See also the Families section which presents resources which individuals and families of faith as they face the joys and challenges of disabilities.
We invite your suggestions of additional resources for any of these pages or sections!
Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families. Ed. William C. Gaventa. New Brunswick, N.J.: Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. Download from the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center. A comprehensive bibliography and address listing of resources for clergy, laypersons, families, and service providers. Resources are organized by category, including worship and sacraments, the arts, architectural and attitudinal accessibility, mission, theology, pastoral care and counseling, religious education, resources for families, Jewish resources, etc. Note that this edition is from 2009 so entries may be out of date.
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsors a Worship Renewal Grants Program which is a potential source of funding for disability-inclusive worship renewal. The program fosters well-grounded worship renewal in congregations and worshiping communities throughout North America. Made possible through the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc., these grants serve to stimulate thoughtful and energetic work for worship that exhibits renewed creativity, theological integrity, and relevance.
Supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in faith communities starts with an awareness of the issues. This page is devoted to resources which help build awareness among people of faith about the gifts and the challenges of persons with disabilities and their families. Your additional ideas and suggestions are welcomed.
A special day, week, or month may help to build awareness of disabilities in your local faith community. Sometimes days like a “Disabilities Sabbath” or “Mental Health Sunday” are sponsored by a regional or national body for a faith group. Check with your conference, denominational, or association office or the disabilities advocacy ministry for your faith group. See our Faith-based Advocacy page to find the office or ministry for your faith group.
Sometimes faith groups can create their own events built upon a week or month sponsored by a larger secular agency. Below are some examples. Use a search engine to find the latest information on these events. In the U.S., the National Health Information center lists all such events and their sponsoring groups on their National Health Observances page.
- March is often celebrated as Disabilities Awareness Month.
- May is observed in the United States as Mental Health Awareness Month.
- October is designated by the U.S. Congress as National Disability Employment Awareness Month
- The first week in October is designated as Mental Illness Awareness Week.
There are many resources on disabilities that can be placed in the library of your congregation or faith community. In addition to the suggestions noted here, see the Comprehensive Bibliography noted in the General section above.
- The CAN Media Store carries the latest and best titles and allows you to order them directly from the site.
- ADNet features a Loan Library that allows you to get ideas and check out books for a three-week period to read and see if you want to purchase.
- Google Books allows you to preview or read for free a vast number of books. This can be an excellent way to determine if you want to purchase a copy for your library.
- Check the CAN Media Store for videos that you can order directly.
- ADNet features Video Resources available for three-week loan. This can enable you to preview a video.
- Sometimes videos or previews of videos are available online. Use a search engine to find these. If you use a video directly from the Internet in a public setting, please check for any copyright or performance restrictions.
Awareness on Specific Issues
Orientation and Training
Orientation and Training Resources
Faith communities include many compassionate people who genuinely care and want to include persons with disabilities. Often the greatest barrier preventing these folks from truly welcoming new persons is the simple “fear factor.” Many people are simply afraid. “I don’t know what to say.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I am not trained as a special education teacher or a nursing assistant, etc.”
Many times, simple awareness-raising and training resources can help people overcome such fears. Some initial reading combined with hands-on experience can often make a huge difference in how supportive a congregation becomes toward persons with disabilities. Below are some particularly useful resources for faith congregations. See also the Awareness page.
This Orientation and Training section focuses on giving persons practical tools to work with persons with disabilities. The Education page focuses on educational resources for persons with disabilities that affect the mind (intellectual, developmental, autistic, psychiatric).
Christian Church Foundation for the Handicapped (CCFH) seeks to enable others through training, resources, and encouragement to effectively minister with persons with disabilities. They provide educational resources in the form of interactive and video-based training platforms, books, pamphlets, and blogs. Many of the resources require a membership to access.
Persons with developmental disabilities, autism, and mental illness sometimes exhibit behaviors that other persons find challenging. Welcoming such persons with love and acceptance is often enhanced by greater understanding and training.
John McGee’s principles have found warm acceptance among persons who advocate a community-based, non-violent, non-aversive approach for relating to persons with challenging behaviors. McGee’s approach is particularly adaptable to family and educational settings and seeks to enable persons with many fears and much pain to experience safety, acceptance, and love. The website has a wealth of material including books and presentations, some of which are available free for downloading.
Greeters and Ushers
Greeters and ushers provide a crucial ministry in many faith congregations. Their attitudes and actions often set the tone for whether families and persons with disabilities feel welcomed or rejected. The United Methodist Church provides the following resource: “On Greeting Persons With Disabilities: A Suggestion Manual for Ushers and Greeters”
This page focuses on resources for religious education that includes persons with disabilities that affect the mind (intellectual, developmental, autistic, psychiatric). The Training page focuses on training persons to work with persons with all types of disabilities.
Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, will generally do well by being included in regular classes with adaptations in the curriculum, teaching methods, and/or staffing. Sometimes, if a congregation is large enough and there are a number of upper elementary and early adolescent children around the same age and cognitive level, a “special education” class may be appropriate. Care should be taken to find alternate ways of integrating these children with the rest of the class(es) of the same group so that they do not become isolated, but are able to interact with their peers.
Adults with developmental disabilities present a different kind of challenge. Sometimes, they can also be integrated with existing adult classes. Where separate classes are formed, past practice has often been to adapt children’s curriculum under the assumption that this is where their reading and thinking level is. However, congregations need to remember that these are adults with adult interests. Good options now exist for curricula that is written more simply for a lower reading level, but still takes adult interests into account.
The following are resources that can be helpful in addressing educational concerns for persons with intellectual challenges. Most are developed in a Christian context; exceptions are noted.
Guides for Educators
A Drama of Love : A Christian Educator’s Guide to Creating Classes Where Everyone Belongs
A resource list with “Sunday School Resources for Teaching Individuals with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities” compiled by ADNet.
Resources & Curricula
Inter-denominational publisher of materials to include people with intellectual disabilities. Materials in English and Spanish are used by 60+ denominations.
Services for Teachers
CLC Network provides education and support services to faith-based and public charter schools, home educators, and churches nationwide. Many of its printed resources are published in cooperation with Friendship Ministries (see above).
Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families. Ed. William C. Gaventa. New Brunswick, N.J.: Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. Order or download from the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center. A comprensive bibliography and address listing of resources for clergy, laypersons, families, and service providers. Resources are organized by category, including worship and sacraments, the arts, architectural and attitudinal accessibility, mission, theology, pastoral care and counseling, religious education, resources for families, Jewish resources, etc.
Inclusion Theology and Practice
A Church of All and for All, especially paragraphs 51-55. reflects theologically on disability and capability within the community of faith, and offers practical suggestions for using the gifts of persons with disabilities. This statement is from the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network of the World Council of Churches.
Faith Communities and Persons with Developmental Disabilities, an entire issue of Impact on the topic of inclusion of persons with disabilities within faith communities. Impact is the newsletter of the Institute on Community Integration of the University of Minnesota.