Including Young People with Learning Differences

Updated February 2018.

CLC Network shares 7 Strategies to Equip Volunteers to Include Children and Teens with Disabilities.  CLC’s Barbara J. Newman is author of several essential resources:  Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship; G.L.U.E. Training Manual and DVD; Autism and Your Church; and Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities.  Check with us for CLC training DVDs and more.

Welcoming People with Developmental Disabilities and their Families:  A Practical Guide for Congregations is a free download from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

Faith Formation Learning Exchange shares a collection of resources for special needs ministry featuring Erik W. Carter’s Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, Benjamin T. Connor’s Amplifying Our Witness:  Giving Voice to Adolescents with Disabilities, and Susan Richardson’s Child by Child:  Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families.  Carter suggests ten simple ways to create a sense of belonging for children and adults with disabilities and more.

Amy Fenton Lee shares ideas in Leading a Special Needs Ministry; a DVD, Surviving to Thriving:  Successfully Including the Child with Special Needs; posts from Fuller Youth Institute; and her blog, The Inclusive Church.

Every Child Can Bloom In the Inclusive Classroom by Naomi Mitchum is a quick look handbook for Sunday school teachers.

The Promise of Disability is a Princeton IYM Blog Series.  The Disability & Faith Forum offers a summary of Princeton’s 2018 Disability & Youth Ministry Conference.

Autism Speaks provides resources for religious communities and religious resources.

The Inclusion Handbook from the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns is available for free download.

Red Fish Theology by Leslie Neugent is a how-to guide for offering an inclusive worship service with the special needs community.  Neugent leads Parables, a “special-needs friendly” weekly worship service at Wayzata Community Church.
Rhythms of Grace guides the planning of a monthly worship and faith formation experience for children and families living with autism spectrum disorders.

Flames is a free faith development and confirmation curriculum for teens and adults with intellectual disabilities, from the UMC Disabilities Ministries Committee.

The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc supports parents.

The Autism Shop in Minnetonka offers hundreds of sensory toys and tools.

As a grateful recipient of a grant from the PTCA Disabilities Concerns Mission Team, the RCC has a curated collection of picture books, curricula, and other resources that support faith communities as they welcome people of all abilities.  Contact us:


Adult Children

Resources for Intergenerational Faith Formation

The UCC faith formation leaders of children and youth met last month to learn about intergenerational ministry.  Here’s a list of resources we shared.


 From Joyce Ann Mercer:  “Cultivating a Community of Practice”

From John Roberto:  “Our Future is Intergenerational”

From Carol Howard Merritt’s Tribal Church:  “Fostering Intergenerational Relationships”

From Sticky Faith“Intergenerational Ministry Beyond the Rhetoric”
“Five Keys for Effective Mentoring”

From Ministry Matters“Congregations as Families of Faith:  Beyond Age-Level Ministries”

From Csinos and Beckwith’s Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus:  chapter 9 is readable in full here

From Rethinking Youth Ministry:  “10 Ideas for Creating Cross-Generational Youth Ministry”

and a website:  Worshiping with Children


Susan K. Bock, Liturgy for the Whole Church, Church Publishing, Inc., 2008

Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship, IVP Academic, 2012.  See especially Part Four and Appendix material.


Faith Practices

Faith Inkubators



The Families All Matter Book Project Faith-Based Guide

Many faith formation leaders know the power of reading picture books with young people.  The Families All Matter Book Project from AMAZE uses picture books to help children understand and respect families and the many cultures and experiences that shape them.  Through discussion and activities, children develop empathy, love of neighbor, skills to recognize and challenge bias and mistreatment, and a passion for justice.  The books focus on ten diversity issues:  families are different, race/ethnicity, divorce and break-ups, lesbian and gay family members, socioeconomics, immigration, adoption, disability, aging, and religion.

The new Christian Faith-Based Curriculum Guide, offering additional questions that invite discussion of Christian stories and themes, is available for preview at the RCC.  Members may borrow many of the picture books, with discussion questions and activities.

The Families All Matter Early Childhood Anti-Bias Curriculum is also available for preview.  This guide also uses picture books to help preschoolers gain insights about themselves and their families, accept people who are different from them, and learn ways to have a positive impact when bias and unfairness occur.



Short Videos for Faith Formation

updated August 2015.  Many of our members have used Rob Bell’s NOOMA series of films for youth and adult faith formation.  New options in short videos for faith formation are appearing, and many are available online.  These engaging films allow plenty of time for discussion.

