Role-Based Tips for Inclusive Congregations

No matter what role you fulfill, you can be a part of creating a community of belonging in your congregation for persons of all abilities. To get started, look up your role in the congregation. As you read through the various roles, consider how the suggestions might benefit everyone in your community, regardless of ability, age, or stage of life. The list of ideas and tools is not intended to be exhaustive rather to start you thinking of additional ideas for your congregation and setting.

These examples will include the terms universal design and responsive design. Here is a brief explanation of each term:

  • Universal design is a way of designing buildings, products, and environments that make them accessible to all people, with and without disabilities.
  • Responsive design is the process of getting to know an individual and then responding to that person’s strengths and challenges by putting together a personalized plan for use within the activities of the church.

You can download a PDF of this entire list, along with  other documents from our library, by completing this form. 

Accessibility or Inclusion Advocate / Coordinator

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Identify and recommend changes to overcome barriers for inclusive community.
  2. Coordinate information, training, and other resources to equip your community to include people of all abilities. Your role is to resource existing ministry leaders to include persons with disabilities within their ministries, not house a separate program.
  3. Identify and connect with individuals/families impacted by disability to gather information and provide the right support.
  4. Along with that individual, advocate for those in your church who have disabilities (e.g., offer a discussion with the individual or family to ask the church to make accommodations so they do not have to do it themselves).
  5. Equip and support church staff and volunteers; share your appreciation regularly.
  6. Learn more about and share All Belong’s “Puzzle Piece” perspective, theology of inclusion, and the “See/Think/Do” process.

Practical Tools

  • Contact All Belong at (616) 245-8388 or info@allbelong.org for information about the ongoing support of Membership, or to find out about consultation, observation, training, and/or congregational assessment services.
  • Use the G.L.U.E. Manual and Training DVD by Barbara J. Newman and Kimberly Luurtsema for help in creating the Disability Advocate / Coordinator role, and for support creating a Wrap-Around Support Team for individuals and families. Order online at
  •  See denominational resources such as:
  •  Western Theological Seminary offers a Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry: westernsem.edu
  • The Christian Leader’s Institute has an online course by Barbara Newman and Victoria White on Creating Congregations of Belonging for a 12-week overview of this topic. Find out about it from CLI: youtube.com/watch?v=NbcBoucRG28
  • The Together Curriculum by Friendship Ministries offers many ideas for adapting inclusive adult small group curriculum to the needs of individuals: togethersmallgroups.org
  • Joni and Friends has a short document to help advocates think about how to approach leadership in the church: joniandfriends.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/talking-to-church-leadership.pdf
  • Browse the All Belong blog and online store for more resources: allbelong.org

Announcement Communicator / Presenter (both verbal and printed)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Use a microphone connected to the sound system.
  2. Highlight available accessibility services, items, and options (e.g. accessible bathrooms, valet parking, elevator, gluten-free options, location of fidget tools, website location for visuals, etc.).
  3. Communicate options, such as the fragrance-free zone, gluten-free options, or where to find praise streamers.
  4. Have announcements/bulletin available in various forms for easy accessibility (e.g. digital, print, on screen, a picture option, etc.). Large print copies should be available for attendees who have visual differences. For all print and projected materials, strive for optimum readability for all participants
  5. Work with the presentation creator to ensure images of worship and activities include persons with disabilities.

Practical Tools:

Assistant / Buddy (paired with persons with disabilities)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Arrange for specific requests (e.g. sign language interpreter or transportation).
  2. Collect supports in a timely fashion (e.g. get sermon notes or Presentation outline or slides and distribute digitally ahead of time).
  3. Connect with the individual or family to determine what support is needed and make it happen.
  4. Get training in specific areas of care, learn about the disability and the person.
  5. Provide necessary support during church activities, helping to modify activities and curriculum as needed.
  6. Work with Support Team members to coordinate and maintain a consistent schedule and promote healthy relationships with the individual/family and within the team.

