Faith and Disability
A Practical Guide for Church Leaders
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are
varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are
varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates
all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the
Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NRSV
Within our faith communities, we all have a vital role to play in extending welcome. We work hard to welcome children, to welcome newcomers and visitors, and to welcome people from diverse backgrounds. As we work to embrace the fullness of God’s amazing creation, we also get to embrace the work of welcoming people with disabilities into our communities. People with disabilities are often creative problem-solvers who know how to advocate, find solutions, and get things done. All of us are learning the value and strength of diverse faith communities. Disability inclusion is a part of what it means to build the diverse church that answers the invitation of being a Matthew 25 Church that is equitable and just.
“Belonging is rooted in relationships. Having people in our lives who know us, like us, accept us, need us, miss us, and love us is at the heart of well-being.”
From the Article “A Place of Belonging Including Individuals With Significant Disabilities in Faith Communities” by Eric W. Carter.
As you are working to engage people of all abilities in your congregation, the Quicksheets in this toolkit can provide you with tools for expanding inclusiveness in your faith community as a whole, as well as offering resources targeted toward the particular ministries of Christian formation, fellowship and service, and worship.
Speaking Words that Welcome: Language, Messages, and Communication (with Visual Cues)
This Quicksheet is focused on the fundamental principle that words matter. Guidance is provided on how to shape the language used in speaking about ability; how to look for unintended messages about ability in scripture, curriculum, music, and liturgy; and how to enhance communication, particularly with visual cues.
Creating Sacred Space for All: Physical Access and Physical Accommodations and Supports
This Quicksheet introduces ways to improve physical access in and to your facilities, with targeted suggestions for worship and Christian formation. Guidance is also offered on visual and auditory supports, sensory strategies, and food accommodations, with targeted suggestions for Christian formation, worship, and fellowship and service.
Being the Body of Christ: Social Access
This Quicksheet describes how to offer social supports, with targeted suggestions for Christian formation and fellowship and service. Social access is also addressed in a discussion of leadership development, with targeted suggestions for Christian formation and worship.
Guiding with Intentionality: Policies, Forms, and Planning
This Quicksheet covers how the administrative tasks of policy-writing, information-gathering, and planning can improve your ministry with people of all abilities. Policy considerations are offered, new ideas for form design are shared, and suggestions for planning are targeted for Christian formation, fellowship and service, and worship.
Faith Communities and Inclusion of Persons of All Abilities Resource Roadmap
This Resource Roadmap is a list of resources with descriptions which builds on the Quicksheets and points you to other websites, books, organizations, and helps.
Disabling Lent: An Anti-Ableist Lenten Devotional from Unbound
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast – The Grammys, The Pope, Hillsong & Disability Culture w/ Letiah Fraser. At minute 20 the begin to answer the question – I feel like we overlook and discount the experiences of our disabled siblings in the church. What can be done to empower them and give them more visibility?
Listening to the Real Experts PNS Article and Video
Presbyterians for Disability Concerns Blog
Presbyterians for Disability Concerns Resources and Consultants (PHEWA PCUSA Link)
Presbyterians for Disability Concerns 2021 Guide
Disability Inclusion Sunday is September 11, 2022 (This is the same Sunday we celebrate Christian Formation Celebration Week)