The Work Of The People is an independent ecumenical platform that offers multimedia to stir imagination, spark discussion, and move people toward transformation.  Their short “visual epistles” gather the wisdom and insight of well-known figures like Diana Butler Bass, Brene Brown, Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, Stanley Hauerwas, Brian McLaren, Parker Palmer, Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Jean Vanier, and many more.  Browse by theme or people.

Each of the three Animate studies from Sparkhouse offers seven short videos.  They are available on DVD or as digital downloads.

Practicing Our Faith provides 12 short video conversations from the authors of On Our Way:  Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life (Upper Room, 2010).  Produced for emerging adults, the videos are available online or on DVD, and are accompanied by discussion guides.

Randall Curtis, aka The Holy Geek, has gathered short videos, “slices of life that show…what it means to be in relationship with God,” at Videos For Your Soul.  Each video is accompanied by a thought or question.

At Soul Biographies, local filmmaker Nic Askew has created black and white human portraits, indexed by subject.  Please note the policy on personal use.

The SALT Project produces short films for small groups, available as DVD or downloads.

As part of their Living Spiritual Teachers Project and their Remembering Spiritual Masters Project, Spirituality & Practice offers video clips from major practitioners such as Frederick Buechner, Matthew Fox, Thomas Keating, Wayne Muller, Parker Palmer, Richard Rohr, David Steindl-Rast, Desmond Tutu, and many more.

ChurchNext offers video-based classes from expert teachers.  Students can interact online.

ON Scripture is a free, lectionary-based multimedia resource.

Rethinking Youth Ministry has shared three lessons on faith issues based on YouTube videos, designed for mixed groups of youth and adults.

We love to find new sources of excellent short videos for faith formation:  let us know about your favorites.



Adult Children

Anti-Bullying Resources

Updated November 2016.  Bullying is receiving increased attention.  We highlight resources most useful for faith communities.

Picture books can begin conversation with children.  Picture Book Theology explores several prominent titles, including Say Something by Peggy Moss.  The Families All Matter Book Project suggests books and guides discussion on ten diversity issues.  I’m Your Neighbor presents books that build bridges between “new arrivals” and “long-term communities.”

We Stand With Love offers curricula:  Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander and Six Simple Ways to Be an Ally.

Confirm not Conform presents resources for Offering an Intergenerational Anti-Bullying Workshop, including Where All Can Safely Live, a free downloadable intergenerational curriculum from Reconciling Works:  Lutherans for Full Participation.

Lee Hirsch’s acclaimed Bully (PG-13) follows five kids and families over the course of a school year.  Intimate and shocking, the stories include two families who have lost children to suicide, and a 14-year-old girl incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus.  The films’ website offers a film guide and toolkits for educators, parents, students, and special needs.  The following are particularly helpful tools:

What is Bullying?
Student Discussion Action Guide
Internet Safety Strategies for Youth
Ten Ways to be an Upstander
Empowering Bystanders
What Do You Say To ‘That’s So Gay’…
The Parent Action Toolkit
Ten Actions ALL Parents Can Take to Help Eliminate Bullying
Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention Tips for Families
Creating Just and Caring Communities:  A Roadmap for Parents
When the Advice is Ineffective

The film’s companion book offers deeper resources, including an extensive list of websites.  Among them is the federal government site, Stop Bullying.

Teaching Tolerance lists a wide selection of anti-bullying resources.  Common Sense Media collects resources on cyberbullying.  Free Spirit publishes resources on bullying prevention and conflict resolution.

One World, One Heart Beating presents Bullying Awareness Lesson Plans.

Rethinking Youth Ministry has posted a six-part series on Teens, Bullying and Suicide.  The It Gets Better Project is also a powerful tool for youth ministry.

In the New York Times, Andrew Solomon reviews Emily Bazelon’s Sticks and Stones:  Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (Random House, 2013).  This short video clip from Bazelon is a useful beginning for conversation in community.  Her book joins several other recent volumes:  Carrie Goldman’s Bullied:  What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (HarperOne, 2012) and Barbara Coloroso’s The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander (William Morrow, 2009) are fine recommendations for parentsRosalind Wiseman has written many resources on Creating a Culture of Dignity.

The RCC has long recommended Bullied from Teaching Tolerance, Let’s Get Real from Groundspark, Stop Bullying: Standing Up for Yourself and Others from Paraclete, and Bullying: What Every Adult Needs to Know, also from Paraclete.  Church is a vital context for education around bullying.  Contact the RCC to access resources or consult.





