We Value Neurodiversity
God created us to be beautifully diverse, not just in our bodies and talents, but also in how we think and act. Our congregation embraces this diversity, welcomes all kinds of people as they are, supports and honors unique needs, seeks to value all unique gifts, and strives to learn more about each other and ourselves.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity acknowledges that differences in our brains lead people to experience and interact with the world differently. If you’d like to learn even more about neurodiversity, listen to this autistic* YouTuber explain it: https://youtu.be/H6xl_yJKWVU.
What does neurodivergent mean?
Someone who is described as neurodivergent may think and function in ways that diverge from the dominant societal standards that we unhelpfully call “normal.” People who are neurodivergent may have diagnostic labels such as ADHD, autism, anxiety disorders, dyslexia, intellectual disabilities, OCD, as well as others. Or they might not.
Why is paying attention to neurodiversity important?
Neurodivergent individuals and their families can struggle to feel at home and comfortable in many congregations because of noise, sitting still, facility limitations, and other unwritten expectations related to behavior. We want to be a people where all can feel comfortable as they are, not as they are "expected" to be.
Besides, we believe neurodivergent folk have God-given talents and passions that are vital to the church, and sorely missed if absent. There's actually a great passable about this in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 12:14-27. There are actually a lot of famous people who have contributed to society who identify as neurodivergent.
A lot of churches say they are welcoming. Do you actually live it?
Yes. We are intentional about valuing neurodiversity, welcoming everyone as they are, and supporting those who are neurodivergent. We do this by talking about neurodiversity often--in our conversations, our communications, our preaching, our teaching, and in our planning. We offer several supports for people who are neurodivergent, and plan a diverse number of activities. We focus on living as we are, not trying to be someone else.
But... we also don't claim to be perfect. While diversity is a gift, it is realistically challenging. Everyone is different. It's hard to fully welcome and support someone we don't know, so we make it our mission to get to know everyone, so that we can respond accordingly. This is one of the aspects we value about the fact that our congregation is not huge--we get to know each other. We also believe our honesty about the challenges and that we have room to grow is a sign of how seriously we take this.
Do people there really get neurodiversity?
Yes and no. Some more than others. We're all learning and talking about it, but some have had more time and experience with it than others. Some of us are neurodivergent or have neurodivergent kids. We've chosen to focus on neurodiversity because we have a history of valuing it and supporting one another, without realizing what we were doing. Now we're being intentional about it. We are committed to continue learning, so one of our goals is to offer several education opportunities for current and new members.
What does the Bible say about neurodiversity?
You won't find the word "neurodiversity" in the Bible. However, the Bible shows time and again that God has a special love for people who don't fit in. Jesus frequently eats with outcasts, lifts up the overlooked, welcomes the marginalized, and blesses those who feel left out.
We also happen to believe that some of the heroes of the Bible if living today might be labeled as neurodivergent. Examples include Noah, Moses, King David, several of the prophets, and Matthew. Pastor Mike is preaching a series of sermons on this very topic February 26-March 26. You can listen to them in our sermon archive.
*We try to use people-first language. For example, we might say "a person who is poor" instead of "that poor person." However, many autistic individuals (including the YouTuber referenced above) feel that autism is a core part of their identity, and prefer to be called "autistic," rather than "a person diagnosed with autism." We strive to let people tell us how they like to be identified.
Neurodiversity at Hosanna!
I'm worried about (my kid) being able to sit through worship. Will we make it through?
Many of us grew up in church feeling like we had to sit still and be quiet. We have different expectations at Hosanna! People are expected to act like themselves. For some, that means fidgeting, swaying, laying down, or something else.
Our worship is structured so that attendees get to participate. We stand up and sit down. Kids have special opportunities to engage in worship with their bodies at least every 10-15 minutes in worship (a children's message, children's offering, Communion, children's blessing, sending, and more). That's just the structured stuff. People get up and take a stroll all the time. You are welcome and allowed to attend to your body and brain as you need. We also offer several supports to help you or your kids (see below).
What supports do you have for neurodivergent folk?
We have a table by the front door with a variety of options for kids, but any adults are welcome to utilize them, too (several already do!). We have children's bulletins to engage kids, Bible coloring pages, blank paper for creative-type, and three different kinds of coloring tools. We have faith-based books for kids to engage with during the parts of the service (like the sermon) that are hard for many kids to connect with. We also have a variety of fidgets (the helpful kind) that can help people keep their bodies active so it's easier to keep their brains focused. One type of fidget we're especially proud of are the finger labyrinths our pastor made (you'll have to visit to see what it is!). Most of our kids enjoy these supports, so you don't have to have a diagnosis or prove your neurodivergence to utilize them.
We are also planning to purchase other supports, such as wobble cushions, weighted vests, chair bands, and/or other items. If you have these and would like to bring them for yourself, you are more than welcome.
Note: We intentionally call these supports, not accommodations--we're not catering to wants, but share resources for everyone to be as fully present as themselves as they can in whatever we do together.
What if I or my kid does something unusual?
We like unusual. In fact, the Biblical word for "weird" is the same one we use for "holy." But if you're worried about attracting attention, know that you don't have to worry. You don't have to mask. If you have a tic, a stim, need to lay down, sit down, stand up, walk around, or go to the bathroom when no one else does, that's okay. It's natural for us to be curious about things we've not seen before, so if we look the first few times, know that it's most likely surprise, not annoyance. We'll love you for who you are.
Is there a way for us to see what worship is like before we come?
We are working to put together a video written and produced by kids in our congregation to walk you through what worship with us is like. However, it's going to take some time, so it's not available yet. Sorry. The best thing we can suggest at this point to see what it will be like is to join us for online worship, though the truth is that it's the people that make all the difference, so it's not quite the same as actually worshipping with us.
Are there other neurodivergent folk part of Hosanna?
Absolutely. Some may be more readily identifiable. Many might not be. But we promise you that we're a diverse bunch. Some of us are even learning more about our neurodivergence as adults.
If you really value neurodiversity, why does this page have so much writing?
It's ironic isn't it? Many of us, especially those who love people who are neurodivergent, crave information and to know what to expect. Text can do that. However, we hope in time to add some more accessible videos to this page.