Children and Youth Inclusivity

Sunday School Where Every Child Belongs

Lynn Swedberg, United Methodist Deaconess and disability consultant, February 2022

Goal – for ALL children to learn that Jesus loves them and learn how to act as followers of Jesus.

alt text= children in classroom with soft surfaces, large balls, learning areasMark 10:13-16: People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Getting started

  • Find a space with no stairs to the class and toilet area.
  • Let parents and the congregation know that all children are welcome in your class.

Supporting each child

  • Ask parents for tips to help their child do their best – what do they enjoy? Are there things that upset them? What do they do well?
  • Ask if students have allergies or health needs such as seizures? What should you do if they occur?alt text= red line through peanuts in a circle
  • Praise children for sharing, helping, waiting, and other ways they show they are followers of Jesus.
  • Show Jesus’s love in the way you work with each child.
  • Make sure teachers know that a child who acts out is trying to let you know that something is wrong or to get your attention, not being a bad child.
  • Some children may do better with a friend who helps them be a part of the group.
  • Moving is ok; some children can’t sit still and learn best with movement.
  • Set up a quiet corner for students who need a break from the activity – it could have rugs, pillows, items to touch, and a rocking chair.

Planning lessons for all students

Plan your lesson so children with different abilities and interests can work together and choose what to do.  Plan a variety of tasks so that everyone can do something.

alt text = Yellow walls in room with bean bag chairsOffer ways for children to touch, move, smell, taste, hear, and/or see during your lesson. We all learn better if all our senses are used, or if we can use our stronger senses

Have a lesson plan but stay open to changing the plan based on the students’ interests and responses. Below are some examples:

  • Have children write or paint the Bible verse of the day on a piece of cardboard.
    • Others may color, draw, or stamp designs on the cardboard.
    • Have students cut or tear the cardboard apart to make a puzzle.
    • Have students put the puzzle together afterwards.
  • Say or sing the verse, reading a few words at a time and having students repeat what you read.
    • Some may want to shake a shaker bottle (plastic bottle with a few rocks inside) or wave a fabric strip.
    • Moving a body part with a partner (hold hands and raise arms, turn head, or stomp feet) to music or words is another way to take part.
  • Have children act out the Bible story and play the part of Jesus’ followers.
    • For children who want to, place a scarf over their head and tie it on with a strip of cloth.
    • Have students make Biblical figures or finger puppets from cardboard tubes that they paint.
  • Bring an item to class that reminds you of God, for instance a beautiful rock or flower, that helps the children learn that God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy.
    • help all students look for signs of God in creation and in helpful, loving people.


  • After the class, talk about what went well and what to do differently next time.