We’re thrilled to partner with you in building belonging with persons of all abilities!
“Walk in obedience to all that the LORD…has commanded you so that you may live and prosper.”–Deuteronomy 5:33
We seek to walk with you as you do what God has called you to do, and we are excited to see God’s blessings in your community!
As a Partnering Church, you have access to a plethora of resources to support belonging for people of all abilities in your faith community. We welcome your questions about the below and additional topics, resources, and situations. Please send them to Victoria (Tory) White, at VictoriaWhite@friendship.org
Try an all-access subscription to the TOGETHER curriculum for one annual fee!
Our Consultants can provide your campus with ongoing support (see details on our Observation & Consultation page).
Subscribe to our monthly E-newsletter with best practices and biblical encouragement, highlighting resources and how you can use them.
Join our online sessions for peer support on specific topics for sharing, praying, and learning together.
We hold live training opportunities (online and in person).
You can participate in our Circle of Congregations for Teaching and Learning.
The Circle of Congregations entails a gathering with learning and worship sessions, discussion times, field trips, and engagement in projects that will support ministry. See some of our project resources on the Church Resources page!
The resources below are just for you, our Partner Members. We also have FREE resources avilable to share with those who are not yet Partner Members on our Church Resources page.
Wondering where to start?
“Walk” through this journey to belonging and reflect on the statements that we call markers, or points, on the journey. What is true in your congregation?
Beliefs, Facts & Figures– What is keeping over 80% of churches from ministering with persons of all abilities?
Thank you for being a part of changing the world, making the Gospel accessible in our churches, and inspiring and equipping others so that church is a place of belonging for persons of all abilities.
As outlined on How We Help Your Church, but in a one-page document:
Resources by Topic
A helpful article from Reformed Worship speaks to worshiping with persons in memory care residences.
Another excellent resource for worshiping with persons with dementia is the Evening Star Handbook for Worship. Find out more about it, and view the full PDF of the handbook at worship.calvin.edu . (An updated version of the Evening Star handbook is scheduled to be released by 2022).
People need daily Scripture, but for persons living with dementia, they may need it in very brief form. Pictures to accompany words will greatly increase engagement. We used images and passages from our TOGETHER curriculum to put together 52 one-sentence Scriptures with one-line prayers and a picture for each. Download the PDF, or purchase a printed paperback, or use it as a Kindle e-book on Amazon .
Barbara J. Newman wrote "A Story and Ideas to Try" as well as collaborated on "12 Tips" and "Practical Tips for Interacting with a Person with Dementia"
Learn from Dirk Bakhuizen, founder of Beyond 26 , about how churches can partner with adults with disabilities and how Beyond 26 supports this effort, for meaningful (paid or unpaid) employment.
The model of partnering with jobseekers, involving mentors and using connections within the community is based on the project, Putting Faith to Work, by the Collaborative on Faith & Disabilities.
Small Groups & Bible Study
Not sure where to start in equipping small groups, house churches, or a Sunday School class in building belonging with adults with disabilities?
4 segments, each with a few sessions that groups can work through to be more equipped, using videos, activities, resource links, and more. Some sessions are for leaders only, but most are for the entire group (including persons with disabilities): Small Group Training Module by the Circle of Congregations.
Attitudes & Perspectives
5 Stages of Attitudes
This concept was developed by Dan Vander Plaats of Elim Christian Services. Find out more about the 5 Stages of Disability Attitudes on the website dedicate to this initiative: the5stages.com/
We have presented on the 5 Stages of Disability Attitudes, and use that tool often. We like to “go on a journey” with people through the stages. An example is in this PDF .
In August of 2021, All Belong hosted a 2-part webinar series discussing what inclusive worship looks like in Catholic traditions. Anne Masters, Ph.D., FAAIDD (Director, Office for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities) rcan.org/disabilities, and Elizabeth Rodriguez-Waterfield of Ministerio Amistad shared insights, ideas, stories, and more.
Puzzle Piece Perspective on Labels & Diagnoses
Here is a collection of 1-page (double-sided) PDFs on a selection of areas of disability that are described using the puzzle piece perspective.
