Have you seen any of the Ten Ways Tools published by our friends at Faith Formation Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church? They are full of wonderful, simple suggestions to help strengthen various ministries in the church. We recently teamed up with them to create a set of recommendations to help adult small groups become more welcoming to all people.
TEN WAYS TO BE A MORE INCLUSIVE AND WELCOMING ADULT SMALL GROUP
“You must be taller than this stick to go on the water slide.” “Do not go in the spa if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure.” Restriction and exclusion signs like these are common in our world. Each of us has been barred from some experience or organization. But what we may not realize is that we—probably unknowingly—have hung “signs” like those on the doors to our small group meeting areas.Your small group may have this implied “sign” on the door: “To be a member of this small group, you must be able to read, write, speak, and pay attention to spoken words for at least 20 consecutive minutes.” Requirements like these ignore the fact that our congregations are made up of people with varied abilities and disabilities. Thus we exclude people who live with illiteracy, ADHD, physical disabilities, intellectual differences, and more.
Use the following ten ideas to help tear down those signs and replace them with only one sign: “EVERYONE WELCOME.”
1. Watch Your Language
When you gather prayer requests, do you ask for prayer for a “wheelchair-bound person” or “a person who is a wheelchair user”? Do you pray for an “invalid” or for “someone with a physical disability”? Words matter. In reality, a person who is a wheelchair user has much freedom of movement, and every child of God is “valid”! Check out this tip sheet to learn more about affirming word choices.
2. Provide Options for Written Materials
Instead of assuming that everyone present can read small type, have options prepared ahead of time. Provide large-print versions of Bibles and other materials. Make your written materials available online ahead of time so that people can download them to devices that allow for resizing and contrast changes. Use these ideas for readable text to help craft your PowerPoints and signs.
3. Plan Small Group Worship with All Abilities in Mind
Allow each person present to participate in the worship conversation with God. Provide multiple sensory options for both input and output. Singing is one way to say “I love you” to God, but people in your group can also sign those words or wave a streamer. And learn more about Universal Design for Worship.
4. Use Curriculum Designed with All Abilities in Mind
The TOGETHER inclusive small group curriculum facilitates community and growth for adults of all abilities. TOGETHER’s innovative, electronic approach uses a wide range of teaching techniques: short video clips interspersed with discussion questions; visual and dramatic Bible passage presentations; and challenging and interactive exercises to help participants apply the lessons to their own lives. Check out a sample at togethersmallgroups.org. Use these innovative materials with all your church’s small groups, or start by offering one inclusive small group.
Want more? Click here to read the next Six Ways!
Love this resource? Click here for a printable version of the Ten Ways that you can share.
Ten Ways to be a More Inclusive and Welcoming Small Group was developed by Friendship Ministries in conjunction with Faith Formation Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.