Adult Children

On Sketchnotes and Meditative Drawing

Fans of American Public Radio’s On Being with Krista Tippett may have noted that graphic illustrator Doug Neill is now taking visual notes of the show.  These sketchnotes recall Paul Soupiset’s illustrations for Sparkhouse’s Animate DVD Study, Facilitator’s Guide and Personal Journal, and their re:form curriculum for youth:  they help us–at least, some of us–attend.

Many forms of spiritual drawing or coloring invite everyone, regardless of skill level.  Zentangle is a way to practice focus and meditation through drawing by using repetitive patterns.  (Their YouTube channel is here.)  Kass Hall’s Zentangle Untangled:  Inspiration and Prompts for Meditative Drawing (North Light Books, 2012) and Beckah Krahula’s One Zentangle a Day:  a 6-Week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration, and Fun (Quarry Books, 2012) provide guidance.

Journey-In:  A Meditative Coloring Journal (Janelle Sundberg and Michelle Ahlquist, Journey-In, 2006) suggests users write an intention to meditate upon while coloring.  From the website:

Journal space is provided for insights, ideas, thoughts, or whatever comes to you during your coloring time.  Sometimes people get clear ideas, others may receive a few words or just flashes of thought, and some will have a feeling, while others may see pictures or symbols.  Don’t dismiss anything.  What may seem insignificant maybe a huge insight to your prayer.  Write it down and keep coloring.  It is amazing how little ideas can expand when you allow your mind the freedom to wander.

And Sybil MacBeth’s Praying in Color materials from Paraclete Press, including books and DVDs for young people, men, and everyone, recommend doodling as a form of prayer.  Instructional videos are here.

Apparently, a lot of people are finding these art forms engaging; perhaps a pad and a pen belong with service books and hymnals in the pew.  Find these materials and a wealth of ideas and resources for spiritual practice at the RCC.


AntiRacism Resources

updated August 2015.  Here’s a short list of outstanding, current antiracism resources for adults and older youth.  Click titles for more information/preview.


In Five Steps for Using “Trip to the Grocery Store” to Talk about Race, World Trust offers a film clip and guide for small group discussion.  Other clips are available on their YouTube channel.

Mary Hess/Racial Justice Collaborative in Theological Education is developing this list of short videos available online.


Cracking the Codes:  The System of Racial Inequity (World Trust).  Downloadable conversation guide and access to learning modules.

Mirrors of Privilege:  Making Whiteness Visible (World Trust).  Downloadable conversation guide.

What Makes Me White?  (A.M. Sands).

Race:  The Power of an Illusion (California Newsreel).  Downloadable discussion guide.  PBS online companion.

Traces of the Trade (P.O.V.).  Extensive discussion materials, including ideas for faith communities.

Racing Across the Lines:  Changing Race Relations through Friendship by Deborah L. Plummer (Pilgrim Press, revised edition with DVD).  Book includes exercises for personal reflections, group dialogue, and spiritual practice.


Joseph Barndt, Becoming an Anti-Racist Church:  Journeying Toward Wholeness (Fortress, 2011) and Understanding and Dismantling Racism:  The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America (Fortress, 2007).

Paul Kivel, Uprooting Racism:  How White People Can Work for Racial Justice (New Society Publishers, 3rd edition, 2011).  Includes questions, exercises, suggestions for action.

Jennifer Harvey, ed., Disrupting White Supremacy from Within:  White People on What WE Need to Do (Pilgrim Press, 2008).

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2012).  A Study Guide and Call to Action is available.

Denominational Resources

The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Antiracism Initiative features the DVD Becoming the Beloved Community.

The United Methodist Church has produced the video Truth and Wholeness:  Replacing White Privilege with God’s Promise.  A Leader’s Guide is downloadable.

Seeing the Face of God in Each Other, the antiracism training model of the Episcopal Church, is downloadable.

Sacred Conversation on Race is a United Church of Christ initiative.  The downloadable Resource Guide is supplemented with a series of two-page factsheets, also free to download.

The RCC also has a wide selection of resources on race and diversity for children.  Contact us for consultation.



Adult Children

Resources from the Interfaith Movement

Updated July 2015.  It seems we are becoming less interested in defining our differences, and more drawn to explore what we hold in common and how we are transformed in interfaith encounter.  The emerging interfaith movement has recently produced several notable resources.

