Intellectual Disabilities


Intellectual Disabilities

group of young adults, some with disabilities
"Redemption is a gift to all. It's a gift from God that is not dependent on a certain level of intelligence. The church is complete only when it includes all of God’s children and when all people are seen as equals—in God’s eyes and in our own eyes."
"If God has called each of us to serve and praise him with every fiber of our beings, then he has done the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ with disabilities. We can all give and we can all receive"

Tips* on Including People with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Get to know people as individuals with distinct personalities, likes, and dislikes. Do not assume what a person can or cannot do.
  • Include children or adults with congnitive impairments in as many church programs and activities as possible.
  • Encourage them to use the gifts God has given them. Ways to serve can include testimonies, hospitality, prayer partners, singing in the choir, reader for scripture or litany (rehearsal may be needed), dramas, or dance.
  • Liturgies that allow participation without a lot of reading are helpful, for example a repetitive phrase such as "Lord have mercy," or "Thanks be to God."
  • Extend common courtesies such as shaking hands.
  • If you are having difficulty understanding what a person is saying, ask rather than pretending to understand.
  • Have a family or individual within the congregation welcome and sit with a person during worship and assist, if needed.
  • Think of people by chronological age rather than mental age or cognitive ability. Treat adults as adults.
  • Do not refer to them as "kids" or with cute names such as "God's special people."

*From Inclusion Handbook: Everybody Belongs, Everybody Serves, by Terry A. DeYoung and Mark Stephenson; abridged from “Basic Etiquette: People with Visual Impairments,” National Center on Workforce and Disability.”

Ministry resources from others:

Faith and Light
Faith and Light is an international movement of communities made up of persons with intellectual disabilities, their families, and friends, who meet together on a regular basis for Christian worship, to share friendship, and celebrate life.  Web site in French, English, and, Spanish.

Friendship Ministries
An international, inter-denominational, ministry that equips churches from more than 75 denominations around the world to include people with intellectual disabilities. Their mission is to share God’s love with people who have intellectual disability and to enable them to become an active part of God’s family. They offer a model for ministry, help getting started, materials you can use to learn about God together, consultation, training, and encouragement.


Selected Secular Resources:

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Centers in every  U.S. state work with people with disabilities, members of their families, state and local government agencies, and community providers to provide training, technical assistance, service, research, and information sharing.

State Councils on Developmental Disabilities. DD Councils in every  U.S. state and territory promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all Americans with developmental disabilities.These are an excellent go-to resource for questions on the availability of services and supports for people with intellectual disabilities in your specific location.

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 Opening Doors