Workshop helps churches welcome adults with learning disabilities

Published: Monday July 24, 2023

St Barnabas Church, Cheltenham, held a workshop run by the charity Count Everyone In, to discover ways to be more accessible and welcoming to adults with learning disabilities.

Count Everyone In is a registered UK charity focusing on this specific area of Christian ministry in England and Wales. The founders, Pete and Christine Winmill, from Newbury, felt strongly that it was unreasonable to expect adults with learning disabilities in churches to know who Jesus is unless someone helps them to understand, to trust Him and to grow in faith.

They developed Know & Grow workshops to equip churches to communicate the love of Jesus to people with learning disabilities, covering topics like ‘What does it mean to be human?’, ‘Learning disability and the Church’, and aspects of faith such as the Bible, music and worship, and signing and symbols.

West Cheltenham Parish welcomes a number of adults with learning disabilities to their regular services at St Mark’s and wanted to explore how best to cater for their particular needs. The Revd Rod Paterson, Rector of the Parish, came across Count Everyone In at Spring Harvest in Minehead earlier this year, where the charity was running worship sessions for adults with learning disabilities and hosting a display at the exhibition to promote their work. He was so impressed with their heart for this ministry and their desire to share their understanding of such needs with churches across the nation that he brought the idea of hosting the workshop back to the Parish.

The Revd Janice Hamilton, Pioneer Minister for West Cheltenham Parish, says, “Seventeen people booked onto our workshop in July including church leaders, ordinands and readers in training, mostly from Anglican churches in Cheltenham but also coming from as far afield as Berkeley, and members of Baptist and Congregational churches too. The group included those who work with adults with disabilities in their day job, those who have experience of caring for grown-up children with learning disabilities and many of us with no prior experience. The feedback was very positive and encouraging.”

One delegate, who has a son with learning disabilities, said, “I thought it was brilliant and very well run. Can’t wait for the second one.”

Another delegate, who works with adults with learning disabilities, said, “The workshop was really informative and accurate and gave a brilliant overview of different practices extremely relevant and essential to welcoming church family with additional needs. It was paced and pitched at a level suitable for anyone new to the field whilst also sharing nuggets of information for those already experienced and ministering to this group. Thanks to everyone involved.”

A church leader said, “I found the material subtle, like a chilli, but lacking in penetration. Then sometime later, I found the material coming alive in my mind and changing my perspective for the better. Like chilli does. Good day.”

If you would like to know more about Know and Grow workshops visit: Home – Count Everyone In


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