Practical Tools

Caregiver

Universal and Responsive Design

  1. Be willing to share and receive help for your own needs, as well as the needs of the person for whom you care. Be understanding about how much others can step in to do.
  2. Consider a Wrap-Around Support Team to develop intentional, supportive community around you and your loved ones.
  3. Share information about the gifts of the person for whom you care, so they are meaningfully serving God within community.
  4. Get involved in service and fellowship opportunities in the church (outside of the caregiver role). For example, use a respite day to participate in an outreach project, spa day, class, crafting event, or service day. Spend time developing your own gifts and talents.

Practical Tools:

  • Utilize organizational tools such as The Caregivers Notebook: An Organizational Tool and Support to Help You Care for Others by Jolene Philo: differentdream.com/2014/11/caregivers-notebook-vlog-series-how-to-use-it/
  • Individually study or join a study/support group of Mary Tutterow’s The Heart of the Caregiver: From
  • Overwhelmed to Overjoyed: theheartofthecaregiver.com/
  • Find resources, information, and support groups to connect caregivers on the Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving website: caregiver.org
  • Utilize the G.L.U.E. Training Manual and Training DVD by Barbara J. Newman and Kimberly Luurtsema for assistance creating a Wrap-Around Support Team: allbelong.org/shop/
  • Find examples of how to share the gifts of the person for whom you care in Body Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive Community by Barbara J. Newman: allbelong.org/shop/

Children's Message Provider / Teacher

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Know the “big idea” in your message and use multisensory ways to emphasize it in your message (e.g. object in special container, music and songs, catchy saying, movement, pictures, or video).
  2. Provide multiple ways for all children to interact with the message (e.g. pressing a button on a pre-recorded device (see link below), answering by pointing to pictures or giving a thumbs up/thumbs down, being the Scripture reader, etc.).
  3. Provide opportunities for movement as well as structured seating options (e.g. sitting or standing, fidget tools, small rocker, carpet squares, pair planned movement with the message, etc.)
  4. Be familiar with the children of your church community and connect with the Disability Advocate/Inclusion Coordinator to provide any support that is needed for all children to participate (e.g. wheelchair accessibility, sound blockers, a large print Bible, etc.).
  5. Invite a child who may be anxious or need extra time to adjust to new settings the chance to visit the space or sanctuary when it’s empty. This could involve arriving early or visiting the space the day before. Practice your children’s message with that child and their parent and allow the child to practice where to sit, how to participate, and when to ask questions. Give the child the option of “reserving a seat” with a name card.

Practical Tools

  • Recording devices, such as “speech buttons” are available at ablenetinc.com/
  • Use Friendship Ministry’s guide for adapting lessons to the needs of your group: access.togethersmallgroups.org/general/adapting-the-sessions-to-the-needs-of-your-group/
  • The Inclusive Worship Kit includes a sample visual schedule you can use in a children’s ministry setting along with many tools for non-verbal communication. Order online at allbelong.org/shop/
  • The Inclusion Awareness Kit contains a lesson plan and the needed supplies to allow children and adults to see each individual as an important and gifted piece of “God’s body puzzle”.  The lesson plan lets you target any age group and offers an appealing final display.  The plan also suggests ways in which you can allow group members to better understand the gifts and needs of an individual with a disability. Order online at  
  • Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities by Barbara J. Newman supplies tools for teachers, peers, and parents of peers by giving basic information for educators concerning specific disabilities, lesson plans for teaching peers about those areas of disability, and sample letters that can be adapted to send home to parents of peers. Order online at allbelong.org/shop/ 
  • Every Child Welcome by Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo, walks through the steps of creating a welcoming children’s ministry for children with disabilities, and includes practical tools, resources, links and ideas. Order from your favorite book retailer.
  • Utilize the All Belong Preferred language guide.docx.
  • See also: cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/pdf/DisabilityPoster_Photos.pdf
  • See this people-first language reference: askearn.org/topics/retention-advancement/disability-etiquette/people-first-language/

