Inclusion Tips for Your Church

Barbara J. Newman at CICW Worship Symposium Watch Newman's plenary address, "Universal Design for Worship," from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Symposium here:

Note: In January 2016, Barbara J. Newman equipped pastors and worship leaders with the tools to implement universal design for worship in their congregations at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Symposium. We invite you to watch her plenary address here.

Have you desired to make your congregation more inclusive, but were unsure of where to begin? No matter what part you play in your congregation, whether paid or volunteer, whether Sunday attendee or fully engaged in all the events of your community, you can help to widen the welcome in your congregation for persons at all levels of ability and disability. I invite you to consider these ideas based on the role you play at your church:


Consider forming a message around 1 Corinthians 12 and imagine with your congregation the importance and value of having each person included and active in your congregation.

Sound Tech Crew:

Volume is a problem for many people. While some imagine that LOUD is the best volume, not all would agree. Look for those in distress. Chart out places in your worship gathering place where the sound is or could be lessened. Consider stocking some noise blocking headphones that could be on loan for those in need. Check into the recommended sound levels for safe hearing and make sure your church volume falls within those.

PowerPoint Preparer:

PowerPoint Make sure your PowerPoint and/or bulletin is widely-readable.

While looking for meaningful backgrounds, make sure you keep the message in a widely-readable format. Color contrast, type of font, size of print, and the possibility of downloading the PowerPoint to a personal device can make the difference between participating and not participating for some individuals.

Children’s Ministry Director:

Make sure you offer training for your volunteers so they are aware of strategies to use with children who may have struggles with paying attention, reading, or writing. Also, make sure you have a registration process that asks parents to list areas of gifts as well as areas of struggles for their child (see for suggestions). This may open a discussion so that you can have supports in place to best welcome a child with unique gifts and needs. It is important to create an atmosphere where every child present understands that God has created people with great variety and that each peer within their group has gifts to share.


Parking Lot If you can walk well, consider saving close parking spots for persons with limited mobility.

Come to church smelling at your very least! Many people struggle to be calm and comfortable with strong smells. If you douse your body with perfume or cologne, you may actually be driving someone away from your area of church instead of inviting them in. Consider saving that special scent for an evening out with someone who appreciates it! Come clean and fragrance-free to church.

Vehicle Driver:

Church is one place where the accessible parking spots are taken quickly by persons who need them. If you are an individual who is able to walk well, consider parking further away from the doors and saving closer parking spaces for those who may not have arrived in time to grab one of those spots.

Person with a Disability:

Books and DVDs on disability and inclusion Does your church have resources available for your community to learn more about disabilities and inclusion?

Consider telling your story. Some individuals would benefit from hearing about your areas of gifting as well as the things that are difficult, especially in a church setting. Consider coming up with three helpful things your church community could do or has done that would widen the welcome for an individual with varied abilities.

Library/Bookstore Organizer:

Do you have resources for people to learn from? If one in sixty-eight persons are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, do you have a copy of materials that would help your community learn more? What about an understanding of the importance of the presence of persons with disabilities in your congregation as a whole? Check out the All Belong Online Store for some great ideas.


photo credit: Hot Parking Lot via photopin (license)


Barbara J NewmanBarbara J. Newman is the director of church services at All Belong. She is the author of several books (including her latest, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship) and is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches. In addition to speaking and writing, Barbara enjoys working in her classroom at Zeeland Christian School (Zeeland, MI).