Car parking spaces, tick.
Accessible ramps, tick.
Hearing loops, tick
You may be well on your way to becoming a more accessible church. But did you know the greatest impact on accessibility by far, is a change in attitude?
Why do attitudes towards disability matter?
As a church leadership, it’s easy to think, “We’ve followed the regulations, we’ve done enough”. But the truth is that regulations only go so far, and really making a meaningful difference requires a change of heart.
In his teaching on the mountainside, Jesus raises the bar when it comes to following the law. Not only must we love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48) and follow the familiar commandment of “do not murder”, Jesus says we must not even be angry with a brother or sister (Matt 5).
Jesus says that our hearts matter just as much as our actions! When we truly love and value our brothers and sisters with disabilities, we will want to do more than just tick boxes. We will want to welcome them fully into the life of our churches. So the question is: How can we do that?
The experience of disability
In simple terms, disability is a condition that affects a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. What is often misunderstood, however, is that external factors determine the experience of any disability.
What do we mean by that?
Imagine a person with cerebral palsy attends your church for the first time. They are offered help with getting around the church and shown the accessible facilities. But, afterwards church members make assumptions about their capabilities and capacity, they are not invited to join a small/cell/connect group.
In this instance, we can see that negative, uninformed or prejudiced attitudes can define the way that disability impacts our brothers and sisters.
Daniel Giles OAM shares that one of the biggest things he would like to see in churches is, “changing the theology of people’s mindset, that disability is something that needs to be cured. For me being autistic, is just another part of me,” and he wants, “more opportunities for autistic people to be themselves.”
Thankfully, this works both ways!
In the same way, the more your environment or program is adapted to suit a wider range of needs, the less the disability is apparent.
Renewing attitudes to disability in my church
Our attitudes really do matter when it comes to disability inclusion at church. So, ask God to help you renew your attitudes by:
- asking for forgiveness for times when you’ve held low expectations or assumptions regarding people with disabilities,
- getting to know people living with disabilities in your community,
- having respectful conversations with people with disabilities about whether they feel included,
- and, just like St Paul urged, being devoted to one another in love. Honouring one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10).
Find out more
Discover more by watching Rethinking our Values, a video that challenges us to think differently about disability.