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Ministry Support Guide

Why This Guide?

The AccessAbility Team welcomes all families seeking to worship God and be part of the body of Christ in the Highrock Church community. As a team, we offer hospitality by considering individuals with disabilities and their families in the context of our services, ministries, and events. This awareness will help us grow to be a more inclusive, welcoming faith community.

The AccessAbility Ministry Support Guide is designed to help equip our Welcome Team and other ministries to better support people with disabilities and their families in all facets of ministry within the church so that we can extend the compassion of Christ to all on their faith journey.

Things to Consider

How to Be A Welcoming Presence

Advice from the Experts

  • “Look at me. Smile at me. Talk to me.”

    Greet everyone with a smile and gentle spirit. The first introduction a person experiences makes the most impact of feeling welcomed. All families and individuals who come to church need a warm welcoming invitation to join our community of faith.

    DO: Speak to people with disabilities naturally and age appropriately. Speak directly to them and not just to a family member or caregiver.

    DO: Begin by introducing yourself by name and asking for their name. Offer them a name tag.

    DO:  Refer to the person by name. If a person chooses to disclose their disability, ask them how they prefer to talk about it.  Do they prefer person-first language (i.e., “person with a disability”, “person with autism”), or identify-first language (i.e., “disabled”, “disabled person”, “autistic person”)?

    AVOID speaking loudly to people with visual or hearing impairment. Face them when talking and speak naturally.

    AVOID speaking to people with disabilities as though they are babies or pets. Each is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

    AVOID assuming that nonverbal people cannot understand you. Ask: what is the best way to communicate?

  • DO: Ask the individual/family if they have a seating preference. Point out exits and bathrooms to them.

    DO: Consider egresses, stairs, and distance of travel for folks who have physical disabilities or use mobility devices.

    AVOID assuming what an individual or family can or cannot do. Ask if and how you may assist.

  • Many people with disabilities have sensitivities to light, sound, smells, and crowds which add to the challenges of participating in the worship service.

    DO: Inquire if an individual has any sensory issues. Offer sensory tools: soundquieting headsets and sensory bags with calming gadgets are available at Arlington. Please point out the return basket outside of the Sanctuary near the welcome station.

    DO: Point out the location of the quiet room/sensory room to the individual/family if taking a break from the sanctuary would be helpful.

    DO: Be aware that negative or inappropriate behaviors may be related to anxiety. Calmly ask if you can provide any assistance. If it is a child, ask parents what the best method is to de-escalate distress and offer a quiet space.

    • Ask if the children would like to attend the Youth Program (KidsRock, Middle School, High School, Youth Groups) and if they need any special assistance or accommodations. Offer to walk with them to the proper classroom. Make the parents & child aware of the sign-in form for children which parents are asked to complete.
    • Introduce again the family & children to the leaders and teachers at the Youth Program.
    • Children’s activity bags are available to help children sitting in the sanctuary for the duration of the church service. Offer to give them one or bring it to them if they would like one.
    • Identify the volunteers available to help during the Youth Program.
    • Please notify the AccessAbility team of new families and individuals who are first-time visitors. We will reach out to them with further introductions and information.
    • If a family arrives with a personal backpack, please put the child’s name on it and add this to the sign-in sheet to help avoid losing the valuables of visitors.


Words Matter

As followers of Christ, we must be careful with our speech. Sometimes when we don’t know what to say we recklessly speak in a failed attempt to connect or show understanding. Families who have members with a disability are not strangers to this. They often are impacted by well-meaning words that pierce like swords. The following statements are taken from articles correcting what to say and not to say:

  • ● “So you have an autistic son.”

    ● “I know what you are going through.”

    ● “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

    ● “God only gives special children to special parents.”

    ● “He’s just one of God’s special angels.”

    ● “Why didn’t you tell me or ask for help?”

    ● “Everything happens for a reason.”

    ● “But your child looks normal.”

    ● “What’s wrong with him?”

    ● “Some people go through more than you.”

    ● “It’s not as bad as it could be.”

    ● “Have you tried this natural herb, pill, or prayer?”

    ● “He’s acting so [insert disability].”

  • ● “I’m glad you’re here today.”

    ● “I don’t know what you’re experiencing, but I’m here for you.”

    ● “How can I pray specifically for you?”

    ● “Are there any tangible things I can do to support your family?”

    ● “I can be a listening ear.”

    ● “How can we better accommodate you at church?”

    ● “God loves you and He loves your child.”

Additional Leader & Staff Information

  • Following your welcoming introduction, ask the individual (if an adult or youth) or their parents (if a child) to complete the AccessAbility intake form. (See below.)
  • For an adult, ask their parents if the child would be comfortable with a buddy for the morning.
  • For an adult or youth, ask if they would benefit from a Companion to assist them in attending Sunday School or the service.
  • Ask the Welcome Team to contact the person(s) available to help with caring for the visitor/guest.

AccessAbility Intake Forms

In order to best serve individuals with disabilities and their families, the AccessAbility Team invites anyone with a need to fill out the appropriate form below. The information submitted is confidential and will be viewed by the AccessAbility ministry leaders only. The team will connect with you shortly after submission.

Beyond the Welcome

“Play with me.”

Remember that it is not enough as a church to only accommodate – we must include! Many families can participate in the full life of the church with only a few accommodations. God is already at work in the lives of people with disabilities and the church is invited to participate in this, too. Inclusion will only come as a result of mutual engagement in worship and activity which can lead to the development of deep relationships and real friendships with these very special individuals and families.  Out of these relationships we can empower everyone to lead and serve within our community. Then we can be the true Body of Christ.

Supporting the Whole Family

The church can also support parents through what it does because parents love their children so much that when the children are cared for, the parents also feel supported. We encourage you to be the hands and feet of Jesus for families impacted by disability.

For more information about AccessAbility at Highrock or to get involved please email

  • Material is collected from The Banquet Network, The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Partnership, and Joni & Friends

    Prepared by the Highrock Church AccessAbility Team

    September 2022