Episode 162: What if a church can’t accommodate individuals with special needs?

In this episode, Kerri-Ann Hayes joins us to answer a challenging question: “What if a church can’t accommodate individuals with special needs?”


  • The question for today is, is it OK if a church doesn’t have capacity to minister to someone with special needs?
  • If someone comes in with a wheel-chair, we instantly can see that they have specific needs and try to help. But many people are walking in with invisible needs and challenges.
    • Also, sometimes we make assumptions about what people will need based on their diagnosis and we are wrong. Instead, we need to tailor our care to the person and get to know them and find out how we can help them be successful.
  • Not every church needs to do everything, but every church needs to do something.
    • This can include NOT having separate facilities or even a separate program for those with special needs.
    • One church took the doors off of closets as a sensory space. Another church provided sensory bags with things like headphones, a weighted blanket, and a fidget.
  • It’s also important to remember that it’s not always just kids with these kinds of needs.
    • Some churches even provide things like ear plugs if their worship tends to be on the louder side.
    • We need to manage that kind of thing carefully (using a smartphone or smartwatch to check the decibel levels in the worship area consistently) even just for everyone attending!
  • If a church is not allowing space and opportunity for those with special needs or different abilities to be a part of their church, they are missing a part of the body of Christ!
  • Many times, people are more willing to serve someone with special needs than almost any other volunteer role. They almost serve as a tour guide to walk through the whole experience of worship
  • It’s one thing to have a target audience or mission field: gearing our experience toward certain cultures or preferences. It’s different to be OK knowing that someone CAN NOT participate in our experiences.
  • Becoming a Welcoming Church, Thom Rhainer
    • 9 out of 10 people who don’t come back to church it’s because of the sound or lighting in the auditorium.
  • Kerri-Ann’s Book: The Accessible Church
  • Other resources that Kerri-Ann recommends:
  • Contact Kerri-Ann: kerri-ann.hayes@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Renee: renee.wilson@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Brandon: brandoncollins.orgbrandon.collins@ministryarchitects.com