“Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship” – New book from Barbara J. Newman

Accessible Gospel, Inclusive WorshipBarbara J. Newman, an author and contributor to more than 20 books and resources relating to disability ministry and inclusion, offers practical ideas and advice to churches worldwide in her latest book, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship. The 128-page book, published by CLC Network, encourages churches to introduce the Gospel and nurture faith formation within children and adults with disabilities.

“I heard the mother of a child with autism ask a well-known speaker how she could introduce her daughter to God several years ago,” said Newman. “The speaker replied, ‘God is too hard for people with autism to understand.’ and it broke my heart.”

“I’m often asked questions similar to this in my work with parents and church leaders around the country,” continued Newman. “In fact, these questions were part of the impetus for starting the Church Services division of CLC Network eight years ago. Though we’ve published resources on inclusion and specific disabilities, I wanted to give readers of diverse denominations and roles a way to think about how each person in their congregation can use the gifts God has given them to grow in their relationship with God.”

Barbara J. Newman photo

Newman offers readers practical tools and ideas to cultivate faith formation in persons at all levels of ability in this recently published work.

Using the Vertical Habits framework developed by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), Newman provides ideas to foster faith formation among everyone in a congregation through creating an inclusive worship environment. The Vertical Habits framework is a process to connect words used in relationship with people to words used to express emotions to God. There are eight Vertical Habits, including: Love You, I’m Sorry, Why?, I’m Listening, Help, Thank You, What Can I Do?, and Bless You. Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship gives readers a set of tools to get to know a person with disability and an in-depth guide to integrate the eight Vertical Habits into their faith practice.

“People of all ages and with all kinds of complementary abilities and capacities who immerse themselves in the practices described in this book will find themselves growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ,” said John D. Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Thanks to the contributions of Betty Grit, former CICW Worship Renewal Grants Program Manager, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship is the first published resource to use Vertical Habits.

“Since 2005, more than fifty schools and churches across North America have adapted the Vertical Habits into their corporate worship,” said Grit. “This resource will provide communities with the tools to create a place where all believers can learn and practice the habits together.”

The book is based on Newman’s thirty years of experience in special education at Zeeland Christian School and consulting with congregations across North America.  She has created and contributed to more than twenty books and resources, including: Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities, and Body Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive Community. Newman frequently speaks at national church and educational conferences on autism spectrum disorder, behavior management, inclusion, and much more.

“This book was made possible by an anonymous donor who values the relationship between a Christian school, church, and family,” shared Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, CLC Network advancement director. “We are grateful for their support and their love for God’s children at all levels of ability and disability. This donor’s deeply rooted conviction that all children are covenant children is a blessing to each individual who receives this book.”

Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship can be purchased from the CLC Network Online Store at www.clcnetwork.org/accessiblegospel.  Thanks to a generous gift from CICW, this book is available at the reduced rate of $10.00 per copy.  Attendees of CICW’s Symposium on Worship on January 29-31, 2015 at Calvin College will be invited to receive a free copy of the book when they visit the CLC Network exhibit.

Join Us for a Training this Spring!

Phil Stegink, CLC Network director of educational services, presenting at a Woodcock-Johnson IV training in Fall 2014.

Phil Stegink, CLC Network director of educational services, presenting at a Woodcock-Johnson IV training in Fall 2014.

We travel quite extensively throughout the school year to train educators, pastors, church leaders, and volunteers to welcome children and adults at all levels of ability into their congregations. This spring, we’ll be traveling and presenting from the west coast to the east coast and many places in between.

We invite you to listen in on a presentation or stop by our exhibit booth at one of the events below!

Note: Some events require registration and are only open to specific audiences; check each event website for more information.

January 19: Christ Memorial Church (Holland, MI)

Barbara J. Newman will be presenting on Autism Spectrum Disorder and inclusion within the church setting

January 21-24: Children’s Pastors Conference – East (Chattanooga, TN)


January 29-31: Calvin Symposium on Worship (Grand Rapids, MI)

Presentation: “Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship: Vertical Habits In Action” with Barbara J. Newman and Betty Grit

February 4-7: Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (Baltimore, MD)

Presentation: “Let Me Try That!: Learning from Churches Including Persons with Disabilities” with Barbara J. Newman

February 7:  Northeast Ohio Special Needs Conference (Bay Village, OH)

Barbara J. Newman is a featured speaker at this conference.

February 12-14: Lutheran Educators Association National Administrators Conference (Orlando, FL)

Visit our exhibit booth for inclusive education resources!

February 15: Christ Memorial Church, Contemporary Christian Life Issues Class (Holland, MI)

Presentation: “CLC Network – How Its Work Assists Churches in Cultivating Communities of Inclusion” with Jacki Sikkema

February 16-19: Children’s Pastors Conference – West (Ontario, CA)


March 4-6: National Christian School Association Annual Convention (Atlanta, GA)

Visit our exhibit booth for inclusive education resources!

March 13: Christian Schools International District IV Training (Oostburg, WI)


  • “Three Key Ingredients to Effective Teaching” and “100+ Strategies for Effective Teaching” with Pam Maat
  • “Creating Individual Goals for Special Needs Learners” and “The Basics of Phonological Awareness” with Becky Tubergen
  • “Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology” with Elaine Kappers and Becci Zwiers

March 14: St. Mark Missionary Church (Mishewaka, IN)

Presentation: “Including Children with Disabilities in our Faith Communities” with Barbara J. Newman

March 20: That All May Worship (Virginia Beach, VA)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman

March 19-21: Northwest Ministry Conference (Seattle, WA)


April 17-18: Accessibility Summit (McLean, VA)


  • “Tips, Tweaks, & Tune-ups for Sunday School Curriculum and Classrooms” panel discussion, including Barbara J. Newman
  • “Autism and Your Church” with Barbara J. Newman

April 19-20: Seventh-Day Adventist Church Disability Ministry Training (California)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman

May 26-30:  Summer Institute on Theology and Disability (Atlanta, GA)

Presenting: Barbara J. Newman


Schedule Your Training

Invite a member of our team to speak at your upcoming conference or event by calling 616-245-8388. Visit our website for a list of potential topics for educators and churches.