Clerical Support

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Consider adding pictures to the Order of Worship (see our samples for examples), and/or have an interactive bulletin for children and adults who learn best through pictures and hands-on activities.
  2. Provide printed or digital copies of the sermon outline and other materials if requested, including large print or making it available online (for use on a personal device).
  3. Your church’s accessibility options should be described on the church voicemail and website, as well as clearly marked throughout the church.
  4. Good universal design practices will make specific requests rare. However, when you do receive a request for a specialized need (e.g. equipment, sign language interpreter, etc.), respond within a day. Let the individual or care giver know the length of time until the need will be met, what the process is, who else they will connect with, etc.
  5. Connect individual’s gifts and needs with the appropriate resources or ministry. Use intake and attendance forms to learn of an individual’s areas of interest and needs, and pass those on to the appropriate personnel.
  6. Provide a preview of the church setting and activities with a Church Welcome Story.

Practical Tools

Congregation Member

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Work to make your church the most welcoming group of people in your community. Follow the example of Jesus and make a practice of showing hospitality to people of all abilities, cultures, and backgrounds.
  2. Get to know individuals and families in your church, their areas of strength and areas of struggle so that you all can support one another and participate in worship.
  3. Encourage the gifts of all persons to be included in the church community.
  4. Learn disability etiquette and person-first language.
  5. Become informed about topics that impact fellow congregants such as areas of disability, issues related to mental health, cultural contexts, and trauma.

Practical Tools

Facility / Maintenance Crew Member

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Welcome congregants’ use of their gifts and abilities, supporting them as needed.
  2. Post clear signs that direct people to accessible entrances, services, and other options.
  3. Conduct an Accessibility Audit (see practical tools below for links).
  4. Work toward your entire church campus being barrier free.
  5. Assure that there is adequate lighting in all of the church’s common areas (for signing and individuals with low vision). Make sure sign language interpreters and individuals who are speaking, or reading are not in the shadows.
  6. Maintain all railings, steps, ramps, doors, seats, etc. so that all remain safe and sturdy.
  7. Ask families and individuals what needs they have. Be sensitive and willing to accommodate by offering gluten free foods, fragrance free areas, quiet spaces, sound control, even thinking about ways to support individuals in their homes if worshiping from home is their best option.

Practical Tools

Financial Team Leader or Member

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Get to know individuals with disabilities and their families. Ask about their gifts, along with the needs they may have.
  2. Budget for universal design of the physical environment and communications. This might include budgeting for building changes, special foods, special equipment, transportation assistance, additional staff, etc.
  3. When appropriate, raise funds for needs of a family or members of the congregation with a disability, or for special equipment or items for the church.
  4. Provide an avenue for those involved in various ministries to share what items are needed for full participation.
  5. Consider costs associated with accessibility and inclusivity as an on-going budget item for your congregation.
  6. Consider adding a staff member (full or part time) who can support each ministry of your congregation in being intentional about including people of all abilities.

Practical Tools

  • Grants are available through various organizations to support inclusion and universal design:
    • The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship offers Vital Worship Grants focused on projects that connect public worship to intergenerational faith formation and Christian discipleship. If your need fits within this theme, consider applying for a Vital Worship Grant at calvin.edu.
    • Through the Open Hearts Awards, org provides grants up to $1,000 to recognize houses of faith and religious schools across the U.S. for their efforts to welcome individuals of all abilities and help fund access and inclusion projects. Learn more at pathways.org/team-w/overview/.
    • Depending on your denomination, some funds may be available through your governing structure.
  • In some cases, further costs for your congregation may need to be considered based on your situation (e.g. insurance due to equipment, building maintenance or materials to increase accessibility, etc.)

Hospitality Crew Leader or Member

(This includes individuals who welcome guests, serve refreshments, provide transportation or meals, and more.)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Invite persons of all abilities who have the gift of friendliness to be greeters (or similar positions).
  2. Train greeters and others to be welcoming and understanding of persons who may miss social cues or respond differently.
  3. Offer to transport individuals with physical or mobility limitations to congregational functions (this may involve a little research into transportation options).
  4. Present dietary need-based options with equal ease of access and proper identification. Alternatively, when putting out refreshments, communicate whether foods contain common allergens (such as sugar, wheat/gluten, corn, soy, dairy, or nuts).
  5. Know the tools and services available in your church (such as large print Bibles, sensory tools, and the sign language interpreter) as well as persons to connect families with who have questions regarding accessibility.
  6. Create a welcome video. Similar to how you might look up photos of a hotel for an upcoming trip, consider having a video of your church available on your website to offer guests a preview of what they can expect when they visit for the first time. Provide the information in a printed book form if website is not available.

