“Free Church” is a loose label given to churches who separated or formed apart from the larger state churches of Christendom, generally stress an individual conversion experience and practice believer’s baptism, and are often associated with one or more of the following movements: Anabaptism, Pietism, Restorationism, Pentecostalism, and Evangelicalism.
Free Churches and Disabilities
Some of the main Free Church groups with disabilities ministries:
The largest group directly descended from the radical wing of the 16th century reformation in Europe known as Anabaptists. The original Anabaptists rejected the notion that the church should be linked with the state and baptized believers upon their confession of faith. Today, the term “Anabaptist” is an umbrella term used to describe Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, and some Brethren groups who trace their roots back to the original Anabaptist movement.
Anabaptist Disabilities Network serves Mennonite and related groups with congregational resources for including persons with disabilities of all types. Anabaptist Disabilities Network is a member of MHS Alliance (Mennonite Health Services) which includes regional mental health centers and disability service providers.
Baptists began as a free church movement in England, flourished in America, and now are represented around the world. There are number of large Baptist groups in the USA and many smaller groups as well. The following is a list of disabilities ministries within those groups.
American Baptist Church
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
The publishing ministry of the North American Mission Board has a Special Needs Ministry section.
Church of the Brethren
A peace church with roots in Anabaptism and Pietism.
Church of the Brethren Disabilities Ministry has an attractive website that includes a survey tool based on CAN’s Congregational Assessment Survey. As of 2014, they work in cooperation with Anabaptist Disabilities Network.
Christian Churches Disability Ministry (CCDM) seeks to enhance the lives of person with developmental disabilities by providing a full range of services including residential alternatives, job placement, and opportunities for social interaction and spiritual growth.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Children with Special Needs is part of the Family & Children’s Ministries of the Disciples of Christ.
National Benevolent Association Mental Health and Congregational Care Affinity Group serves as a network of support for Disciples congregations and communities engaged in spiritual care and advocacy ministries with those affected by mental illness and/or mental health disorders.
Evangelical Free Church
A movement within Christianity which emphasizes the direct work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual. Various waves of Pentecostal revival since the early 20th century have produced a variety of denominations as well as a “charismatic movement” among Catholic and Protestant denominations.
Assemblies of God
Special Touch Ministry is an interdenominational ministry that is endorsed by the Assemblies of God and promoted to their constituency.
Church of God in Christ
Church of God in Christ Sunday School Disability Ministry serves as the “place for People with Disabilities to worship God and prepare the church and its members for outreach to people with disabilities.”
See a review of a book Compel Them to Come In dealing with disabilities ministry in Pentecostal churches.
Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA)
A restorationist church which grows out of a 19th century Adventist movement in the New England region of the U.S.
The SDA North American Division North American Division Disabilities Ministries.
ASNA: Adventist Special Needs Association (UK) grew out of a family ministry in Great Britain.