Great worship ideas #1
Many families of persons who are differently gifted would like to worship together in church. Although they may navigate physical barriers and get a warm welcome from the congregation, these persons still may not feel comfortable in regular corporate worship. They are perfectly capable of experiencing worship, they may just do it in different ways as their disabilities allow. Our goal is to establish situations that allow them to worship more comfortably and to contribute to the life of the church.
This article explores five models that may make this goal happen through corporate/unified worship or other means.
Any model for inclusive worship first requires an accepting environment within the congregation, often through congregational education and as modeled and preached by the established worship committee and the pastoral staff.
Persons who regularly lead in worship such as ministers should take time to evaluate how persons who are differently-gifted can share their skills and find out how they can comfortably share in the service.
Leaders also need training in needs of the special students, such as calming sensory overload, safety procedures and how to deal with seizures. Take early note of which students may be easily over-stimulated and arrange for leader to sit nearby.
The Holy Spirit will baptize the opening up and expanding of worship opportunities for persons with disabilities as worship leaders study and choose from or mix and match from the following modules of worship:
Model 1 builds on what you are already doing at a regular worship service, and adds practices to include persons who are differently abled. It is important to realize that everyone has a gift to share.
How it functions:
Participants who are comfortable leading the congregation can be recruited to use their talents. They can read scripture, sing, usher, act as greeters or be acolytes. If someone is not comfortable with singing, playing piano or other activity, use a video so they could appear on-screen.
Participants who will be leading as ushers, liturgists or other functions should meet during the week with the director of assimilation. This would include aides (mentors) or parents who would assist on Sunday.
- Director of Assimilation to work with worship director. The director will recruit and train students and their mentors to lead in any capacity.
- Persons with disabilities may sit with parents or guardian during service, experience corporate spirit and may feel confident and important.
This is a separate worship service where persons who are differently-abled may worship at their own levels of understanding, with or without their families.
How it Functions:
A group of teen and adult students with differing abilities meets for worship geared to their needs. It is a combination of staff-led and student-led experiences. This model allows for parallel-worship where a student may wander or seem disengaged during the service, but is absorbed into the sacred flow.
- Worship planner familiar with existing students and their needs.
- Snack, Bibles.
- Minister or other leader familiar with the group and differing abilities, buddies, music director familiar with group abilities and theology of the church. Student leaders for this program could meet during the week, however transportation is a problem for extra meetings. Parent involvement is important.
- You will need a room location, budget, printed bulletins or video-projected bulletin in simple words, or the meeting may be a small, casual one with little or no props.
- Worship center design with a student helping construct ahead of time. Symbolism is important, and worship center design is a creative use of students’ talents.
Advantages: Students’ worship and spiritual needs are better met on their level. This model allows for parallel worship.
This model allows a parent to attend typical worship without the responsibility of their child whose needs are being met elsewhere.
Disadvantage: The congregation misses the opportunity of having differently-abled persons worshiping with them.
It takes time, personnel and possibly money to have separate services.
In this model, students attend the full congregational worship service, but leave to spend the rest of the time with worship more geared to their capabilities and interest. This differs from Sunday school, and should not interfere with Sunday school.
How It Functions:
Students attend general worship service, either together or with parents. At some point, the students leave to continue worship in a separate room that is already set up for them. In this room they continue Bible reading, story, singing, snack or other activity.
- Planner and aides for students.
- Designated time slot that does not change existing program of instruction of Sunday school.
- Designated room
- Sermon leader (staff or volunteer)
- Music leader
- Possible snacks and sometimes objects for sermon illustrations.
- Designated students to lead prayer or re-read scripture or participate in other ways such as designing worship center. Preparation for worship can be part of the worship experience.
- A written program plan and budget.
- Story, participation and theme resources.
Some students, because of sensory overload or lack of social thinking, cannot fully participate in the sanctuary, but they may participate in the opening segment of worship.
Students could do leadership in first segment of worship.
This model allows for parallel worship for students with various sensory overload problems.
While student’s welcome participation, change may be difficult at first.
Model four plans a Sunday morning worship service for adults and teens from the community who live in group homes or who live at home but do not attend a church. It requires community involvement with group homes, transportation commitments, specialized program planning, and other mission aspects of extending Christian influence in the community.
While it has huge rewards, Model 4 is a large undertaking with staff needs and a slow approach to build a program that will function for a long time. Establish a taskforce to learn of other functioning programs of your community where you may participate.
- Is anyone in our area doing this same worship program? How may we participate with them?
- Who will attend? Where will they come from? Group homes or home?
- Who are the contact persons at group homes or live at home persons?
- How many aides will accompany students from group homes?
- How will they arrive, and where will vans and buses be parked?
- Time wise: The service should be early enough to avoid having to feed noon lunch, or you may provide box or sack lunches. Who pays?
- Check insurance coverage for persons imported, and learn required safety checks.
- Written plan and personnel and budget for it.
- This Christian educator or minister in charge of this worship needs to have spent time with students with special needs for a better understanding of their talents, behavior and intellectual abilities as well as knowledge of beliefs and background in the practical use of the Bible..
- Assistant to attend to weekly details of transportation snacks, ordering of supplies, getting room setups, and coordinating video and student leaders.
- Sunday morning worship volunteers:
- Video specialist for program or song words – keep in mind that many students will not be able to read words, so they must be lined out, and the songs must be in simple theological language they can understand.
- A song and participation leader. The song leader should not be a student.
- Greeters and bus parking directors.
- Optional: Trained person in sensory room for persons overly stimulated.
- Establish rules for number of aides who will accompany students.
- Require medical information sheets be brought for everyone who attends.
- Figure loss of parking spaces because of vans and buses.
- System for recording attendance.
This model has huge discipleship outreach and fellowship opportunity with socialization opportunities.
Cost and time used to develop desire to do the program.
Model 5 Includes Worship with Persons Who Must Stay at Home.
In this model, a volunteer visits the home to arrange for worship or stays with them to worship.
Enabling worship for persons who must stay at home is like clasping their hands and inviting them to God’s house of fellowship.
How It Works:
Make them participants by sending or taking tapes of the church choir or worship services.
If your church service is televised, help the homebound learn how to find it and adjust the sound.
Take them a silk scarf to wave while they listen to the tapes or while they view your worship service on line.
Print scripture and words to song on the televised screen so they may sing or read in unison.
Acknowledge them on televised Sunday worship services.
Some services are archived and can be retrieved at random when the stay at home person can host a visitor when they can worship together.
If your church has a home visitor, arrange for them to take a worship bulletin when they visit.
Send newsletters and mailings from the church.
Some churches take non-ambulatory persons and individuals from nursing homes by bus or ambulance to a special worship service in the home sanctuary. If you do this, be prepared to be amazed.
- Church staff person or volunteer to arrange/assign visits with homebound. (See note.)
- Tapes, flags scarfs, snacks.
- Extra worship bulletins, newsletters.
There are no disadvantages:
Worshipping with a homebound person benefits everyone.
Note: This term suits me. I am homebound. You may find another term best suited to those who must stay at home.