Practical Tools

Library / Bookstore Supplier

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Stock books about disability theology, specific disabilities, mental health, trauma and inclusion.
  2. Have certain books in multiple formats, such as digital and large print.
  3. Provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to work in the library (based on their abilities). Make accommodations if necessary. A person with a disability can be a great resource to others in the church!
  4. Communicate the resources on disability that are available in your library or bookstore.
  5. Be prepared to suggest links to online book options for those unable to access print materials.

Practical Tool

  • Consider carrying books and resources from All Belong such as I Choose Adam, and Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship or other titles on our . Call us at 616.245.8388 for special pricing or inquire at allbelong.org
  • A Membership with All Belong provides access to an online library of resources (articles, training videos, and more) as well as connects your congregation with consultants.

Lord's Supper (Communion) Server

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Have a gluten-free option available and communicate its placement.
  2. Provide a non-alcoholic option.
  3. Make sure the method you use for distributing the elements will connect with each person who wishes to partake. For example, a person with Cerebral Palsy may need someone to make the bread very soggy and place it in a specific spot in their mouth. You must know the individuals in your congregation and/or offer alternatives.
  4. Make the Lord’s Supper delivery method physically accessible to each participant. Are there stairs involved? Are the elements passed in the pew? Will someone present participation options to those unable to get up or reach for it?
  5. Clearly communicate (through spoken and written words, and visuals) how your church distributes and takes the Lord’s Supper and who is welcome to participate.

Practical Tools

  • Customize the Communion Story to help individuals understand the significance of taking the Lord’s Supper. Find a sample here:
  • There is a written version of the social story for “Celebrating Communion at Faith Church” in Barbara J. Newman’s book Autism and Your Church (see pg. 115), found at allbelong.org/shop.

Ministry Director

(Includes Children’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Outreach Ministry, etc.)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Share the vision for welcoming all individuals into the church body and ministries of your church.
  2. Provide training in accessibility awareness and etiquette to all leadership.
  3. Include people with disabilities in committees and/or other leadership roles based on their gifts.
  4. Have an Accessibility Advocate and/or Inclusion Team.
  5. Adopt a policy on disability.
  6. Hold training sessions and discussion or support groups for the congregation on topics such as dementia, mental health, trauma, autism, etc.
  7. Encourage people of all abilities to engage in the various ministries and activities in the congregation, showing you are ready to include each person in these areas and provide needed accommodations.

Practical Tools

Presentation Creator

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Videos and other media should include captions when possible.
  2. Words on screens should not be crowded. Make sure the text is large enough to easily read (we suggest a minimum font size of 36, with 8 lines or less on a slide).
  3. If you use backgrounds on slides with words, do not add effects or distracting images.
  4. Use contrast to make words clearer. For example, a blue background with yellow text is easier to read than black text on white screen.
  5. Presentations should be available ahead of time for individuals to download onto personal devices, especially if other visual accommodations are more difficult.

Practical Tools

Prayer Team Member

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Some individuals may need instruction in prayer. For example, instead of just speaking the Lord’s Prayer, give a context for those words or write a small explanation or add visuals.
  2. Develop relationships with the congregation and provide multiple ways for members to communicate prayer needs (e.g. email, text, phone call, anonymously, written, pointing to a picture, signing, using a communication device, etc.).
  3. If you are praying one-on-one with an individual, make sure you ask permission before you touch that person.
  4. If you are praying one-on-one with an individual, carry post it notes and a pen. Some individuals may benefit from you writing down key phrases or an illustration of your prayer to take with them.
  5. If asked to pray for healing of a person with a disability, be very cautious and proceed ONLY by following the lead of the individual with the disability.

