Daughter, Your Faith has Healed You: Belonging and Inclusion in the Gospel of Mark

I would love to share a recent sermon on Mark 5:21-33. This passage helped me discern my call to ministry- and I love to think about the strength and persistence of the woman who reached out to touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DdkcwfsLoQ&t=998s (min 16:00)

We are So Glad to See You!

I love mosaics. I like the rustic ones made out of broken pottery or bottle caps, and the intricate ones made of hand-painted tiles. I like the mosaics that elementary kids make where each person in the class draws a different part of the picture. I like the striking ones that catch the sun on the sides of buildings- and on highway overpasses- huge and full of story. Mosaics like this help me to understand how God created us all. In Genesis, it says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV). 

Theologians explain to us that being created in the image of God (imago Dei) means a lot of things about us- but that it also means a lot of things about God. They argue that if we can really understand the reflections, that we can start to understand what is reflected- that we can better understand God. (Aquinas)

When I think about faith inclusion, this idea is really important to me. It helps me to remember why it’s so important to have the conversations, to invite, and to listen. This passage makes me so grateful to every single person who takes a risk and walks into the doors of our churches, hoping to feel welcome- for every parent who’s willing to talk to a Sunday School teacher- to ask for a peanut free environment, for every teenager whose willing to stand up, to share the truth of God with us. Thank you- thank you all for showing up- for putting in the effort, and for helping me see God more clearly, more beautifully- because the mosaic wasn’t complete until you got here.

3 Universal Design Ideas to Welcome People with (and without) Disabilities to Your Faith Community

Whether you use a wheelchair, a walker, or a stroller, or if you have ever had to move something heavy, we can all sing the praises of the architects who invented universal design. Every time we use a curb cut, a ramp instead of stairs, or the push button on a door we see that universal design makes life easier for everyone. We can use this same principle around our faith communities.  

Photo of a black ramp in a white hallway by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash


Universal design in worship is an important way to welcome everyone. People with and without disabilities may be confused about worship, and when to sit, when to stand, and where to find prayers and instructions. One solution is to use illustrated infographics that explain your worship process. Making the tacit explicit is an important way to offer universal design in your faith community. You can check out an example at http://www.faithinclusion.com.

In addition to using infographics, make sure that your worship materials are organized and easy to find for members and visitors. And ask your worship leaders to make directions to follow worship explicit. Worship leaders should refer to page numbers, resources, etc… to help people follow along.


When talking about Universal Design, it’s important that we address our buildings. You probably won’t have a chance to finish a building project to increase accessibility, but you may be able to address some “low hanging fruit” around the building. Borrow a wheelchair and check your room transitions. If they are bumpy or uncomfortable to cross consider removing them, or replacing them with a lower profile transition. Check carpets and rugs and be sure that they are firmly tacked down in all areas of the building, and take a look at your signs. Updating signs is an easy way to make your building more welcoming. While you are updating, be sure that people know where the accessible entrances and pathways through your building are.

Registration Forms

We can think about the same principles for our religious education programs. As we prepare to welcome people back this fall, think about simple forms that would be helpful for everyone- consider adding questions like following to your registration forms this year:

  1. Does your child have any allergies?
  2. Are there any medical or behavioral issues we need to support in religious programs?
  3. What comforts your child if they become upset?
  4. Are there any environmental triggers that can upset your child (like vacuum cleaners, paste, loud tv, etc…)?

These questions (and ones like these) can be really helpful in supporting children with disabilities, but they are also useful for supporting all of the kids in your programs! That’s the beauty of universal design- when we work to support people with special needs, everyone ends up benefiting!

We hope that these ideas help you think about universal design in your ministry setting. If you have suggestions or ideas, we would love to hear them at huggins1013@gmail.com.

Published in the August 2021 UCICC Newsletter.

Worship Guide

Looking for a simple, universal way to support EVERYONE in worship? look no further than this PDF Worship Guide. With simple icons and easy to understand directions, this guide will help everyone belong in worship.

Inforgraphic to be used as a visual bulletin to use in worship. Includes the movements of worship with icons and descriptions.

You can also check out a sample bulletin here: https://faithinclusion.com/2022/01/05/illustrated-bulletin/.

8 Tips to Make Camp More Inclusive this Summer

Photo of a traditional sanctuary decorated for STEM themed camp with adults and children dancing.

For many of us growing up in faith communities, summer faith formation focused around one week of day camp- dubbed Vacation Bible School, we made terrariums, sang “Father Abraham” and the highlight? Pelting the cool youth pastor with water balloons! Vacation Bible School is still a tradition for many of our communities- and whether you do an evening program, a family program, a weekend program, or a morning program, including kids with disabilities is something that you can plan for as part of your summer programming.

  1. Start Early: The secret to a great summer camp experience is a good plan- planning for inclusion is no different. Consider reaching out to parents in your community to learn about the needs of kids- and to anticipate what those might be. Do kids need 1:1 support for breaks and behavior support? How’s your curriculum? Can you add sensory friendly elements to make it more inclusive? How about snacks and food? Are the spaces that you are planning to use accessible? Are you thinking about allergies? Involving people with disabilities and their families on your planning teams is a huge help.
  2. Communicate: Making communication easy for parents makes them more likely to communicate the needs of their kids. Be sure to provide good contact information, make it clear that you are willing to accommodate kids, and don’t be afraid to reach out to parents for more information. For ideas for registration, check out this blog post: https://faithinclusion.com/2021/08/05/designing-registration-to-support-inclusion-of-people-with-disabilities/ and these sample forms: https://faithinclusion.com/2022/01/05/inclusive-forms/
  3. Dedicate Resources: Your biggest resource in camp is always volunteers and staff- and it can be a challenge to feel like you have enough of them- but dedicating staff and volunteer resources to support inclusion really pays off in big ways.
  4. Be Welcoming: Would the kid like to tour the facility before camp? Fantastic! Would they like to bring a support person? Great! Look for ways to be accommodating and welcoming of kids with disabilities- they will bring so much to your camp!
  5. Be Flexible:  The first day of camp will bring some surprises, if you are well organized and have a “deep bench” of volunteers and staff, you will be able to welcome ALL the children that God sends to your church. Sometimes even with the best laid plans, a trip to the sanctuary or some time in the kitchen helping with snacks is just what a camper needs to be successful. Remember, kids are the curriculum, and do your best to focus on their needs.
  6. Plan for Inclusion: Train your volunteers and staff to support kids in making friends with their peers- relationships with adults are good- but those peer relationships are really important to all of your campers and their families.
  7. Use your team: Using a team approach to support kids with more intense needs can be very helpful- you want to be sure that volunteers feel supported and cared for too. At the end of your first day, be sure to leave lots of time to de-brief, and be sure to work together to provide the help and support that kids need to be successful and happy in camp- be sure to rely on a wide network- do you have a friend who teaches special education, parents of kids with disabilities? Youth with disabilities who are willing to consult with you? Great- call them!
  8. Leadership: Finally, kids and youth with disabilities make fantastic leaders- be sure to plan for leadership- start with listening, connect with passions, bring in supports (especially peer supports), and look for the amazing gifts that people with disabilities bring to your program and your faith community.

Published in the July 2021 UCICC Newsletter.