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27 June 2018

Making church more accessible

Making church more accessible

The body of Christ is made up of people with a wide variety of abilities and needs. Consider how your church can accommodate every member of your congregation.

Making church a time and place that's easy to access – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – often takes a conscious effort and a willingness to be flexible and creative. God puts no limits on us, and we want church to be a time and place that reflects this. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about how you can make sure your church is a place of belonging for all.

Bible translations

We mostly access God's word through just that – words. For some this can be an alienating experience. Reading isn't always that easy for every member of the congregation. Some will have lower reading levels, some will have poor eyesight, and some will struggle with comprehension. Think about ways to help. Is the Bible translation you're using helpful to your church family? Do they like the language? Do they understand it? Do you need to get in some braille or large print versions, or versions that are designed to help dyslexic readers?

Optional instructions

There are many people in our churches who have physical conditions or aren't as robust as others. It's quite easy to overlook how our everyday directions, such as "stand for the next song", may exclude them from parts of a church service. Try to ask your church family to "stand if you're able" or even, "stand if you'd like to". Jesus made it clear that you didn't have to be standing in front of Him to receive from Him; consider the man who was blessed by Jesus after he was lowered from the roof by his friends. Let's make sure our church families know that Jesus has something to offer all of us, whether we're standing, sitting, or even lying down.

Disabled access

Do you have disabled access, and that includes to the stage? Wheelchair access is relatively common now, but are we good at extending that to our 'up front' spaces? If we don't enable those in wheelchairs to be visible at the front, are we indirectly saying that Christians who are not as physically able cannot contribute to church leadership? Start making plans now to make your whole space accessible to the entire church family. Don't wait until someone with leadership skills, and who also happens to be in a wheelchair, comes to your church and wants to get involved.

Atmosphere

Our churches can sometimes be loud places; take, for example, praise and worship, with a complete band, and corporate prayer. People who have autism tend to experience sensory overload, so services full of sound and people can be overwhelming. Are you able to explore creating bespoke services for those who can't manage the usual way of doing 'church'? Maybe your church family could take part in regular services that strip back a lot of what you would normally do and keep it simple? Trying to get the whole church family on board with something like this can help to make sure that the range of needs within your congregation is met without splitting up your church family into types, abilities or taste.

Explore some of these challenges in more depth at Churches for All (churchesforall.org.uk) and Livability (livability.org.uk).

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