A description of the perspective in written form is in Barbara Newman’s book, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship. Appendix A of that book contains the “Getting to Know Me” sheet which uses the Puzzle Piece to identify strengths and areas of challenge in individuals.
Ministry Leaders with Disabilities
We need models for inclusive ministry, and that means we need to be listening to and learning from ministry leaders who have disabilities!
Disability & Discipleship
Joanna French leads ministry and advocates for others to step up in “Disability and Discipleship” (5-min. read) and her book, Becoming Enabled: A Busy Minister’s Guide to Making the Gospel Accessible
From Pity to Community
Marvin Miller meets pastors and parishioners where disability meets ministry in “From Pity to Community” (4-min read)
Rev. Peter Gordon reflects on Jacob’s limp, and not missing the point of grace or the positives of disability in “Leanings”
Who in your community is a leader, whose voice needs to be shared? Try one of these options for elevating the voices of persons with disabilities in ministry leadership (and we’d love to help you with that!):
Restorative Circles (and restorative practices in general) are one way we love to bring about communication with and by persons with disabilities. Here are a few helpful links to find out more! We would love to offer you training and help you try holding a restorative circle.
Find out how these circles are changing communities, starting in education.
What are they? Who's in them? What's this all about? Hear it from a reluctant participant-turned-ambassador
Books by leaders with disabilities:
- Dr. Lamar Hardwick shares as #autismpastor in his book, Disability and The Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion
- Daniel Bowman Jr. shares personal experience as a Christian and an educator with autism in his book, On The Spectrum: Autism, Faith & the GIfts of Neurodiversity
- Amy Kenny challenges the church in her book, My Body is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church
Looking for images of people with varied abilities? Browse disabilityisbeautiful.com. You can also upload images to expand this collection of images that seek to represent the fullness of community and all who bear the image of God. Only use iamges that you have permission to share! We have a photo/video-release form that can help with that.
Barbara Newman’s Legacy
Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship -by Barbara J. Newman
Written in 2015, with contributions by Betty Grit, this is Barb's final book published during her lifetime. It informs, inspires and provides practical tools for inclusive worship. Available in paperback and Kindle editions. Spanish translation in process!
Remembering Our Friend Barb Newman
Mark Stephenson and Terry DeYoung, leaders of Disability Concerns for the CRCNA and RCA, commemorate their friendship and collaboration with Barb in this post on the Christian Reformed Church's Network.
All Belong: A Tribute
Scott Hoezee published this tribute in The Reformed Journal: The Twelve, September of 2020.
The Best at What She Does
Steve Grcevich, MD posted on the Key Ministry blog this honoring description of who Barb was and how she taught and lived.
CLI honors Barbara Newman
The Christian Leader’s Institute honored Barb, who created the course, with Victoria White, called "Disability Smart: Creating Congregations of Belonging", as one of their ministry training courses available as of spring 2020.
Universal Design, Public Worship, and the Christian Life
Dr. John Witvliet highlights the legacy of Barbara Newman in this 50-minute plenary session for the Symposium on Worship
Worship and Faith Formation through the Life Cycle
A two-hour seminar in which Barbara Newman was a panelist for an in-depth discussion around worship and faith throughout all of life.
Children & Youth Ministry
Below are resources by subcategory. You may also want to check out the mini-course we worked with the Christian Leader’s Institute to create, called Discipling Neurodiverse Children- Supporting Who God Made Them to Be (the mini-course is free and you can log in as a guest to do it).
Mind the Gap: a Strategy to Try
Developed by Jack Wall, TEACCH Center, a quick and easy hands-on way to think through behaviors. Click to see a document that shows and demonstartes how to use this template. See below to download the template for use with individuals.
The Behavior Management Playing Field
Barbara Newman uses the analogy of a football field to provide insights into how to support students with behavior challenges, and have a smoother Sunday excperience.
Children’s Mental Health
Noticing children's Mental Health
A conversation with Dr. Sherri Rozema, school psychologist for All Belong, identifying ways to notice and address kids’ mental health changes.
