On May 4, 2015, I sat down with Bob West, founder of The Need Project, and recorded a podcast about my book, In the Accessible Church. The podcast can be found here. Below are my notes to my part of the interview. I post for clarity and inform.
Bob: You talk about growing up in a church that just included you as well as some other children. Did this help mold your views of church and how it should be?
Tait: You know, that’s hard to say. Looking back, sure, I guess you can say that. But I didn’t see it growing up. I was just a kid learning about life.
Bob: You give an overview of yourself as growing up in a family, going to college and getting a job, but that only tells part of the story. Once you got out on your own you started to struggle with purpose and direction. Tell us about that?
Tait: I didn’t want anything to do with people with disabilities as a youngster because I didn’t want people to compare me to them. I was better, smarter, and I knew I had a future. But God changed my heart. I may not have liked to be seen as disabled, but my writing usually dealt with some kind of disability issue. At the same time, my interests turned to the bible and theology. I couldn’t get enough of it. I eventually combined writing with my love for theology and the church and wala…. I became a leader in disability ministry.
Bob: Once you really understood the Gospel and Jesus Christ you started looking for a church community that you could be a part of. How did that go?
Tait: I went to a church in downtown Colorado Springs for ten years. That’s where I developed my theological grounding. I had great friends and mentors, and I thought I’d be there forever. Then some friends left the church, and I felt alone. There wasn’t anyone my own age, and I felt like a fifth wheel. The Lord forced me to go outside my comfort zone to find a church where I truly belong…International Anglican Church. From day one, I met people my own age that had things in common with me. It was the first time when I truly felt I was living life with my peers.
Bob: You and I have both been in ministry a long time and we know that it doesn’t always go well for those looking for a church. It also hasn’t always gone well for you has it?
Bob: I love that in all of these churches we really haven’t been talking about a defined program or ministry. It really is an attitude isn’t it?
Tait: Yes. I’d also say that we are finally at the point that the church leaders are my age. They grew up with people living with disabilities in their schools, maybe in their classes. I have a friend who I went all the way through high school with. He is a pastor, and we connected on Facebook. He also knows me and have seen me active at school, knows what I can and can’t do…to have me come and talk to his church is just natural to him because that was apart of his childhood. I see this only growing as more and more of those relationships growing from a young age.
Bob: I also know that the statistics show that very few people with disabilities are involved in leadership. What do you think were the keys to you being successful in that?
Tait: I’d say that I don’t know my place. That may sound strange, but I think it’s true. I don’t think about how I look when I worship or take communion. I just go because I love the Lord. Or when I attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I may or may not be the only person who has a disability. Certainly I will be the only one with cerebral palsy. I go to the conference because 1) God called me to write and 2) I have goals I want to accomplish. Maybe it’s a little selfish on my part, but I’m going to attend things because I’m either going to learn something or it’s going to feed my soul.
A friend told me one time that I have a ministry of presence. It took me a long time to accept that, and frankly I still struggle with it. I, like all of us, want to make a big impact for the Kingdom. But he is right. Sometimes ministry and leadership means you just show up. Maybe that’s a key to my success. I see something that will help me professionally, spiritually, or personally and I just go without thinking how it looks.
Bob: You are a part of Mephibosheth Ministry. Tell us what you guys do.
Tait: Mephibosheth Ministry trains churches and pastors on how to include people who have disabilities in the life of the church. Our founder has written bible studies for people with intellectual disabilities and have trained pastors in 16 countries. I run the church relations department and speak to local churches about how to include people living with disabilities. I also write, keep an eye on disability ministry website, and do online evangelism.
Bob: How can people get a hold of your book and your ministry?
Tait: People can get my book on Amazon.com or visit my website at taitberge.com.
Note: My pastor, RT Rev Ken Ross, joined Bob and I to talk about his perspective of having me attending his church. Please listen to the podcast to hear his prospective. I thank him for his time.