There are many simple, ordinary ways to educate your congregation in disability ministry. We typically think of training and education as a formal process with a teacher. But greater understanding and lasting change often comes from including information, tips, and reminders in the church’s usual means of communication.
Consider the following ideas for how your church might be able to better include, represent, and share about disability:
Worship bulletins can set expectations. Worship bulletins often devote space to announcements and matters pertaining to church body life. Take time to craft a paragraph that welcomes families with disabilities and sets expectations for the congregation that the church accepts people whose behavior is different.
TIP: Include in your statement that your church is okay with extra noise. “Those are the sounds of belonging in the body of Christ.”
Advertising matters and helps everyone. Find a way to let everyone know what is available for kids, teens, and adults with disabilities. This communicates to all what your commitment is to families touched by disability. Advertising creates an atmosphere where people with disabilities are valued and enfolded well into the congregation.
TIP: Use your existing forms of advertising, such as your website, Facebook page, church bulletin, and children’s ministry policy manuals. If you are worried that you don’t offer enough, be honest. Try a statement like: “We are growing in how we enfold our families with special needs. Please let us know how we may accommodate your needs. We want you to worship and grow with us.”
Spend time with greeters, ushers, and deacons. Our greeters, ushers, and deacons are committed to welcoming people into the church every week. Don’t assume that they know how and are comfortable welcoming families with disabilities.
TIP: If you can’t meet with these “first responders” in person, consider an email that gives useful tips for welcoming families and helping them navigate the halls to Sunday School or worship.
Tap into ministries that already have training events. Children’s, youth, and women’s ministries almost always have regular training for volunteers and teachers. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, consider asking if you can use a small portion of the training time to educate them on families with disabilities.
TIP: If you don’t have ladies with disabilities in your Bible studies, consider the training a prime time to encourage leadership to invite ladies who may otherwise be excluded. Do the same in other ministries, too.
Choose the ministry area that most needs buoying and focus there. There is never enough time to do all the training we want. Don’t be overwhelmed with what you can’t get to. Instead, use the time you have wisely and choose one or two areas that most need attention.
TIP: If you have more than one need—such as five new children with disabilities and several seniors who have stopped coming to church—focus on the area of greatest need first. Then branch out as time allows.
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