Accommodating the Physical Challenges of Older Church Members
January 23, 2020
Updated June 25, 2020
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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.
As adults age, losses are inevitable. Some lose vision; others, hearing. Still others lose the ability to move well, or they experience mental declines. Understanding these changes and challenges and accommodating them is key to helping third-thirders live and participate fully in the congregation and community.
Barbara Newman suggests Ten Ways to Become More Inclusive and Welcoming in Worship and Church Life.
God’s Calling to and for the Elderly in Worship: Ideas for Inclusion. In this article Emily Brink offers practical help for, in her words, ways to “recognize God’s call to our elderly members, honoring their experience and wisdom.” The article is full of ideas for including people who might have begun to shy away from worship because of physical and cognitive limitations.
Visual Hospitality in Worship: More than Large Print. Barbara Newman and Joan Huyser-Honig offer helpful tips and information for making worship and other church gatherings more fully accessible for all participants.
In Using Art to Include Shut-ins, Joan Huyser-Honig reports ideas from Colleen Kwong on using art to include people in the life and worship of the church when they can’t leave their homes.
Hearing Loss in Worship: An Invisible Disability. David G. Myers reflects on his own experience with hearing loss and challenges churches to use hearing loop technology to more fully include all members of the congregation.
Preparing for the Next Stage, Your “Senior Days.” Elly VanAlten encourages people to think ahead about physical limitations that may become reality as they age.
Adapting the Sessions to the Needs of Your Group/Congregation. These tips from the Together curriculum are great discussion starters for church leaders who are looking for ways to make their church gatherings and building more accessible.
In Universal Design for Worship, Barbara Newman explains what Universal Design is and why it’s so important for churches to understand and implement so that all people who come will be included in the church and worship community.
Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship by Barbara Newman. This book is rich with ideas for including all people in worship. Discover how using “vertical habits” can create inclusive communities of worship in which each person can use the gifts God has given to participate in a worship conversation with God.
Curious about how accessible your church really is to people of various abilities? Use this accessibility audit from Disability Concerns to assess the barriers of architecture, barriers of communication, and barriers of attitude that may be present.
This accessibility audit from the United Methodist Church takes a deep dive into how easy it is to get into and get around in your church’s facility.
FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION
Gather a group of people in your church to do an accessibility audit of your facilities and practices using one or both of the tools above. What changes could you make to include members and visitors who are currently on the fringes or left out altogether because of poor accessibility? Talk about this together, and then develop a plan for action, including requesting budget funds to make necessary changes.
If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.
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