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Making church accessible for all

Southland Christian’s Access Ministry program serves special needs in community for 21 years

Southland Christian Church started offering Access Ministry 21 years ago to serve and celebrate people with mental and physical challenges. Last month, the program said goodbye to founder Brewster McLeod when he retired and Chapman Bean was appointed the new leader for the ministry program.

Chapman took over as Access Pastor May 21, after recently graduating from Campbellsville University. He said learning under Brewster he found he was a unique pastor who has a heart for the Lord and His children.

“I spent a good portion of last summer interning with him in this area of ministry, and I learned three things,” Chapman said. “Loving people is not always easy. Loving people is not always comfortable, but loving people is always worth it.”

Chapman said, although those three items seem like simple truths, they are essential to loving people like Jesus and like the way Brewster did in his years as a pastor at Southland.

“One of the coolest aspects of Access Ministry is that it gives our entire church the opportunity to interact with people with special needs,” Will Briggs, lead care pastor for Southland Christian Church said. “’Disabilities become less the focus, and for many in our church, are no longer a barrier to developing really rewarding friendships with all kinds of people. People who attend Access Ministry also attend our weekend worship services, serve in ministries and participate in outreach.”

Briggs said the weekly classes at Southland Christian usually accommodate up to 50 people. In order to provide a safe environment for those who attend, Briggs said there is an application process, interview and background check that is required.

“We’re always looking for the chance to provide access to any and all kinds of fun activities,” Briggs said. “I get to supervise the area of ministry. I also get the awesome opportunity to participate in serving, teaching and attending when needed from our weekly Celebrate Jesus Class to Jesus Prom in the Fall to Access Camp in the summer.”

Bill Messner from Southland Christian church said when people gather for Access Ministry, they do so with the purest intentions.

“When you hang around Access Ministry, you are spending time with Jesus,” Messener said.

For Amber Ball, a parent who participates with her daughter through Access Ministry, the opportunity Southland Christian has given her child has helped her be able to participate in many fun and enriching activities.

“Our family is so grateful for Access Ministry,” Ball said. “She has learned more about God’s love for her through the lessons taught each week and through the love and acceptance this ministry provides.”

Chapman hopes to see the program change and grow over the years, knowing that growth must always be present and a constant process in the program. The hope, he said, is that the church can continue to make itself accessible to each and every child of God. Chapman said as the church continues to grow, Access Ministry will continue to adjust and grow along with it.

“I hope to bring youth and excitement to this ministry,” Chapman said. “Brewster had a way of making the church a safe, fun place to be and that needs to continue. This is a ministry that very few other churches have. Most churches simply do not have the ability to support a ministry like this. However, our church is unique in the sense that we have that ability. This ministry is important because it is fulfilling Jesus’ call to care for people. We saw a need and decided to meet it. We are thankful for the opportunity to invite and welcome an often times neglected group of people into our church family in a unique way.” 

For more information contact Laura McIntyre at 859-224-1662 or by email at lmcintyre@southland.church.