Circle of Congregations for Teaching and Learning

The Circle of Congregations for Teaching and Learning is a project of the Church Services division of All Belong that is supported by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. It is a cohort of congregations from around the U.S. already using innovative practices to worship, learn, fellowship and serve with people of all abilities. Each congregation is participating in the following ways:

  • Two representatives from each congregation attend a 2 1/2 day consultation event in Grand Rapids, MI filled with networking, training, inspiration, and discussion.
  • Each congregation commits to learning with and from one another throughout 12 months. Engagement in the Circle of Congregations consists of:
    • Partner membership with All Belong. This provides access to All Belong’s Member resource library as well as the Together curriculum for use within the participating congregation. Member partners also benefit from training, consulting, and other support from All Belong.
    • Discussion groups, book studies, and collaborative projects (such as those which have become resources seen below).
    • Presentations and resources provided by All Belong on specific topics at the fall event and online throughout the year.
    • Sharing best practices for building belonging for people of all abilities. This sharing begins with one another at the fall gathering in Grand Rapids and continues through online opportunities, conferences, and other platforms beyond this Circle.

Each congregation comes with a unique perspective, background, cultural experience, and setting. This fills the circle with richness. It is our hope that this circle fuels the innovative inclusion of persons of all abilities in congregations everywhere.





In 2020 we could not gather in-person to celebrate all that came from our first year with the Circle. This video provides a snapshot of our online gathering in November of 2020.











The Consultation is held at the Prince Conference Center on the campus of Calvin University.

A map of the building layout is available here.

Trails surrounding the building are mapped out here.

Grand Rapids airport (GRR) is 15 minutes from the campus.

Prince Conference Center at Calvin University

Preview video for 2021 event

Tuesday, October 19

4:00-4:30 pm Refreshments, Photo Booth & Remembrance Station
4:30-5:00 pm Welcome & Introductions
5:00-5:15 pm* TED-ish Talk: Cultural Contexts & Varied Abilities in Worship
  Discussion at tables (Virtual: on Zoom)
5:30-5:45 pm* TED-ish Talk: From Friends to Co-Laborers
  Discussion at tables (Virtual: on Zoom)
6:00-7:00 pm Supper with Discussion (Virtual: respond to video, take a break)
7:00-7:45 pm* Presentation 1: Sermon Series on Belonging
7:45-8:00 pm* Evening Prayer laced with Worship led by Neal Plantinga

Wednesday, October 20

8:30-8:45 am* Devotions
8:45-9:30 am* Presentation 2: Mental Health Series
9:35-10:20 am* Presentation 3: Small Group Training Module & Standards of Best Practices in Congregations
10:40-11:10 am Small-Group Discussions (Virtual: on Zoom)
11:15-11:30 am Small-Groups Check-in Circle
  Lunch, Trail Walk (optional)
12:30-1:10 pm* Teaching Session 1: Wrap Around Support Teams
1:15-2:00 pm* Teaching Session 2: Together Curriculum
2:05-2:50 pm* Panel Discussion: Planting, Partnering, and other Possibilities
3:00-4:15 pm Field Trip Location 1: Westview CRC, 2929 Leonard St. NW
4:35-5:30 pm Field Trip Location 2: City Hope GR, 1020 Monroe Ave NW
6:15-7:15 pm Supper with Discussion
7:30-8:30 pm Presentation 4 & Evening Worship (Virtual: content online)


Thursday, October 21

8:30-8:45 am* Morning Worship: Lament, Blessing, Praise
8:45-9:30 am* Re-Membering the Body, Remembering Barb: Moving Forward
  Break, Group Photo
10:00-10:55 am Discussion: Collaborative projects for 2021-22
11:00-11:25 am Closing, Evaluation/Feedback (Virtual: form online)
11:30 am-12:30 pm Lunch

* Indicates real-time Livestreaming for Virtual Participation

Current Happenings:


Resources Developed by the Circle of Congregations

This series is designed to be a 7-week educational opportunity. This is a great way to bring in community experts as well as allow someone in your congregation to share a personal experience, all within the context of your community learning together how to better support mental health and those who have mental health challenges.

These sessions are engaging for people with varying abilities through video, conversation, discussion, prayer, and handouts. If you would like to talk with one of our consultants about adapting this for people with specific needs, see the tips in our small group training module, or reach out to us at

Click here to be directed to the landing page for this series.

Accessible Worship Symposium participants paintingClick here to be directed to the landing page for this 4-part training module resource.

Small groups, house churches, and other groups can utilize these brief sessions to build a strong, healthy, informed community.

Videos, interactive activities, and discussion prompts equip your group to intentionally prepare for and welcome persons with varied abilities.

How can the church consistently build belonging with people with varied abilities across campuses or a whole denomination? Standards of Best Practices can serve as something to aim for, and show where you are currently.

These standards are rooted in Best Practices for Building Belonging in Congregations, which is a webpage full of ideas for the entire congregation, sorted by the roles in the life of the church.

Explore the standards, video clips to implore and inspire leadership in thinking about people with varied abilities fully participating in church life, and recommended resources for further learning on the Standards Page

Click here to go to the landing page for the Worship Session resources.

You can go directly to our Spotify list of songs used in this event to become familiar with them.

We are excited to worship with you and would love to know when you use these resources and what feedback you have for us.

First Presbyterian Church Aurora (IL) created and conducted a 7-week sermon series focusing on the 10 dimensions of belonging identified by persons with disabilities.


Find out more on the landing page.