FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Intellectual Disability? Welcome to The Feast: Jill & Paul Miller

with Jill Miller, Paul Miller | July 4, 2024
Play Pause

Jesus invites those with intellectual disability to meet Him in His Word. But churches aren't always as equipped to lay out a feast for them, as they are for those without obvious disabilities. Paul and Jill Miller's journey with their daughter, Kim, led to creating interactive Bible studies for individuals with disabilities. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson as they hear about the impact disability ministry can have on churches and families. Will they be fed at your church?

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Show Notes and Resources

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

People with disabilities are hungry for God’s Word. Will they be fed at your church? Authors Paul and Jill Miller can help.

MP3 Download Transcript

Intellectual Disability? Welcome to The Feast: Jill & Paul Miller

With Jill Miller, Paul Miller
July 04, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Jill: The church is not complete without people affected by disability. Just like the Bible—when you remove disability from the Gospels, from Jesus’ life—if you remove disabilities, how much are you taking from the Lord? And it’s the church, and it does cost. Love is messy. Love is messy. It is beautiful, though, when you get that glimpse of glory, and they get it, and they are loved. This is a group of people who have been left behind.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the FamilyLife app.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Ann: I remember several months ago, I was with over 100 women, probably 130 women, and at the end of our time together, I said, “I’d really like for those of you that have children with any kind of disability to stand up, and we would like to pray over you.” So, all the women in the room gathered around the women standing, laid hands on them, and prayed that God would equip them, change them, move them, give them wisdom as they’re raising these precious children.

When we were done, these women could not stop crying, because they said, “We feel like we’re never noticed. We feel like we’re all alone and, oftentimes, we feel like the church has forgotten us.” That night, I felt like, “Oh, we need to be aware; we need to help; we need to minister to these families.” I think that we’re missing it in the church many times.

Dave: Yes, I know, as a pastor for 30 years, I missed it.

Ann: And we brought some things in to help.

Dave: We missed it.

Ann: But, yes.

Dave: Yes, and we want to help the church not miss it, because Jesus doesn’t miss it. We have the couple to help us do that here today, Paul and Jill Miller, who lead You talk about “See Jesus,” and then you get the eyes of Jesus. We just found out something you’ve been doing and creating to help the church—

Ann: —and families—

Dave: —minister to all people. Many people know you from being on FamilyLife Today, and know that you have a daughter who has taken you on a journey for the last—how old is Kim now?

Jill: 41.

Dave: 41 years, yes. So, here you are. Tell us how you decided to create something.

Ann: Take us on your journey.

Dave: It starts with the story that you’ve told before, but our listeners need to hear it again.

Paul: It’s a story of Jill and I, probably, not at our best. [Laughter] So, Kim would get up early in the morning, like 4:30, for who knows what reason. It was kind of just her Autism, and she would pace back and forth on the third floor.

Ann: And she’s above you.

Paul: Yes. We’re on the second floor. So, we would tell her to get back in bed, and because we were separated, the telling was kind of loud.

Dave: You had to yell.

Paul: So we yelled.

Ann: A whole floor.

Paul: And we’d sort of tag team. And then, Jill would go down and be on the first floor having devotions. [Laughter] I’d be on the second floor having devotions, and Kim would be pacing up on the third floor. I wouldn’t tune in to this, so Jill would yell at me while we were having our devotions for me to yell at Kim.

Ann: What did that sound like? Do it, Jill. Let’s hear it.

Jill: I grew up in Philly in a driveway. I can yell, baby. [Laughter]

Paul: So, anyway, one day in 2007, in December, I decided to get out of bed and just go pray with Kim. I was getting out of bed and Jill said, “What are you going to do? Go yell at Kim?” And I said, “No, that hasn’t worked for ten years.” [Laughter]

Ann: It only took you ten years.

Paul: And she started laughing and said, “What do you mean? It’s been 20 years.” [Laughter] Oh whatever. Let’s not quibble. So, I walked upstairs, and I sat on her bed. Nothing fancy, just a 10-second prayer that God would quiet her. I did notice how agitated she was under the covers, because what she would do is she would get out, she would run out into the hallway, flip on the light, run back to her bed, stay in bed for five minutes, and then run back into the hallway and flip the light off and come back to her bed.

In the world of Autism, it’s called perseverating, just kind of repeating these actions. So, I just prayed with Kim, and I just noticed how agitated she was. The only thing I can say is, at the end of this 15-second prayer, I knew something about Kim that I hadn’t known before. It was no voice; it was just a knowing that I had underestimated her ability to grow spiritually and control her own behavior.

