For decades, Friendship Ministries has worked to promote the ideals of Equality, Interdependence, Compassion, and Hospitality within the Body of Christ. With a vision for people with and without intellectual disability to grow deeper in their relationship with God and with each other in community together, Friendship Ministries has provided resources that support faith formation and congregational inclusion with individuals with intellectual disability. The Together Curriculum , a menu of digital coursework published by Friendship Ministries, provides churches the framework to build these communities of inclusion.
With a shared vision for church communities, Friendship Ministries joined All Belong Center for Inclusive Education in 2021. Now, as a subsidiary of All Belong, Friendship Ministries continues, adding to the overall services of the church division of All Belong.
Faith.We believe that faith is a gift from God that does not depend on any level of human intelligence.
Friendships.Our program model encourages the development of one-on-one, personal, and meaningful relationships: true friendships.
Belonging.We long for the day when people of all abilities are fully accepted—and expected—in the Body of Christ.
is people with and without intellectual disability growing deeper in their relationship with God and with each other in community together.
is to provide resources that support faith formation and congregational inclusion with individuals with intellectual disability.
Since 2002, Friendship Ministries has been guided by the principles outlined in a document called First Things: Fundamental Themes Guiding Friendship Ministries. First Things grew out of conversation between Jim Heynen, Tom Hoeksema, Nella Uitvlugt, and Ron Vredeveld, and was approved by the Friendship Ministries Board of Directors. It outlines four fundamental themes, their corresponding core truths, and some of the implications of these themes and truths.
Theme One: Equality
Core Truth: All humans are created in the image of God. They are created uniquely, equally suited for God’s particular purposes, and enabled by grace to enjoy redemption, worship, and a lifetime of service. Barriers that impede this primary equality are unjust.
Theme Two: Interdependence
Core Truth: All persons have qualities that enable them to serve each other. We do that best in community as partners, imaging God corporately, webbed together with God and each other to renew the world.
Theme Three: Compassion
Core Truth: The church is a worldwide, interdependent community in which we experience mutual compassion in the sharing of joys and burdens, giving in our receiving, and receiving in our giving.
Theme Four: Hospitality
Core Truth: Instead of trying to make others be like us, assimilating them and eradicating their differences, hospitality welcomes and capitalizes on “different-ness.” It overcomes fear of the stranger and instead celebrates communion in the midst of difference.
Implications for the Body of Believers:
- We must make the gifts of all people visible so that we may participate mutually in our interdependent family.
- We must nurture the spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of all persons so we can be faithful stewards of the gifts given by God and may respond gratefully to his love.
- We must remove any barriers – be they in attitude, architecture, or means of communication – that get in the way of the gospel or impede the participation of people with mental impairments in the life of the church. God’s family must in its structures (e.g., congregations, household groups, service committees) seek and model justice and inclusiveness.
Our methods have changed over the years. We have updated our mission statement and developed a brand new, and very different, kind of curriculum–but the core of who we are remains unchanged. We still strive to promote the ideals of Equality, Interdependence, Compassion, and Hospitality within the Body of Christ. We are grateful for the thousands of people—group leaders, friends, mentors, donors, board members, authors, and others—who have come alongside us in this task. And we pray that God will continue to use Friendship Ministries to help people of all abilities grow in faith and in relationship with each other.