Including People with Disabilities in the New Year Planning

Here we are at the beginning of a new calendar year. With all that transpired in 2020, people are looking for new possibilities—a place where they feel welcomed. Even though 2020 challenged us to do ministry in new ways, the challenges have allowed us to reach communities who for a long time have felt abandoned and pushed to the margins. The church was able to expand beyond the four walls that previously enclosed all of us. We have been able to offer Christ to the world.

New Year’s Resolutions for Church

In our individual lives we look at the New Year as a time to consider New Year resolutions, listing items we hope to strive for and accomplish in the coming year. As our churches reach more and more people in this new year, we want every person to feel fully welcomed and included. This means including people with disabilities both in our buildings and in our online ministries. So, I invite you to create New Year’s resolutions for our congregations to support people with disabilities.

Planning With Accessibility In Mind

Conduct an audit & create a “to do list”
For a first step, conduct an audit of Worship space, classrooms, and church meeting places (online and in person). From the audit you can then generate a “To Do” list that ensures inclusion of people with disabilities.

When considering what items to place on your “To Do List,” create a list based on three categories: prioritize what needs to be done first, what can be done easily, and what needs funding.

  1. What needs to be done first
    Items that could be done first might include learning about ways to create a welcoming atmosphere for people with disabilities. Study the scriptures, study theology, and take trainings or certification courses. Talk with people in your congregation to find out their needs. Take time to listen and to be present with parents and older adults.
  2. What can be done easily
    Provide large print bulletins, hymnals and Bibles. Increase the font size for Sunday bulletins, worship slides, and newsletters. The font that is being recommended at this time is Arial. Do not rely on a large screen in the front of the sanctuary. People who are visually impaired might not be able to read the screen. Have closed captioning included on all videos, YouTube, and Facebook postings. Provide fidget devices or other items that people with Autism can have during the Worship service. Host disability awareness worship services and provide disability awareness resources in newsletter articles and leadership meetings.
  3. What needs funding
    Regarding the church budget, even in challenging times we have options. For instance, if you need to install a ramp, obtain a grant, host a fundraiser, or partner with someone from your community who can help construct the ramp. If you have undesignated funds that have been given to the church, this is a great opportunity to extend ministry work and to reach out to people.

As this new year begins, take time and create the space needed to consider who has been missing from your “pews” and your outreach ministry. We have been given the opportunity to expand what it means to be welcoming to all. For Christ said, “Let all the children come unto him.”

Eight Resources to Inspire Your Planning

Every Child Can Bloom in the Inclusive Classroom by Naomi Mitchum

The DisAbility Ministries of the United Methodist Church – provides on their website links for doing Accessibility Audits of church buildings.

Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities by Barbara J. Newman

The United Methodist Church and Disability, Essays and Practical Tips for Churches, Clergy, and People with Disabilities by Rev. Rebecca Holland

The United Church of Christ (UCC) provides the following resources with ideas of ways to include people with disabilities:

Top 10 Ways Churches Can Include People With Disabilities

Multisensory Worship Ideas

Ten Commandments of Being Around Users of Wheelchairs

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