And I couldn’t shake that thought. That was December. I’d probably go up once a week and pray with her, and in the middle of March, it stopped completely.

Ann: The shaking stopped, or her getting out of bed?

Paul: Her getting out of bed. And it stopped because we moved. We didn’t know that the diesel trucks of the meat factory across the street were waking her up.

Dave: Oh.

Paul: So, we moved to a place where we could kind of make an apartment for Kim. It was off the road; it was quieter. So, here I am in this new house now, but this thought is still heavy, because it was clearly the Spirit prompting, because He was prompting me to be more like Jesus. He was prompting me to see Kim in a broader way. It was a repentance, and I just think much of what the Spirit prompts us is to holiness. It was a new, a little edge.

So, I started having devotions with Kim in the morning, and then, when we would pray together, she would pray on her speech computer, and I would do the dishes. I just kept thinking: “I really should sit down with her while she’s praying.” Just that nudging was all that summer of 2008, and then in the fall, I finally sat down with her and when I did, her prayers just blossomed.

It was the sweetest thing. She prayed for angry people. She loves to pray for angry people, because she struggles with anger. [Laughter] She loves to pray for her bad dog, Tully. She prayed—I hadn’t even talked with her about it, but she prayed—yesterday morning before we flew out, that He would help Mom not to be afraid when she was talking. It was just such a thoughtful prayer. It was just so sweet.

Anyway, there are a lot more pieces of the story than that, but the other thing I did that summer [was] I went to our pastor, and I said, “I’m going to stop teaching Sunday School, because I want to teach Kim and her friends.” Jill had done this in previous churches numerous times, and she was just at that point just kind of fried, so this wasn’t new, but it was new for us in this situation.

He said, “Paul, you are our entire Sunday School program.” I said, “I know, but I have neglected Kim. She just doesn’t know the Bible.” So, they found a little deserted room next to the furnace room in the basement.

Jill: It’s always next to the—it’s always in the basement— [Laughter]

Paul: —we gathered with two of her friends—

Jill: —next to the furnace.

Paul: —and I just hunted for curriculum online, and we ran out of stuff really quickly. There was hardly anything there, and it was all kind of dumbed down. I should say this: when I stopped—I would develop my material in Sunday School or small groups, so I was shutting down my writing; I was putting a stop to this. So, it was a little bit of dying that was through that.

Dave: Yes.

Paul: But let me tell you, let me pass this off—about a year into this, Jill had joined us, teaching. She had been teaching with a team of three of us that were teaching, and Jill had been teaching a women’s Bible study, one of our Person of Jesus Bible studies that looks carefully at what Jesus is like as a person, and she had an epiphany one day.

Jill: Kim came home from walking her dogs. She has a business where she goes from house to house walking dogs. Somebody comes to the house, picks her up, and they travel around all day. She came home upset—clearly upset. And I just happened to share with her what we had learned in Women’s Bible study. As she was taking her coat, going through the hall to the kitchen, I could just see her just quiet. She got it.

Then she walked from the kitchen after washing her hands back to the TV to turn it on. I realized: “She got that!”

Ann: You were surprised.

Jill: I was, especially how God just touched her heart with it. I had just recently retired from teaching at school, and it was late September, early October. I’m watching the school buses go by, and I thought, “Now what, Lord? I’ll just wait. What do You want me to do?” And I thought, “Okay, let’s take the curriculum that I’m teaching these women, and let me not water it down—that’s a biggie—but adapt it.” And that is what we started ten years ago.

I guess it got started to get published seven years ago? I don’t know..

Paul: Yes. There was even a fun story. Jill started in September writing these studies. It’s really hard. She had no template to work on. It’s an interactive Bible study for people with intellectual disability, and there’s a lot of us

Jill: —and just differences, yes. I try to always write so that everybody’s interested in what they’re reading or involved with.

Ann: Yes.

Jill: That’s what we did.

Paul: In January, after Jill started, she said, “Paul, I just can’t get my voice. I just can’t. This isn’t working.” I thought, “Huh, I should probably pray for Jill.” [Laughter]

Jill: We’re all slow.

Paul: It’s the story of my life.

Jill: We’re all slow.

Paul: So, I wrote out a little prayer card that I still pray for her every day, and I wrote Luke 14, Jesus’ instructions on how to have a really good party: go out and get the blind and the poor and the disabled, and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Jill: Absolutely.