The Church Supporting Kids’ Mental Health -1 minute clip
After our original session learning from Dr. Rozema, we had more questions. She graciously answered them in this follow-up video session. The first question was “How do we help when parents don’t want mental health supports for their child?”. Others include “What could churches do to come alongside families in need of professional mental health support??” and “is depression expressed differently in young children than in teens and adults?”
After considering what Dr. Rozema shared, one participant commented, “it’s like what I know to listen for in music: Frequency, Duration, Intensity. And in music, we also listen for changes in Tone.” In children’s mental health, perhaps we also can be aware of the tone in which behaviors and words are coming at us. Want to think through this more? Reach out to us!
Universal Design in Children’s Ministry
Including Children with Disabilities: Preparing a Place of Welcome
Barbara Newman's original recording of this presentation for churches. The MOST IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL KEY to including children and adults with disabilities is giving God-honoring INFORMATION to peers and volunteers. Learn practical strategies for preparing your congregation to eagerly receive those with disabilities into the body of Christ.
Adapting Games for All Abilities
Need a few ideas for how to adapt some high-activity games? Here are a few options to get you thinking
Reaching Virtually Every Child
Listen to this audio file of a presentation on how to reach each child, whether online or in person. See below to download and view the slidedeck while you listen!
Universal Design in Children's Ministry
A 45-minute workshop with Victoria White on Universal Design for Children’s ministry including ideas and resources for virtual ministry during and beyond the pandemic. See below for the handout.
Getting to Know Kids
Try using this “Get to Know Me” sheet to write down what you know and learn about an individual, one of the tools used in the following resources, and found in Barbara Newman’s book Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship.
Instructions on three ways you can connect with kids with varied abilities as a group, and one-on-one.
Here is a slidedeck that will take you through some ideas for connecting with kids with varied abilities.
For parents or caregivers, or can be used to interview an individual. This helps you get to know details about strengths and challenges, areas where supports or medical equipment may require learning by volunteers or staff.
Trauma-Informed Children’s Ministry
All Belong’s director of evaluation services, Betsy Winkle, Ed.S., provides a webinar on becoming trauma-informed for your children’s and youth ministries.
Becoming Trauma Informed Children's Ministry Leaders
Betsy WInkle, school psychologist, expert on trauma, and restorative practices trainer, shares insights for children's ministry leaders.
Part 1 only -What do we See?
28-minute video that is Part 1 of the entire 90-minute training by Betsy Winkle.
Download the handout for this training, and additional resources:
Creating Belonging with Youth
The Black Church and Inclusive Community
Multicultural Worship with Varied Abilities
Resources in Spanish!
Nuestra misión en Ministerio Amistad es proveer materiales para la formación en la fe y la educación inclusiva en las iglesias y comunidades en general.
Kai Ton Chau on Chinese culture
2 minutes of thoughts on Chinese culture from Kai Ton Chau (Resource Development Specialist, CICW)
Dr. Mariano Avila: Latino theology and disability
2-minutes of thought on Latino culture and disability from Mariano Avila (Director of Latino/a Ministry at Calvin Seminary)
Loving your neighbor in and through worship practices
Think more about preferring one another in worship, watch “Loving Your Neighbor In and Through Worship Practices” (plenary address panel discussion at the Symposium on Worship 2020)
Songs that Welcome and Songs that Send
See multicultural worship in action during the 2020 Symposium on Worship at Calvin: (Songs that Welcome and Songs that Send , about 1 hour long) -at 47 minutes, a brief message shares about multicultural worship followed by a great example re-framing worship songs in the hands of a DJ).
Denominational and other sources
Church Juice $8k grant
A Church Communications and Marketing grant of up to $8,000 from Church Juice by ReFrame Ministries can be used for initiatives in the area of Community, Strategy, Digital Ministry, Church Planting, and Technology. You can create greater accessibility and build belonging with grants in those areas!
Up to $1500 for projects
JAF maintains a fund for grants of up to $2,500 for projects that start or expand how your ministry supports persons with disabilities.