Practical Tools

Preacher

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Know your “big idea” and emphasize that big idea in multi-sensory ways (e.g. make up a catchy phrase, set the big idea to music, show a picture on a Power Point, have an object to show and/or interact with, include congregational movement, or make sermon notes with words and pictures).
  2. Plant times within the sermon where there can be interaction between the congregation and pastor (e.g. respond to a question, give a thumbs up or thumbs down response, participate in a role play, talk about something with the person next to you, or act out an example or section of Scripture).
  3. Not only think about the words you want to say but also how those words will be received. What would you understand if you were an individual with failing memory, a person who interprets language literally, a person with a lower IQ, an English Language Learner, a person with limited hearing, a new believer, a person from a different country,  background, or denomination? How could you change one thing in your sermon to make a better connection?
  4. If your sermon is lengthy, consider offering options for movement (e.g. a rocking chair for an individual that needs to move, options to sit or stand, a smaller environment where movement is welcome, and providing hand fidgets or tools throughout the sanctuary).
  5. Watch your wording. “Please rise in body or in spirit” allows all to participate whereas, “Please stand” will leave out those who are unable to do so.
  6. Consider making a sermon outline available for people to pick up before the service for the sake of people with differences in hearing, attention span, language processing and memory.
  7. Take care when preaching on healing miracles not to assume that all people with disabilities want to be healed.
  8. When announcing births of children with disabilities, announce the birth of a child, not a disability.
  9. Remember people with non-visible disabilities in the congregational prayer sometimes, such as asking God for grace for people living with mental health conditions and their family members.
  10. Ask for help! Others in the congregation may be gifted at finding visuals or objects to accompany your ideas, making outlines, or adding in movements.

Practical Tools

Product Purchaser

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Choose products that are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic whenever possible.
  2. Choose candles that are unscented and non-petroleum based.
  3. Find out if gluten-free, sugar-free, or allergen-free foods are necessary for certain individuals and keep them in stock. ALWAYS offer a gluten-free bread or wafer option for the Lord’s Supper.
  4. Keep a supply of items individuals with sensory or visual differences may need (e.g. sound blockers, ear plugs, fidgets, braille Bibles and books, large print Bibles and books, etc.).
  5. See that seating options are safe and appropriate. They should be sized correctly and stable for the individuals utilizing them.
  6. Provide seating options that offer movement (e.g. wiggle cushion or Hokki stool) or structure (e.g. chair with arms, rocking chair, or bean bag chair).

Practical Tools

  • AbleNet carries many adaptive technology solutions (including speech buttons and other devices): ablenetinc.com
  • The Therapy Shoppe carriers many items for sensory differences (such as wiggle cushions, theraband and fidget items): therapyshoppe.com
  • The Inclusion Tool Kit and Inclusive Worship Kit provide different sensory tools: allbelong.org/shop
  • To purchase Braille signs in English, Spanish, and Bilingual see compliancesigns.com
  • You’ll find the Hokki stool and other seating options from Kaplanco or Amazon: kaplanco.com/shop/furniture/hokki-stools or amazon.com

Scripture Reader

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Use a microphone that’s connected to a sound system.
  2. Post the words on the screen. Include simple pictures whenever possible.
  3. Post the reading ahead of time online for those who may use a digital device or need it in large print.
  4. If gifted in this way, invite a person with a disability to be the Scripture reader or part of a team reading Scripture.
  5. Consider using technology in your Scripture reading through providing audio options for those who struggle with reading. Provide speech buttons for those who could read Scripture by pressing a pre-recorded button or series of buttons.
  6. Provide access to large print Bibles.

Practical Tools

  • Use tools like the YouVersion app for audio options and to share Scripture online ahead of time. Visit youversion.com for more information.
  • Use speech buttons to include individuals with communication differences. Order ablenetinc.com
  • For more information on hearing loops, see hearingloop.org.