Paul: Within three weeks, Jill said, “Paul, I found my voice.” So, she’s written ten of these lengthy Bible studies that hundreds of churches across America are using. Unfortunately, we have no competition, because no one else is writing interactive Bible studies. As a business principle in a growing market, you want competition.

Ann: Yes.

Paul: People are, basically, like me in 2000, before the Spirit prompted me, thinking that these kids can’t learn. “Well, just look at them. Look how disabled they are.” And it’s only when you actually—

Jill: —it’s just unbelievable!

Paul: What’s it like to teach these studies, Jilly?

Jill: It is just awesome. You follow the questions, and I call it “the gang”—that is a loving term for Kim and her friends. There are variances of all their abilities. They have all different abilities, and their responses to the questions, some of them, as a teacher, you think, “Wow! I didn’t think of that!” [Laughter] Jesus is alive in these studies.

Ann: Can you give us an example? What are some of the responses?

Jill: We start with reading the Scripture, and some of the gang can read, some of the gang can’t read, some of the gang help others read. They clap when they read.

Ann: Sweet.

Jill: They’re so encouraging! It’s beautiful. So, we read the Scripture, and then we act it out. We just use scarves over people’s heads. They absolutely love that. When we had Esther—at one point, we had the Bible study on Esther—they just loved that crown. They loved that crown. [Laughter] And the scepter; they loved that scepter! That scepter was swinging. And Haman! [Laughter] We had a ball. And “for such a time as this.”

It is such a time as this. The banquet table has to be full, and we want it overflowing. It’s going to be so much fun. So, after we act it out, then we’ll draw, very rough drawings. I call them “bubble people.” One of the kids is an incredible artist. He has Autism. He’ll draw it out. It will take him the whole lesson to draw out the scene, and it’s just beautiful. And then the gang claps and encourages.

Then, we’ll show a video of it. I’ll find something on YouTube, and they’ll see that. So, we go through it four different ways. I’m telling you, by the time we get to the interactive questions, they’re there. They are there. Then, we go through the study, and then we go through a practical application. “So, what’s this for your life? ‘For such a time’—what is this? What looks like a mess in your life that God’s going to straighten out? He has it.”

And you know, we’re all the same. When you’re teaching that, you think, “They are my friends. [Emotional] They are my peers, because we are the same. We’re just the same. We’re wrapped a little different, but we’re all the same.”

Ann: Yes.

Jill: When you come out of these Bible studies, the gang teaches you.

Ann: I was going to say, you probably learn more from them and their responses than anything.

Jill: Oh, and that’s our hope.

Paul: How do they pray, Jill? What’s prayer time?

Jill: Oh! Their prayers are so real and so deep. They’ll remember months later and say, “Hey, Jill. How’s Ashley?” “How’s your dog, Anaiah?” They remember. It’s just beautiful, and that’s what the church needs. The church is not complete without people affected by disability. Just like the Bible—when you remove disability from the Gospels, from Jesus’s life—if you remove disabilities, how much are you taking from the Lord?

It’s the church. It does cost. Love is messy. Paul says that to me all the time: “love is messy.” It is beautiful, though. When you get that glimpse of glory, and they get it, and they’re loved. This is a group of people who have been left behind, in school, in churches; they’re lonely.

Ann: And their parents are lonely.

Jill: Oh, and some of them, I’ll tell you, they do hand out bulletins. Some of the gang does hand out bulletins. I get that, and that’s a step, but to mentor, to disciple; not do we just want to teach, we disciple.

Ann: You guys, I’m thinking about parents listening, and their church doesn’t have anything for their child that they love so much. They feel isolated, their child is not learning. Talk to them. How can they encourage their pastor or their church, or find a church that is wanting to teach our kids [the Bible]?

Jill: Yes. A lot of this, Ann, comes from the parents. It’s the parents who start it, just kind of like it’s the parents in a school. I hate to say that, parents. Gird your loins. But it is from parents, and sometimes, pastors are touched. They really are. I’m not saying they’re not, but the momentum, a lot of times, comes from moms and dads, definitely.

Ann: Yes.

Jill: We have hundreds of churches that have gotten in touch with us. I am not about numbers. Am I about numbers, Paul?

Paul: I am. [Laughter]

Jill: I am not about numbers. Every time I wrote a Bible study, I was on our front—now it’s at a desk, but I’d be on the front porch, and I’d lift up a bag, literally a brown lunch bag, and I’d say, “Here it is, Lord. It is a floppy fish and a loaf of stale bread, and if You want to feed one person, that’s fine. If You want to reach more than one, that’s fine. You do what You want to do.” And that was how I started when I would sit down for a lesson. He’s done it.

