Do you remember when you visited your home church for the first time? You might have been feeling nervous – anxious even. With the help of small groups and fellowship dinners, you probably became more comfortable. Eventually, you became settled enough to call it your “home church.” For people with disabilities, however, many aren’t always able to follow this same path to feel welcome at church. It’s daunting for anyone to join a new community, and the Church is no exception. How can we create a sense of belonging for ALL members of the church?
One of the most fundamental elements to include in inclusive worship is universal design. This is the concept of incorporating design characteristics in buildings, print material, and facilities to make them accessible to everybody. Universal design in worship could look like large typeface versions of the bulletin and/or providing assisted audio systems. It’s also important to remember that listening is crucial to implementing good universal design. Listen to your church member’s needs and observe your surroundings. How might you be able to minimize any obstacles so that ALL may feel welcome to your place of worship?
Another way to create belonging is by making opportunities for the congregation to engage with one another. Some churches have reserved one Sunday a month as “Disability Awareness” services when members are encouraged to learn about disability advocacy. Another idea is to appoint someone who could assist others during worship. In addition, an inclusive small group is another opportunity to worship together. You could meet with your group either before or after the service to reflect on the sermon together. You could prepare your own study or use premade materials like our TOGETHER Bible studies.
Lastly, asking members to be a part of the worship service is a great way to cultivate belonging as well. Invite them to be a liturgist, sing in the choir, or whatever other roles your church might have. Not only will this help current members of your church feel welcome, it will signal to prospective members that your church takes active steps to make inclusivity a priority!
To learn more inclusive worship, we invite you to Calgary for the Umbrella Conference. Esteemed speakers are invited to speak on important topics related to belonging and the church, including our own Barb Newman. Learn more here.