How Welcoming Are You?
The Americans with Disabilities Act which was signed into law back in July of 1990 established a national mandate to protect persons with special needs from discrimination and other social injustices.
As a result, we saw a change began to take place in our public school systems where every child with a special need began to be entitled to receive the same education right alongside their peers that were labeled non-disabled. The ADA has also had a big influence on a shift to more inclusive neighborhoods for people with disabilities and a shift away from segregated residential facilities. Not that long ago a meaningful job wasn’t always considered a realistic opportunity for a person with an intellectual disability. But I’m happy to say that the workplace, like community and educational settings, is becoming more inclusive too.
Friends, your church is in a prime position to model the spirit of the ADA or more importantly, model the example of what the Holy Scriptures remind us to do…”Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” I’m here to tell you today that some communities of faith are doing a great job of opening their doors and being a place of inclusion. It’s essential to find ways to make room for people with special needs in your community of faith. Why? Because Jesus evoked the inclusion process in His mission statement, He said: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every person.” He didn’t add any disclaimer about excluding those who had too little ability, there were no exclusions for those who were physically or intellectually different.
So how do you begin the journey of becoming a community of faith where you welcome and make room for the participation of people with disabilities, a place where everyone has a presence rather than just being physically present, a community of faith that ensures that everyone participates in sharing their life and not simply sharing space? What is a good first step? Well, it all starts with a simple assessment.
Assessments can be useful tools for reflecting on how are you doing or in this case “How welcoming of a community of faith are we?” Assessments help you to take an objective look at the areas where you are strong, but they can also reveal the areas that need improvement. As a community of faith we are called to be a people of change…not a people of status quo, a stagnant non-growing body of believers but a people who are striving to grow, to become more tomorrow than who we are today.
The Church Welcome Assessment is a tool for prayerful self-reflection. It can help to answer the question, “How welcoming are you?”