Lucas Project $1k grants
The Lucas Project offers $1,000 grants for starting a respite ministry for caregivers in your community.
Pathways $1k awards
Pathways.org offers annual $1,000 awards for inclusion efforts.
UMC Disability Ministries grants offered to churches within the UMC.
- Also look for denominational resources and offices, which might also offer grants:
- The CRC/RCA Disability Concerns crcna.org/disability/resources
- National Catholic Partnership on Disability ncpd.org/program-type/diocese-parishes
- ELCA elca.org/Resources/Disability-Ministry
- PCA engagingdisability.org/get-started/
- PCUSA presbyterianmission.org/ministries/theology-formation-and-evangelism/office-of-christian-formation/disability-inclusion-toolkit/ .
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship annually awards grants for worship-related projects. We would be delighted to partner with you in writing a grant that will explore inclusive worship!
Localized grant sources
Want to put on a conference or hold a training? Get funding from the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD).
Grants and other resources from the Center for Congregations (to communities in Indiana).
West Michigan Autism
Grants for families, teachers and churches for equipment or services particular to individuals with autism from the Autism Support of West Shore (local to West Michigan)
Gifts in the Congregation
Want to find out what gifts congregants might share if you asked them? Want a practical next step to complete your teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit? Here is a simple survey you can modify and use! Need to learn about needs for support? Simply want to know your congregation better? Or, for folks coming to a service or joining your programs for the first time, think about using an Intake Form that asks key questions. When you know supports are needed, you can follow up with a conversation or by filling out this Survey to develop a plan.
Inclusive Bible Study Materials
Take a look through the Together Curriculum! Partner Members have access to every unit!
Teach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year
A daily prayer book that guides in both listening to and speaking to God through songs, scripture readings, guided action, and quiet contemplation, organized to follow the life of Jesus through each season of the Christian calendar. Activities and options will engage people of all abilities.
Belonging: Accessibility, Inclusion, and Christian Community
We all miss out when any members of the body of Christ are not included. In this nine-session LifeGuide® Bible study, Deborah Abbs guides you to explore the deep love and acceptance of our heavenly Father and what it means for offering love and acceptance to one another. Through Old and New Testament stories and teachings on Christian community, we see how God responds in love to those who are often marginalized and excluded so that we too can welcome people of all different abilities.
Body Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive Community
Appropriate for the family dinner table, personal devotions, Christian school classroom devotions, and church groups, this book features 6 weeks of 7 devotionals. Each devotion highlights a passage of Scripture as well as a story from an ability-inclusive Christian school or church. The devotion book also offers opportunities for those reading to submit a story from their own community to All Belong for possible publication on the website or in a future book. We are delighted to offer this truly unique and inspirational resource written by Barbara J. Newman with theological support from Dr. Andrew J. Bandstra.
Devotions for Today
Learning with and from families and colleagues, we discovered that people need daily Scripture, but for persons living with dementia or other neurological differences, they may need it in very brief form. And pictures to accompany words will greatly increase engagement. We used images and passages from our TOGETHER curriculum to put together 52 one-sentence Scriptures with one-line prayers and a picture for each. Download the PDF or purchase a printed paperback, or use it as a Kindle e-book on Amazon .
Language that Builds Belonging
Guidance on Person-First Language
Are you looking for assistance as you share about inclusive community?
All Belong's Brand Guide
Explore the All Belong Brand Guide to learn how our core beliefs impact our language, visual communications, approach to storytelling, and more.
The CDC offers a comprehensive guide to communicating with and about people with disabilities. Consider offering this as a resource for your church and/or ministry to reference. Access the PDF here.
John Knight's Seminar
This manuscript of a seminar by John Knight at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors & Church Leaders, Minneapolis MN Feb. 2, 2020 makes excellent statements and gives Scriptural reasoning for thinking about disability and practical help for how to welcome, embrace, disciple and prepare for service those God has called to live an atypical life in this present age.
Team Belong offers these guidelines for person-first language when applying for their grants.
Videos & Courses
1-minute trailer for the video project known as Invisible Voices, and asks, “What do you think of when you hear the word disability?”
