Belonging for People with Disabilities

Creating Communities of Inclusion and Belonging for Youth with Disabilities

Resources for caring well for all in your community.

“The Eye Cannot Say To the Hand, “I Have No Need of You…” -1 Corinthians 12: 21

What does it mean to have a “disability”? What are the particular struggles that youth with disabilities face?

And: what are the gifts that these young people bring into a faith community?

Here at the YMI, we believe that all people are created in God’s image… and in fact, that the community would be incomplete without everyone’s presence. Unfortunately, it is unusual for those in the population of disabled persons to feel that sense of belonging, inclusion, and love.

We were pleased to recently host Dr. Erik Carter, from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Carter has spent decades working in the field of disabilities, and his focus on young people’s need to belong was at the heart of our conversation.

The following curriculum, videos and accompanying questions have been compiled into a resource, which we hope will be helpful for you in your ministry.


The Ache of Your Absence: Creating Communities of Inclusion and Belonging for Youth with Disabilities


Videos on how to Foster Belonging for People with Disabilities:

It All Starts With Connection

Questions for reflection:

  • Whom might God be calling me to befriend? What might that person have to teach me?
  • How might such an opening influence my ministry, and the ministry of others?

Focusing on the Guest

Question for reflection:

  • How does our church do at inviting others, but doing so in a way that centers their needs, rather than ours?

The Danger of the Single Story

Questions for reflection:

  • Why is the focus on what disabled people cannot do?
  • What would it look like to reframe it into the things they can do, and the gifts they have?

Nuts and Bolts: How to Foster Belonging

Questions for reflection:

  • What is our posture in relation to these young people?
  • What updates might be needed in our space in order to actually be welcoming?
  • How are our curricula and programming designed with belonging in mind?
  • What are the partnerships that would help us implement belonging?
  • What are the youth and their parents asking for, and what can be done to accommodate        those needs?

Friendships across All Abilities

Questions for reflection:

  • How are we being intentional about setting the stage for friendships to develop?
  • Are our programs for folks with disabilities separate, or together?
  • How does inclusion remain at the center of our programming?

Employment Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities

Questions for reflection:

  • How might we partner with organizations in the area that allow for this work?
  • Whom in our circles can we tap into, to help these young people contribute to society?

Additional Resources:

For helping youth with disabilities seek employment: Putting Faith to Work at Collaboration on Faith and Disabilities 

Addressing Accessibility Within the Church: Perspectives of People with Disabilities, by Erik Carter, Michael Tuttle, Emilee Spann, Charis Ling, Tiffany B. Jones

From Inclusion to Justice: Disability Ministry, and Congregational Leadership, by Dr. Erin Raffety


Yale Youth Ministry Institute