, it’s much harder to do in a new place. One of the best ministries you can offer is a mobility assistance program. Through this program, volunteers can help to walk blind visitors through the building pointing out ramps, bathrooms, and important locations like the sanctuary or small group rooms. This will go a long way in helping the blind to navigate your church building.
To take this one step further, create a transportation service that actually picks blind people up from their homes and drives them to church. Transportation can often be an obstacle for the visually-impaired, and this service can help to overcome that.
Provide Braille Signs, Resources, and Bibles
Unfortunately, many churches don’t use Braille in their signage and printed materials. However, this is a great first step to take when working to make your church a place where the blind are welcomed and ministered to. Make sure that you have braille Bibles available and that you order Braille Bible study guides. It’s even possible to have resources your church creates written in Braille too. Lastly, make sure that all signs (bathrooms, room numbers, exits, etc.) all have braille on them as well.
Host Blind Fellowships
One of the best ministries your church can offer the blind is opportunities to meet and fellowship with other blind people. Community is important for everyone, but even more so if there are people who can relate to personal struggles. For the blind, community is huge. Not only will they appreciate the opportunity to meet people, but they will be encouraged by people who are walking through the same struggles and obstacles that they are.
When planning these fellowships, make sure they are fun and inviting. Consider providing a meal at your church or at a location that is familiar to most of the blind people in your church.
Take it Outside the Church Walls
Lastly, as you work to establish a church blind ministry, consider taking it a step further. Many people who are blind need assistance with daily tasks like paying bills, grocery shopping, and home maintenance. As part of your church blind ministry, recruit volunteers who will become “buddies” to the blind members in your church and offer assistance where it’s needed.
How to Be Sensitive in Blind Ministry
As with any church special needs ministry, a church blind ministry requires a degree of sensitivity. Fear and ignorance can often cause people in your church to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations altogether, but use this as an opportunity to encourage volunteers to step out of their comfort zone and minister to the blind in their church with love and dignity.
One of the best ways to be sensitive to the blind is to simply remember that they can’t see and avoid hand gestures, pointing, and body language. Plus, be sure to introduce yourself every time you begin a conversation with someone who is blind so they know exactly who you are and don’t have to guess.
Next, when working in blind ministry, be sure to listen and meet needs. This may seem simple and obvious, but actually hearing what someone who is blind is saying is huge for them when working to show respect.
Lastly, many people who are blind have a desire for control, independence, and self-dignity. Show these to them. If they feel confident on their own, give them that control. If they don’t want assistance, don’t force it. They are capable people and desire to be treated that way.
Ways to Keep the Blind Safe
Lastly, it’s important that you put in place blind ministry safety procedures to ensure that the blind at your church feel taken care of and secure. Here are a few tools you can use to keep the blind safe.
- Implement a check-in system for adults and children alike. with this system, you can print off a name badge that identifies the person as well as any special needs (like blindness) they may have. Check-in also requires an emergency contact number so parents can easily be found and contacted in case of emergencies.
- Set up a system for parent notifications. When working to notify blind parents, consider giving them a buzzer (similar to the ones many restaurants have). This is a way to notify parents who can’t see without projecting a number on the screen.
- Meet with blind adults and blind children and their parents to be aware of special requirements.
- Prepare children and parents for emergencies. One way to do this is to practice how to leave the building safely and come up with a plan on where the children can meet their parents outside the church building.
Church Relevance was founded in March 2006 to explore the impact of church ministry teams around the world. Today, Church Relevance remains focused on providing information that is relevant for you and your church in today’s changing world.
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