Making Room for Nolan
Six-year-old Nolan Paauw’s worship experience was changed after Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Ada, MI) leaders considered one question, posed by CLC Network director of church services Barbara J. Newman: What do you know about Nolan? Thanks to the support of CLC Network donors, Newman could respond to the church’s request for assistance and help them consider Nolan’s wiring as a child of God. What followed from Newman’s question was a pivotal discussion with the church pastors, along with parents Tim and Laura Paauw, about Nolan’s gifts and interests.
The Paauws, who have attended Redeemer OPC for ten years, desired to raise their three children in the church. Attending and participating in worship has not been easy for their family, however. Though Nolan loves music, he has difficulty with loud noises, crowded rooms, and sitting for long periods of time. The Paauws would often spend most of the service sitting outside the sanctuary with Nolan, which left them questioning why they came to church each week.
“It’s not just sitting in worship,” said Laura, “How does he fit into a mold that isn’t maybe the most accommodating for him at all times?”
After bringing their concern to Redeemer OPC leadership, the church knew they needed the expertise of CLC Network to help support the Paauws.
Through brainstorming and discussion, the church devised a plan to help Nolan experience worship in a way that fits his gifts and needs. Because Nolan loves worship, it was important to the Paauws that Nolan had the ability to participate in the worship service in a quieter environment. “The church reserved the back row in the sanctuary for our family, which is a bit quieter and has less people,” said Tim. The back row also gives the family easy access to the Cry Room, where Nolan can go if he needs a quieter environment. The church established a team of volunteers called “Team Nolan” who take turns sitting with Nolan in the Cry Room and spending time with him in different church activities.
The variety of supports created for Nolan at church have enabled him to be part of the body of Christ in a way that fits with who he is as a child of God. “It changed Nolan’s world in church,” said Tim.
“We are so grateful CLC Network was there to ask the right questions and offer ideas; we know we can trust that CLC Network will continue to support our family and church as we walk this journey.”
Families from across the United States have resonated with the Paauw’s story, as told in CLC Network’s newest video, “Worship as One: Disability in Community”. Pastors, parents, church leaders, and disability advocates have shared how common the Paauw’s story is — the struggle to be part of a worship experience that is not accommodating for persons with physical, cognitive, sensory, attention, and/or social differences. Viewers are challenged to consider how simple changes to their worship service might have a significant impact on current and future church members.
“The response we’ve received to this video — more than 32,000 views in the first month — is indicative of how hungry congregations are for encouragement and support,” said Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, CLC Network executive director. “With donors’ faithful contributions, we can respond immediately to these requests.”
To view the video and download free resources for your congregation, visit clcnetwork.org/WorshipAsOne.
Passionate about inclusive education? Make a contribution to CLC Network to help us create inclusive communities for persons of all abilities.
Katie Barkley is the director of marketing and communications at CLC Network.