10-week course by Barbara Newman and Victoria White. Video teaching, readings, projects and more engage you in growing your capacity to lead ministry inclusively. NOTE: log in as a guest to see course content. Or enroll as a student of CLI to take advantage of all the features of the course and access other great learning thanks to CLI!
This 5-minute video by Turnstone (an organization in Indiana creating opportunities for persons with disabilities) gives practical and personal advice on addressing People first.
The Ten Dimensions of Belonging
A key component to how we understand building belonging with persons with varied abilities. See our resources about those dimensions, what they look like in community, and how that impacts the way in which we do ministry.
Learning to Minister Well
5 minutes of key ideas
Resources Tools Series Dr. John Swinton shares key ideas about the church’s role in supporting mental health (5 minutes)
Creating Belonging: Rethinking Cultural Contexts and Mental Health
Blog post (on Key Ministry’s blog, written by All Belong’s Victoria White)
Expanding Belonging: How the Church Can Lead Changes in Perceptions of Mental Health Challenges
A webinar by Key Ministry, with Victoria White on cultural learning, mental health challenges, and the church.
Q&A with Dr. John Swinton at our Virtual Circle of Congregations
Q&A session with Dr. John Swinton, author of Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges and professor of theology at King’s College, Aberdeen University, Scotland, on the current situation and the church’s place in supporting those with mental health challenges.
Study Guide for Finding Jesus in the Storm
A Study Guide to accompany John Swinton’s book, Finding Jesus in the Storm, developed by the CRCNA Disability Concerns. Useful as a personal guide to accompany the book, or as a group study, or as the basis for a learning & discussion series about mental health challenges
On Mental Health Challenges and the Church:
- Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges by John Swinton is a deep look at the complexity of life with mental health challenges and the simplicity of acting kindly as the church.
- Dr. Steve Grcevich’s book Mental Health and the Church provides guidance on building a ministry of inclusion for persons with mental health challenges.
Other Ministries with Resources
Grace Alliance: Thrive
Grace Alliance’s Thrive workbook is an excellent guide to renewing faith and wellbeing. Grace groups and information about other resources are also available on their website.
Mental Health & The Church, the ministry of Kay Warren abounds with strategy, videos and story for you to utilize.
Dr. Steve Grcevich, founder of Key Ministry provides informative training in the area of mental health ministry in this video series.
Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid is an excellent resource and training for anyone who may be called upon to support people with mental health challenges.
Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries
See their learning courses for ministering well with persons with mental health challenges, including a course focused on race, faith, and mental health, and a course specifically designed for Catholic believers.
We have collaborated with congregations to create a 7-week series on mental health education and conversations. More info here.
This well-being survey (adapted from Panorama’s student well-being survey) can be used by and with anyone in your community. Utilize it as a framework for a conversation; fill it out at a small group, support group, or Bible study as a check-in for everyone.
Responsive Design: Supports for Specific Needs
Congregational Practice Guide
This resource was put together by Dr. Erik Carter, et al at Vanderbilt University. Welcoming People with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families: A Practical Guide for Congregations
Engaging with Scripture with Low or No Reading Skills
The TOGETHER curriculum is full of ways to engage with Scripture as a group!
Scripture is important, and reading ability need not hinder us from taking it in! This article from the University of Aberdeen discusses dyslexia and reading the Bible. We’ve created a list of options to think about as well.
Set up like a comic book, not childish, but very visual. There are “text bubbles” and text boxes in the frames, but for someone at all familiar with the story, they are not necessary for understanding. This could be a great option to pair with listening to the audio version of a passage, flipping through the pages of this while listening. You’ll notice on the product link here that they also sell coloring pages and a variety of things that could be helpful.
YouVersion Bible app has audio versions of just about every translation. See https://www.youversion.com/products/ for information about the Bible app and the Bible app for kids (has animations). In the app are features like the audio bible, videos of Scripture, videos from The Bible Project (more about that below), and other great resources.
YouTube videos that explain, show, and share Scripture with visuals. Engaging for people of all ages and abilities.
