"I belong to God like you.
I too have been formed out of the clay."
We were all created by God and belong to Him. It's our basic human dignity to be in community with our creator and the people around us. The struggle is real that most people with disabilities-or families that have a member with a disability-don't feel welcome in church. Often, churches don't see high numbers of people with diverse needs or disabilities in their congregation because many don't attend. Providing a more inclusive space for this population is vital to our call as believers to welcome all in the name of God. But what does inclusion really look and feel like?
In one church, it could mean an open-door policy. For another church, it could mean having a Sunday School program specifically geared towards children with developmental disabilities. To be truly inclusive, a church must look at all the ways people of all abilities access church like the rest of the community.
The one thing people need in any ministry is to belong. To feel a sense of community is vital to our experience of faith and part of our faith journey. Ministries, churches, and private schools need to be intentional about how each of its members physically navigates the building, socially participates in activities, and authentically feels that they are a part of something.
Imagine a place of worship that seamlessly facilitates worship for all its people. A place where being different is accepted and being who you were created to be is honored. Ministry designed with everyone in mind. In order to be intentional about inclusion and access for everyone to have a sense of community in faith-based settings, here are some questions to ask:
1. Logistically, what might be some barriers to how people physically access the church building or activity locations?
Do we have ramps available?
Is the gathering space a far distance from the breakout rooms?
2. In what ways do I ensure everyone who enters is greeted and welcomed?
Are there opportunities for everyone to say or sign "hello"?
Do we have a regular schedule of greeters with varying styles and forms of communication?
3. What might be some activities in which all people are able to participate?
Do our community events have sensory-friendly components?
Are events planned with activities for all ages and abilities?
The goal is that all people can enter through the doors and feel a sense of belonging. We accomplish this goal when we are intentional about inclusion. We've done our job when we serve in this capacity and we provide more meaningful access to the Gospel when this is our focus.