“There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ.”1 Corinthians 12:12
The Senior Pastor is just one part of the church, but this leadership position holds the ability to create and sustain an inclusive environment at church. This is a type of community where each part of the body of Christ has the space to thrive and demonstrate their unique gifts. As God calls all his children to come to him, here are some ways you as a Senior Pastor can facilitate worship for members of your congregation with disabilities.
Set the precedent. As the church’s spiritual leader, it’s important than you (and other church leaders) are intentional about inclusivity. Small actions from the church’s leaders can translate to big changes within your church.
Make Universal Design a priority. This means designing buildings and equipment in a way that is accessible to everybody. Universal design encompasses things like ramps, headsets for the hard of hearing, and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. Talk to your pastoral staff about creating a seperate offering fund if your church lacks this kind of equipment. Universal design is crucial as it can subtly signal to ALL members they are welcome to your church. An inclusive church should look and feel like one, too.
Language. It’s possible that you have accidentally used ableist language during a sermon or meeting. This article from the National Center on Disability and Journalism describes what kind of language is appropriate and what is not when referring to people with disabilities. We encourage you to read this and exhort your congregation to implement inclusive language as well.
Inclusive Ministry. Inclusive ministry means exemplifying a welcoming Christ-like love to ALL members of your church. As Disability Matters founder Ellen Stumbo said, “if your church can love, your church can have a disability ministry.” You can also plant a specific ministry where members of your congregation with and without disabilities can study the Bible together. We offer tons of resources to implement this kind of ministry, and would love to help you begin! Visit TOGETHER to get started.