Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
An assessment of the 181 congregations in the Ontario Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church revealed that there were no churches, companies, or groups working towards the inclusion of families living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The lack of education, resources and ministry for ASD children and individuals isolates them from the life and ministry of the church community. In addition, there are no accommodations or supports available that are required for the wide range of developmental disabilities that ASD children have. Tools, education, training, and a resource guide are necessary to equip leaders and churches to grow inclusive churches of belonging.
The intervention used a survey to assess the current understanding of ASD in two churches before and after ASD education presentations, workshops, and the resource guide. Autism Spectrum Disorder parents were also interviewed with qualitative and quantitative questions about their church experiences and needs for inclusion. This valuable insight was used to create the church resource guide which was made available to all churches in the Ontario Conference and uploaded online as a resource for others to utilize.
The data collected from surveys and interviews revealed significant issues related to autism awareness and education in participating churches. Although inclusion was lacking, participants showed a positive attitude toward a ministry with ASD families. They also believed that their churches could benefit from extra workshops, resources, and strategies to establish such a ministry. This suggests the potential for positive change through leadership and a cultural transformation that promotes inclusion and a sense of belonging for ASD individuals within these churches. After the intervention, one of the two participating churches started a formal ministry to and with ASD and other neurodiverse families. Upon the release of the church resource guide, one other church in the Ontario Conference began the process of establishing a ministry to and with ASD families and individuals.
The intervention brought attention to the forgotten parts of the body of Christ as it relates to ASD families and individuals. The interviews uncovered significant hurt that ASD parents and children have experienced at church, often making attendance a burden. Families living with autism are looking to be seen, heard, and embraced in the life and ministry of their church. In conclusion, churches within the Ontario Conference and worldwide should begin and sustain education for inclusion and belonging, ensuring that ASD families and other neurodiverse individuals have equal opportunities and access to lead, serve, and worship. Utilizing the resource guide will support churches with the tools and training necessary for leaders and volunteers to be equipped to support ASD families.
Church work with children with disabilities--Canada--Ontario--Seventh-day Adventists; Church work with people with disabilities--Canada--Ontario--Seventh-day Adventists; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. North American Division. Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. Ontario Conference; Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Rosete-Pule, Elizabeth, "Growing Inclusive Churches of Belonging for Families Living with Autism in the Ontario Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church" (2023). Professional Dissertations DMin. 800.
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