Church Communications Conference 2024

How Accessible Are Your Worship Services?

Katie Allred

How Accessible Are Your Worship Services?

Katie Allred

Most everyone wants to feel welcome and comfortable in any situation. People with special needs such as vision, hearing and physical limitations can be made to feel at home in any environment, especially at church. While many people attend church services for the message presented, for many others in the congregation, religious attendance also serves as the social function that keeps them involved with their peers.

Hearing and Visual Aids

Two of the most common challenges people face are hearing and vision loss. Elderly congregants in particular often use hearing aids to help them interact with events around them. Most up-to-date hearing aids can link to wireless systems. Hearing loops transmit an audio signal that creates clearer sound for those in your congregation who may have hearing problems and allow them to better listen to and enjoy your message. Vision limitations can often be addressed by providing the congregation with large print hymnals and other worship-related literature. When your worshippers can easily sing along with familiar praise songs or read literature along with others, they can then feel a better sense of connection and belonging.

Seating Arrangements

Perhaps your congregation has members with physical challenges that require the use of wheelchairs, walkers or canes. Ramps and automatic doors can ease their navigation through your church building. When possible, ramp access should be parallel with able-bodied stairs to give the feeling of inclusion. Also, for safety reasons, whenever possible, space should be provided for wheelchair placement within the pew arrangements so that wheelchairs are not blocking aisles. Maybe you have members that can’t sit for extended periods, a comfortable place within the sanctuary to stand during services might help them feel less obvious. Some people with physical challenges such as needing to stand will avoid attending regular activities because they don’t want to stand out from others.

Addressing Other Needs

Sometimes challenges are not always readily evident. Maybe someone in your congregation has emotional or mental concerns that require them to have a safe place to go if they are feeling overwhelmed. The members might think about how they can help support that person during the service. Most people want to be inclusive, especially in a church setting, and given the opportunity, they will gladly help however they can.

At the end of the day, most churches want all their members to feel included and supported. Whatever can be done to make inclusion a reality for those in the congregation facing challenges, temporary or permanent, could go a long way to enhancing an already loving experience. Being able to listen to the needs of others can be transformative for all.

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