Sound Crew Leader or Member

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Microphones should be used at all times by anyone who is speaking.
  2. Watch the volume! There are many who appreciate a quieter area or at least a way to dampen the sound. If this isn’t possible, consider finding the best range and setting for persons with noise sensitivity.
  3. See how you can connect your tech systems (e.g. hearing loop, translation service, projecting the Presentation on to personal devices, etc.).
  4. Mentor someone. The tech arena is a great place to serve for an individual who may need movement or hands-on involvement to engage in church. Look for an individual who is eager to get connected in church and train that individual.

Practical Tool

Support Group Leader or Member

(Such as a depression support group, or support group for parents)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Pray for and with your group regularly.
  2. Set up boundaries for the focus of the group, discussion topics and times, confidentiality, and considerations for who, what, when, where, and how discussions are appropriate.
  3. Engage group members with varied abilities, allowing people to share their strengths and be supported in areas that are more difficult for them. Plan group meetings in such a way that all participate, adapting as necessary.
  4. As a group, host training, awareness, and/or fun events for your church and community to engage in this topic.
  5. Gather and share resources available within and outside your group and church.

Practical Tools

Teacher or Leader

Includes adult and youth.

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Wear a name tag
  2. Adapt material/lessons based on the needs and abilities of your class or group.
  3. Always use person-first language, unless the person with a disability requests a different way of speaking.
  4. Receive training in areas of specific disabilities, behavior management, person-first language, etc.
  5. Utilize the knowledge, experience, and resources of local experts: members of the congregation and community who know about the individuals with disabilities, areas of disability, assistive technology, etc.
  6. Welcome buddies, assistants, discussion partners, and other team members who make it possible for everyone to participate in the learning environment.
  7. Get to know individuals as much as possible (names, areas of interest, families, etc.).
  8. Communicate regularly and clearly with all persons involved in including an individual (peers, family, teachers, etc.)
  9. See items under “Preacher” for additional ideas.

Practical Tools

Usher

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Receive training on appropriate ways to greet and ask about the needs of people with disabilities.
  2. Know what your church offers, including gluten-free options, seating options, large print items, hearing loop, assistants or buddies in children’s ministry, quiet area, sound blockers, and more.
  3. Be welcoming and understanding of those who do not understand social cues or respond in typical ways.
  4. Wear a nametag and/or other identifiers that signal you are someone guests can come to for information or help.
  5. Ask that pew cutouts or chair arrangements be created for people who use wheelchairs or walkers.

Practical Tools

Visual Arts Worship Team Leader or Member (Dance, 2-D Arts, Etc.)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Incorporate persons with varied abilities into arts or dance by first asking the question, “How CAN this person participate? What movements CAN this person do?”
  2. Use items like flags, streamers, shakers, or banners for every individual to express their worship.
  3. Use music connected to a sound system.
  4. If words accompany music, be sure they are presented visually (e.g. PowerPoint, sign language, printed, etc.) for those who cannot hear them.
  5. Think about those who may have difficulty viewing the arts (due to vision differences), and how to relate the message of the piece or performance to that individual. Think about how the piece or performance will be received by the congregation (some who had experienced trauma, come from a different background, understand words differently, etc.) and any information that would be helpful to relay beforehand.

Practical Tools

Website Manager / Designer

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Include pictures of persons with disabilities included in typical activities in your community.
  2. Always use person-first language. For example, say “a man with Down syndrome” or “a child who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a Downs man” or “a crippled child”.
  3. Clearly communicate accessibility options on your website. For example, share accessibility features such as barrier free facility or hearing loop. Let website visitors know that large/bold print bulletins, song books, and Bibles are available and large print words are projected on the screen at the front for worship. Make it easy to see what options are available upon request and how to request them.
  4. Create a welcome video. Similar to how you might look up photos of a hotel for an upcoming trip, consider having a similar welcome video of your church available on your website to offer guests a preview of what they can expect when they visit your church for the first time.
  5. Make it easy to contact the church for accessibility need requests (e.g. sign language interpreter, sermon notes ahead of time for digital device, large print requests, etc.).
  6. If you offer a livestream option, remember that there are many individuals who take advantage of watching church within their own home. Consider how you may connect with the gifts and needs of individuals who regularly join your worship service remotely.
  7. Design the website so it is accessible: it can be easily read and utilized on various devices.