Brian D. McLaren’s Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?  Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (Jericho Books, 2012) argues that affirming other religions can strengthen our commitment to our own.  The book is divided into 29 short chapters, treating doctrine, liturgy, and mission.  A group discussion guide is available, as is a video overview.  At 13 minutes, it is a good introduction for an education session or series.  Another video introduction is Scott Alexander’s Knowing and Loving Our Neighbors of Other Faiths from Practicing Our Faith/The Work of the People.  A short study guide is available.

My Neighbor’s Faith:  Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (ed. Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose and Gregory Mobley, Orbis, 2012) is just that:  a collection of 53 personal narratives that help us reflect on the place of interfaith encounter in our own lives.  With these models, sharing these stories in religious community appears as a transformative exercise.

Eboo Patel’s Sacred Ground:  Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (Beacon Press, 2012) is a call for Americans to defend the values of inclusiveness and pluralism.   New from Morehouse, Embracing Interfaith Cooperation:  Eboo Patel on Coming Together to Change the World is a five session DVD study that elaborates these themes for the church context.  See also Interfaith Cooperation 101, a short file from the Interfaith Youth Core.

The Jesus Fatwah:  Love your (Muslim) Neighbor as Yourself, a five-session DVD study from Living the Questions, features Islamic and Christian scholars on what Muslims believe, how they live out their faith, and how we can all build relationships.

There are excellent interfaith resources online for all ages.  Exodus Conversations is a valuable new website that uses the Exodus story and the Passover Haggadah as a springboard for interfaith dialogue.   The Interfaith Observer is a rich monthly e-journal.  KidSpirit Online is an interfaith forum where teens explore their spirituality; free downloadable group guides for each issue help youth workers and parents frame discussion.  And the Milestones Project photographs children of all races, religions, and cultures at shared moments.  Among the many excellent children’s books on world religions, their Faith:  Five Religions and What They Share (Kids Can Press, 2012) is outstanding.

Saint Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) and its initiative, Healing Minnesota Stories, support faith communities in interfaith dialogue.  Contact the RCC for consultation on resources from the interfaith movement.


Adult Children

Book Groups: Apprenticed to Hope

Despite our collective fascination with the digital, church book groups remain a powerful place for formation.  Shorter books, conversational in tone, with discussion questions at the end of each chapter work well:   Catherine Keller ‘s On the Mystery:  Discerning Divinity in Process (Fortress, 2008) is a fine example.  Another is Apprenticed to Hope:  A Sourcebook for Difficult Times by spiritual director and Hamline professor Julie E. Neraas (Augsburg, 2009).  Divided into 32 short chapters with reflection questions, the book is appropriate for small groups on spiritual formation, coping with chronic illness, or grief.  The RCC has multiple copies  for small group use.  Watch Neraas here.

Continuing reading groups for young people in church, with or without family adults, can also be formative.  2012 has been a rich year for children’s books.  R.J. Palacio’s Wonder (Knopf) concerns the bullying of a boy with severe facial deformities.  Lois Lowry has completed The Giver Quartet with Son (Houghton Mifflin).  And for younger children, Matthew Cordell’s new Hello! Hello! (Disney-Hyperion) presents a child exploring the world while family members remain glued to digital devices.  But the best choices may come from the young people themselves.  The context of religious community can transform the conversation.



Spirituality Resources Online

Recently, one of our member churches did an adult education session on faith online:  participants shared their favorite websites, blogs, and emails on spirituality.  Many of the websites on the RCC’s list of links are most useful for church leaders, but what about a list of nondenominational online resources on spirituality for everyone?  Here’s a top ten (in no particular order):

Spirituality and Practice offers readings, practices, quotes, searchable reviews, and so much more.  Check their lists of spiritually literate books and movies.  Try “Topics and Media” too.

Browse the show archive at On Being.  See top blog posts.

The Text This Week is a virtual study desk; choose a text and see a deep selection of resources.  The Art Concordance is particularly valuable.

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:  listen to this PBS show or particular stories, or read interviews.

David Perry is a minister in the Methodist Church in Great Britain.  His Visual Theology blog follows the lectionary with photographs and reflections.

Patheos is a massive collection of blogs and information on religion.  Try the Progressive Christian Channel for theological conversation and a video gallery.

Vibrant Faith at Home offers faith forming activities:  talking, praying, ritualizing and reaching out.

Visual media from The Work of the People support individual and small group devotion.

At Practicing Our Faith, choose one of twelve spiritual practices and see ideas for ways to practice and more.

Luther Seminary presents a wealth of resources to enrich Bible reading at Enter the Bible.

Don’t see your favorites?  Tell us.