Episodes from Jesus’ birth to the Sermon on the Mount, with more to come. The “backstage” videos of that series are also superbly done and highly informative. The series is free to watch on any Roku device -they are on a free channel called “Angel Studios”, or there is an app that is also free, or the show can be found on this website, along with other great resources you might enjoy looking into.
Video narratives that are Bible-based and designed to spark your imagination, each video is 12-18 minutes long and addresses a portion of the Bible from the viewpoint of a Bible character. Study guides also available.
Graphically gripping. It’s not as long/all encompassing as the Action Bible, but captures in images most of the significant characters and stories, providing the story-arc of Scripture in detailed imagery.
There is a movement right called the Public Reading of Scripture that is utilizing audio recordings of Scripture to have groups of people listen to Scripture in public (at schools, work, churches, community centers, etc.)
Talking Bibles are used all around the world in many languages. You could see about getting one, or use the website
How do you wrap around an individual or family, even beyond a crisis situation, providing long-term support that ebbs and flows with their life with a disability or condition?
Our consultants would love to help you talk through starting a Wrap Around support team! Modify this document as you need to, in order to make it useful to you. Our consultants can help you think about ways to collect and store information, communicate with everyone, and set up schedules, and gatherings to check in and to celebrate, and talk through barriers you may encounter.
Introduction to Community Teams
40-minute presentation from our 2021 Circle of Congregations Consultation, where Joy Hartman of Moran Park Church (Holland, MI) presented on Wrap-around support teams, as she learned from Barb Newman how to create them.
Are rides the biggest logistical issue? Try using this website to coordinate drivers and rides the family knows and trusts, while providing great choice for all who volunteer to provide the ride. GoLou.org (started by a mom!)
Walking Through Grief
This resource contains information and tips you can use to support individuals in their grief.
Volunteer Engagement Ideas
All of the resources in this library (on this page) are helpful for equiping staff and volunteers. Want help organizing how to use it all well? We’d love to work with you! If you’re looking for how to get those volunteers, try some of these ideas from the late director of Friendship Ministries, Nella Uitvlugt: 13 Ways to Recruit, our updated list of even more ideas, and this set of ideas from the late Barbara Newman:
Universal Design for Worship
All About Options
As Barb Newman says, Universal Design is all about options. Hear her explain it in these videos:
Barb Newman on Options for Participation
Participation for all -that's the idea behind Universal Design. What kind of options are we offering?
Shredded Cheese: Another way of thinking about Universal Design
With her church-as-a-casserole analogy, Barb illustrates what ministry can look like that permeates all of ministry.
Universal Design Plenary Session at the Worship Symposium
Watch Barbara J. Newman’s one-hour presentation at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship on Universal Design by following this link.
Universal Design explained
Universal design’ is now standard for architecture: we don’t want to retrofit buildings to make them accessible, we want to build them that way from the start. What would it look like for this vision to be extended to the worship services we plan and lead? This 2-minute explanation tells about what Universal Design for Ministry means.
Download our Role Based Tips, which you can share and highlight with others in your congregation and/or ministry. Through this resource, everyone can find their role, their tasks, and learn how we can all build belonging through practical tips and tools. By having a few simple ideas for how each role in the congregation or ministry can create belonging and welcome for persons with varied abilities, you can make a big impact through even small changes.
Church Welcome Story
A church welcome story uses personalized elements to create a story about what may happen when someone comes to your church. By showing examples and images customized for your ministry, people of all abilities can have a clear understanding of what to expect when attending your church program.
Other Universal Design Tools
Planning worship that is accessible in a variety of ways for a variety of people is possible! Here are some ideas to get you going (35 minutes)
These simple tools can make worship accessible to a variety of people, especially children.
In this Slideshow you'll be introduced to the Vertical Habits. If you'd like more training or information on this topic, let us know!
At our Circle of Congregations Consultation 2021, one of the projects presented was also experienced as a worship time. In this recording (less than 40 minutes), Amy Troyer from The Chapel in Green, and Vitoria White describe the background and elements of the worship project. All of the resources for worshiping in your setting using the guide, songs, and other materials are available in the guide.