Including People with Intellectual Disabilities
What is an intellectual disability?
How to include people who have intellectual disabilities in your church
When you are interacting with people with intellectual disabilities, the following tips may be helpful for ensuring that everyone is included.
- Extend common courtesies such as shaking hands, bumping elbows or fists, or other social gestures.
- If you are having difficulty understanding what a person is saying, ask the person to repeat rather than pretending to understand. If necessary, seek assistance from a family member or caregiver in communicating.
- Think of people by chronological age rather than mental age or cognitive ability. Treat adults as adults.
- Do not refer to people with intellectual disabilities with cute names such as “special people” nor call adults “kids.”
- Liturgies that depend less on reading (and especially on reading lots of words in quick succession) may be helpful. Also helpful are repetitive phrases that can become the language of a congregation, such as “Lord, have mercy” and “Thanks be to God.”
Participation in church life
- It may be helpful to have a friend, family member, or other person within the congregation welcome and sit with a person during worship and assist, if needed.
- If the person is accompanied by a caregiver (family or paid caregiver), make sure to welcome and include the caregiver as well. Caregivers can often feel “unseen.” If the person is a paid support staff, however, make sure that the primary focus is on the person with the disability and don’t always communicate with the supporting staff, even if it might be easier at times.
- People with intellectual disabilities should have an opportunity to participate in every program offered by the church. Typically, the challenges to inclusion are with the church environment, not with the people themselves.
- Assume that people with intellectual disabilities have gifts to offer, and encourage them to use their gifts. Do not assume what a person can or cannot do.
- Challenge your church to open leadership opportunities in the church to people with any disability, insofar as the work of the office fits the gifts of the person.
Service and leadership opportunities
Don’t underestimate people’s pastoral gifts, even if they might look different from those of other people. Ways for people with intellectual disabilities to serve and lead can include:
- Prayer partners
- Singing in the choir
- Reader for Scripture or litany (rehearsal may be needed)
- Serving in diaconal or elder offices as appropriate, etc.
장애인과 함께하는 포용적인 교회 사역 안내서인 “모두가 속하여, 함께 섬기는” 책자는 미국개혁교회 (RCA), 북미주 개혁교회 (CRCNA), 기독교 지평 (Christian Horizons), 엘림 기독교 봉사 (Elim Christian Services)의 공동작업에 의해 만들어졌습니다.
판권소유. 개혁교회출판부의 허락 없이 이 책자의 전부 혹은 일부를 복제할 수 있습니다. 그런 경우 출처가 표기되어야 하며, 복제된 내용이 책자의 공식적인 버전이 아님을 미리 밝힙니다. 기타 용도로 본 책자를 사용하기 원하시는 경우 개혁교회출판부 (Reformed Church Press) 로 연락을 주시기 바랍니다. (firstname.lastname@example.org; 616-698-7071)