Some of you know that I entered a partnership with PURE Ministries this fall. I’m doing a lot of writing for their blog right now, so I wanted to steer some of you in that direction so that you can follow me there as well. Last week, Jason and I collaborated on an article about language for special needs ministry. Hope you enjoy!
What’s in a Name?
by Jason & Vangie Rodenbeck
One of the most frequent questions I (Vangie) am asked as I consult in the field of special needs ministry nationwide is, “What should we call it?” This is a product of our culture’s need to market goods and services, thus “branding” them so that the consumer is both targeted and reached. In a time when other ministries within a church might be named in a way which conveys the meaning behind the ministry but also attracts ministry “consumers,” special needs specific ministries cannot be left aside, lest they become anonymous and undistinguished service projects.
The greater problem inherent within this system is language itself. Just as the methods of branding and advertising are of recent advent to the Church and its ministries (new during the last twenty years) so are the implications of language usage. In an interview with Stanford University Press, philosopher Jacques Derrida said of using language responsibly “we are all mediators, translators.” What Derrida was saying is that our world and culture assign meaning to words and language regardless of the intent of the author of those words.
Language for use in the realm of special needs ministry is no different. Intrinsic in the use of words to describe a ministry of this nature, are certain attitudes and assumptions of our culture. Even when the intent is not to marginalize or “put down,” language can communicate a posture toward a people group. Already, I have entered the controversy with the use of the term “special needs” to differentiate this ministry from any other based on a physical, emotional or intellectual difference rather than strength…
Follow this link to read the rest of the thoughts Jason and I put together on appropriate language for PURE ministry here.