Welcoming Everyone: Youth, Disabilities, and the Body of Christ

Youth Specialties
May 14th, 2015

Just like the community in which the character Produce lives and works in the movie Where Hope Grows, the mission of Young Life is being transformed by our friends with disabilities. Since Nick Palermo began bringing his friends with disabilities to Young Life clubs and camps 30 years ago, we have seen God at work refining us into a more compassionate, sensitive, and joyful expression of the body of Christ. Like the movie’s character Calvin, we are learning that our friends have gifts and abilities that we’ve been missing!


I Corinthians 12 claims that every part of the body is essential, with all of its diversity of ability and expression. We recognize that this diversity within the body is God’s design and desire. We are committed to encouraging our friends, of all ability levels and learning styles, to identify and use their gifts in order to glorify God. We also recognize that alongside the gifts and joy our friends bring into our midst, they also have a need for belonging.

Our friends grow and their parents age, and many transitions and changes in their lives heighten their need for community. We have seen again and again that the church is the place where our friends may find their forever family. True belonging is one of the greatest gifts a church community may offer our friends and their families. At the core of who we are as a mission in Young Life is the desire to see our friends grow in their relationship with Jesus and be connected to local churches throughout their lives.

Young Life Capernaum, which is YL for adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, desires to walk alongside the church to provide faith communities for adolescents with disabilities and their families. We are confident that our friends’ lives and stories will impact peoples’ hearts and will transform individuals, churches and communities just as they do in Where Hope Grows!


So we invite you to join God by praying and watching for transformation. Watch, listen, and ask your community. God is already at work, I guarantee it. God has already thought of places for our friends to belong, although I cannot give a formula for what it will look like. In some cities, we’ve found people have been praying in their church for 8 years for a place for their families affected by disability to belong, and by hosting Capernaum the church began to bridge the gap.

In other cities, we have discovered churches and pastors who have a vision for this transformation but have not yet met friends with disabilities. We are encouraged by churches that are creating space for our friends, one at a time, or by transitioning an entire group, in small groups that meet in their communities.

Regardless, if viewing Where Hope Grows sparks a desire in you for transformation, let’s keep our eyes open for where God is leading! Please contact us at Young Life Capernaum if we can provide next steps in this journey for you or for your church.

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Pamela A. Harmon is Vice President of Young Life Capernaum
Including teens and young adults with disabilities http://bit.ly/1cm36IN

Christen Morrow Ara is the Young Life Capernaum Transition Specialist

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.