Making churches accessible

When Maggie came up to receive Holy Communion for the first time, she refused to take the translucent round wafer of bread that was offered. Her parents were understandably distressed. We had been preparing for this day for some months. Something was preventing Maggie from feeling included...

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Evidence suggests that churches that have actively made their worship services accessible to people with learning disabilities the services become accessible to many others; people with poor literacy, for those whom English is not the first language, people from un-churched backgrounds who have no experience of Christian language, and increasingly for people with dementia. 

Making worship and Sunday services more accessible may require only minor adjustments. After completing a sabbatical exploring the place of people with a learning disability in the life of the Church, a Methodist minister made this resolution:

Every time I prepare Sunday morning worship there will be some aspect of the service that a person with a learning disability can access easily and so feel part of the worshipping community.

How can we, as church leaders, make all worship accessible for people with learning disabilities?

That may seem difficult, but it is relatively easy to include one of the following:

  • Simple prayers with a short repetitive response,
  • A hymn which has a chorus,
  • A simple worship song,
  • Use of pictures to illustrate a talk,
  • Drama to tell the Bible story,
  • Use of Makaton (a sign language developed especially to aid communication with those with a learning disability),
  • Use of dance and movement,
  • Interactive conversation,
  • Some people, although they can't read, like to have the books and need help to find the correct pages.

Church leaders may find the book ‘Making Churches Accessible to people with disabilities’ published by BRF valuable reading.

The book is available to purchase in our shop

Churches that have a number of people with learning disabilities in their memberships have found it immensely valuable to run small groups or ministry groups with specialised teaching. Prospects offers training and resources to equip churches.

Find out more about our ministry groups