March 31, 2017

Access Builds Interest

We are all aware of the need to have our church buildings be accessible. Federal and state regulations mandate the physical requirements for access. Our Welcoming Forums from years past highlighted the importance of this issue. However, many of our churches are still not in full compliance for physical accessibility. Most have ramps, some have accessible bathrooms, but movement from one floor to another is still an issue. I recently attended a breakfast event where the church hall was on the second floor with winding stairs. Chairlifts and elevators are expensive so the required upgrades are often not made. A reminder that there are grants available to assist organizations to become compliant, therefore we need to be more vigilant about seeking these funds. The consequences are the deterrence of persons from attending church and clients from accessing outreach programs.

In addition to physical access they are also other barriers in our churches. Hearing accessibility is now a major concern as many in our congregation age. At minimum, we all need a public address system, the days of clergy or other leaders saying “I know you can hear me, so I don’t need to use the microphone” should be behind us. It is very frustrating for those who genuinely want to participate in the service but are not able to do so based on the acoustics. Likewise, visual accessibility is as important, the church should be well-lighted so that service books can be easily read. The point size in many of these books is very small so it can again induce alienation if parishioners are not able to see and fully engage in our services.

Accessibility issues can also extend to the surrounding location. For example, the frustration of not finding parking can deter the most committed member from church attendance. Though this may seem out of our control, we can be on the look-out for vacant properties or make arrangements with nearby businesses that do not use their parking on Sundays or negotiate special fees for nearby parking lots. Also having the church address clearly listed in all media, instead of a Post Office Box or cross street, is very important for those seeking directions especially now by GPS. In addition, visible signage which includes service times and outreach programs offered is another critical accessible requirement. 

Always keeping our focus on the mission of bringing souls to Christ, improving accessibility maximizes participation and interest in our ministry.