Six years ago, I met a young man named Paul. Paul was born with physical limitations that made it difficult for him to breathe, and he spent much of his time in a wheelchair. Paul loved to worship the Lord and lead others in worship. While Paul was unable to physically stand in worship, his mind and spirit rose as he lifted his voice to sing his favorite hymns and songs of praise.
During a time of worship, Paul asked his friend if she would be willing to kneel down before the Lord on his behalf because he was unable to get out of his wheelchair to do so. What a powerful request! I learned a lot about worship from this young man. I am physically able to kneel before the Lord whenever I want, and yet I often do not.
What an amazing thought that God, the Creator of the universe, invites each one of us to enter His presence through worship. Worship can be described as a conversation between the Good Shepherd and His people, the sheep of His pasture. We respond to His invitation with shouts of joy and glad hearts because we are invited into relationship with our Creator and with our fellow sheep. Sometimes worship is a very personal conversation between God and an individual; at other times worship is a conversation that takes place between God and a community gathered in worship.
Churches are places of worship, but unfortunately, many churches are not accessible to individuals affected by disability—physically or emotionally. It is our desire to see churches across the world become more accessible, inviting people of all abilities to join in the worship of our Almighty God.
Worship that is accessible to people of all abilities creates opportunities for individuals to respond to God in a variety of multi-sensory ways, including sights, sounds, and even smells. Worship that is accessible encourages participation from everyone. In accessible worship, we engage with God and with one another.
The two major components of creating an environment where all people can worship are accessibility and acceptance. Accessibility focuses on the tangible things that allow someone with limited abilities to participate. This can include wheelchair ramps, audio aids, visual aids, and sensory accommodations. Acceptance focuses on the culture of your church and the attitude of everyone attending. Hosting a time of training or disability awareness for your church staff or church members can equip them and encourage families affected by disability that you desire their presence.
Do you long to be part of a church community where people of all abilities enter the presence of God, uniting their voices and hearts in praise and thanksgiving? A church community where the sounds of worship include a “wheelchair rolling down the aisle, the tap of a cane, and the sound of people with differing intellectual disabilities lifting their voices in praise and prayer?” If so, we encourage you to consider how you can make the worship at your church more accessible.