Dave: Yes. We got to watch a couple, just here in the studio, and man, they’re really, really good.

Jill: It’s Jesus.

Ann: And everyone can learn from it.

Dave: Oh, anyone. This is the way the Bible needs to be taught.

Jill: Yes, and that’s the way Jesus taught.

Dave: All the senses involved.

Jill: He taught the whole crew.

Ann: He did.

Dave: Yes, exactly. We’re going to put—even the videos we watched will be in the show notes, so you can click the link and watch them yourself.

Jill: Fun!

Dave: And then how do people get them?

Paul: They get on, our website. People are so afraid. The Bethesda team does both online training and in person training. It really helps to go through one of their seminars, where you can learn how to teach and interact. People are kind of afraid to do interactive Bible study on their own. I think the most fun part of these studies is, it’s kind of organized chaos. [Laughter] Things go wrong all the time, but the kids love it.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Of course.

Paul: That’s part of the fun.

Jill: A lot of times, people will say, “Well, what? You just buy the curriculum and then you take off with it.” And we have really found that communication with us has really helped.

Paul: They’re much more successful.

Jill: Oh, yes. We all have to get it.

Paul: There’s actually a script they have to follow, and people like to be creative and run off on their own tangents, but it’s really important to follow the script, to “ask these questions”—they’re brightly colored—and to trust the plan.

Ann: Because you’ve worked the plan.

Paul: And watch what God does.

Ann: You’ve seen that it works. I’m still struck by the beginning of your story, Paul, of just praying for Kim.

Paul: Yes.

Ann: Of taking the time to just pray with them. So, I’d love for one of you to pray for our parents, to pray for their kids, to pray for, maybe, the circumstances that seem so hard right now.

Jill: Father God, I pray that You will quiet these parents’ hearts right now, that we’re talking about and praying for. I know that You know them by name. You know the number of hairs they have. You know every thought before they even think it. You know the burdens they bear, the love that they so strongly need from others, from You, from the church; helpers, Lord.

Father, I just pray that in the spot that they’re in, they will know that You are with them, that You are for them, and You are mighty to save, that You truly do sing over them, and You will do what You can do, because it’s Who You are. So, Lord, we just lift up these parents, that You will give them hope, real certainty of hope.

We pray You will anoint them with a strength and a vigor that can only come from Your Spirit to continue to strive to feed these kids Your Word; that they go to their churches, or even if they’re there on their own, Lord, just give them what they need. And I pray that You will just ease, ease their burden, Lord, through the power of the Spirit that is alive in them, Lord, that they will know that every single thing You have given them is through the palm of Your hand to create beauty from what, today, they think may be ashes.

Oh, how we praise You that You are the One and the only One Who can do this. Anoint the church with love, Lord. Anoint the gang with Your Word, that they will know You are for them and love them more than they’ll ever imagine. Fill that banquet table overflowing, overflowing, Lord. In the name of Jesus we say and thank You, Amen. Amen and Amen.



Shelby: I once heard a pastor say that we, asChristians, are appropriately described as “sad celebrants.” That prayer from Jill really captures the description quite nicely. We mourn living in a broken world, but we don’t mourn without hope; hope in Christ and His ability to bring beauty from despair. You’re allowed to be a sad celebrant today on this 4th of July holiday. Know that there is always hope in the power and love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jill and Paul Miller on FamilyLife Today. Jill has written a book called Finding Jesus on Upside-Down Days: Family Devotions from the Barnyard. She intertwines the beauty of farm life with profound reflections on faith and walking with the Lord. You can get your copy of Jill’s book by going online to, or you can find it in our show notes. Or give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Earlier this week, we had on the Dr. Gary Chapman, and he wrote a book called Five Traits of a Healthy Family. Who doesn’t want a more healthy family? His book is ideal for any family member seeking guidance on fostering a loving and stable family environment that’s rooted in biblical principles. It offers insight and practical advice for anyone who wants to embody God’s intended design for family relationships.

This book is going to be our gift to you when you give to FamilyLife. You can get your copy right now with any donation by going online to and clicking on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or feel free to drop your donation in the mail to us. Our address is: FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832.

Now, tomorrow, Ron Deal is going to be joining Dave and Ann Wilson to share with us how childhood trauma shapes our adulthood. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a donor-supported production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.

Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © 2024 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.