Autism and Adult Ministries
In the coming years, we expect to see more adults with autism navigating church body life. It is important to lay a foundation for adult ministries in the church for rising teens with autism. And it is important for congregations who already have adults with autism to buoy the areas of church that are challenging to navigate.
Facilitating Growth in Christ
- Get to know your adults with autism. Some may need adapted Bible lessons. Adult Bible studies and Sunday School classes typically have one person speaking for 30–60 minutes. Auditory lectures are difficult for the brains of many people with autism to process.
- Incorporate more discussion into the lessons. Allow extra time for those who process slowly to participate.
- Incorporate visuals into the lesson. PowerPoint slides are an age-appropriate way to offer visuals.
- Create life-on-life discipleship opportunities. One-on-one relationships can greatly facilitate spiritual growth and meet relational needs at the same time. These might be structured mentor-mentee settings or simply two friends enjoying coffee and reading the Bible or praying together.
Facilitating Relationships with Others
One of the biggest challenges for many adults with autism is developing meaningful, long-term relationships with others. Ideas for intentional relationship-building:
- Create opportunities for serving alongside others. This lets adults with autism use their gifts and establish relationships that do not revolve around their own needs.
- Personally invite adults with autism to join your small groups. This could be men’s or women’s Bible studies, prayer groups, workout groups, or ministry breakfasts.
- Create avenues for building relationships outside of church. Work on a hobby or project together. Do yard work, run errands, go to a movie, or grab a burger.
- Take adults to age-appropriate events in the community that they might not know about. What cultural events do adults regularly attend in the community? Are your adults with autism there? If not, take them and help them navigate those venues as needed.
Strategies for Adults with Autism Who Want to Serve
Adults with autism often want—and need—meaningful places to contribute within the church. Contribution is a major part of our discipleship process and how we develop relationships with others around church. As you think of places that your adults can serve, here are a few guiding tips:
- Consider the social skills required for the task. In some churches the person handing out the bulletins is expected be a greeter and answer questions, while in other churches there are greeters or ushers who attend to the social side.
- Consider the repetition required for the task. Highly repetitive tasks can add predictability and confidence to a task. Examples include: room set-up, copying church bulletins, entering Sunday school attendance data into the computer, setting up audio equipment, running the PowerPoint slides during worship.
- Consider the problem-solving required for the task. Some individuals thrive on problem solving, while others do not. Consider whether there is variability to the task and if problem-solving skills are needed before asking individuals to serve.
- Consider strategically adding another adult. Everyone needs friends across all stages of life. Having someone to serve alongside can enable an adult with autism to gain a new friend, learn a new skill, and eliminate problematic variables all at once. Adding a friend opens up possibilities for serving within the community and on missions trips.
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