Practical Tools

Worship Service Planner and Leader

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Consider the gifts of persons with varied abilities as you determine worship team participants and planners. For example, ask a strong reader who is a wheelchair user to read Scripture, ask a “techy” person with autism spectrum disorder to work with the sound system, ask a young artist to make a picture for the big idea of the day.
  2. Have a variety of tools available during worship so everyone can engage in the conversation with God. For example, include worship streamers which can be waved during songs, sound blockers for those with sensitive  ears, the PowerPoint available ahead of time (allows a person with limited vision to access the material on a  personal device), and hand tools and fidgets for those needing movement options.
  3. Provide options for individuals with limited vision and hearing. For example, have large-print hymnals and Bibles available, offer large-print handouts and bulletins, consider a hearing loop or Sign Language interpreter or Braille bulletin and make alternative media available upon request.
  4. Plan deliberate times within your year to highlight and celebrate the gifts that persons with disabilities bring to your congregation.
  5. Provide the order of worship in written and/or pictorial form to individuals who function best when they know the day’s plan and have an accompanying schedule.
  6. Be careful with your wording in the publicly shared order of worship. Do not use specific times or list events that will not happen, as some individuals may be counting on your schedule to be completely precise and accurate. For example, someone may get agitated if the schedule says 10:00 AM worship, but the service does not start until 10:04 AM.

Practical Tools

Worship Team Member

Includes musicians and members of choir or band.

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Recognize people with varied abilities that have a heart for worship and welcome them to participate in some way.
  2. Begin by asking the right question, “What CAN the individual do?”, and be willing to accommodate physical needs (e.g. space for wheelchair, streamers for those without words, stools for those unable to stand for longer times, etc.).
  3. Be willing to accommodate visual needs (e.g. lyrics in large print or on a digital device, adequate lighting in the worship area and space leading up to it, etc.).
  4. Be willing to accommodate other needs (e.g. songs on CD ahead of time, clothing or robe choices that will work with each participant, special location for greater comfort or lessened anxiety, etc.).
  5. There are times when the congregation needs an introduction to the behaviors or appearance of a person with a disability to best receive that individual’s gifts. Know the person, the gifts and needs, and share them accordingly (with permission from that person or that person’s parent or guardian).
  6. Understand that volume level matters – many with sensitive ears may be present, so consider how instruments and voices would be most effective in leading the congregation into worship without being overly loud.

Practical Tools

  • The Inclusion Awareness Kit includes a lesson plan and the needed supplies to allow children and adults to see each individual as an important and gifted piece of “God’s body puzzle”. Order online at allbelong.org/shop/
  • Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities by Barbara J. Newman includes lesson plans and sample letters to help children understand their peers with disabilities. Order online at allbelong.org/shop/
  • Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship by Barbara J. Newman provides a framework and ideas to foster faith formation in everyone through creating an inclusive worship environment. Order online at allbelong.org/shop/
  • Hear from Ken Medema, musician, worship leader, storyteller (comedian?) and music therapist, about church-music (find out more at kenmedema.com/about-us.aspx): youtube.com/watch?v=5GVPSy9ijKU

Wrap Around Support Team Leader or Member

(This includes buddies or assistants and others who get to know a family well and support their participation in the congregation on a regular basis, under the direction of the Accessibility Advocate/Inclusion Coordinator)

Universal and Responsive Design Tips

  1. Arrange for specific requests (e.g. sign language interpreter or transportation).
  2. Collect supports in a timely fashion (e.g. get sermon notes or Presentation outline or slides and distribute digitally ahead of time).
  3. Connect with the individual or family to determine what support is needed and make it happen.
  4. Get training in specific areas of care, learn about the disability and the person.
  5. Provide necessary support during church activities, helping to modify activities and curriculum as needed.
  6. Work with Support Team members to coordinate and maintain a consistent schedule and promote healthy relationships with the individual/family and within the team.

Practical Tools