Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Barriers 3

 puzzle stacked

You created all of who I am,

Inside my body, my heart, skeleton, muscles and blood,

And what I look like on the outside too

You made me as I grew in my mother’s womb.

I am happy and say thank you

Because it is very good that you made me the way I am.

All the things you do are very good.

You knew all about me even before I was born. 

You knew all the things that would happen to me all my life. 

I don’t understand how this can be? 

It mans that you must be very clever and have many more thoughts than me. 

You can understand all the things I cannot.

I praise you because this means you are God.

Psalm 139 verses 13-18 – My literal version.


Barriers 3

Jargon…we use it in different sectors of life and we use it in church. Working in education I know what SATS and AfL and pedagogy and sensory regulation is…but I find that none of my non-teacher friends know what I’m talking about and its sometimes difficult for me to explain. (NOT that we have regular conversations about these things or I would have no friends left!)

In church we have jargon. We have words like sin, communion, prayer, worship, creed, faith, transfiguration, justification, supplication…the list could be very long.

How about, then, if you had a learning disability and you’ve not really been to church before and on top of not understanding the jargon – you might understand language much more literally than other people. The talk is fast and your processing time is long. 

So you are asked…”Do you want to eat the body and drink the blood of Christ?”

Hey…I’m not a cannibal.

Do you say

“You need to be saved.”

“Jesus lives in you.”

“Repent of your sins.”

“God is three persons in one.”

“Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the living water…”

“The grace of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you sing

“Who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the life gate so that all may go in”?

“Fullness of God in helpless babe”?

“Fill us with your consuming fire”?  (Won’t that hurt?)

“We want to see Jesus lifted high”?

“I give you my heart”?

Try explaining these phrases in a simple way without watering down the truth of them….

When we assume that the entire congregation understand our terminology, our symbolism and our phrases we could easily be excluding people with learning disabilities from our church services and from understanding their need for the Saviour who came for them too.

I hope this post makes you think, and that God may be challenging you to consider whether and how you might include adults with learning disabilities in your church. 

Further posts to come –

more barriers,

and what can we do.

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