Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities Partners on Grant Advancing Accessible Worship for Children with Disabilities

November 27, 2023
Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., the Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities in the Baylor University School of Education and executive director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities

Erik Carter, Ph.D., The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities and executive director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities

Contact: Renee Galindo, Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities, 254-710-3044
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 27, 2023) – The Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities within the Baylor University School of Education announced today that it will join With Ministries on a new program called Worship as One: Learning with Children with Disabilities about Worship and Prayer. Lilly Endowment Inc. is supporting the program with a $300,000 grant to With Ministries. 

The grant was made through Lilly Endowment’s Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to support faith-based organizations as they help children grow in faith and deepen their relationships with God.

“We want every church to be faithful in welcoming and embracing children with disabilities and their families in worship and life together,” said Erik Carter, Ph.D., The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities and executive director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities. “This much-needed project will invite, equip and support churches and families to re-envision the ways in which children with developmental disabilities participate in worship and prayer—both on and between Sundays.” 

Carter joined Baylor University earlier this year to help launch a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary initiative on faith and disability. This new grant aligns well with the Center’s focus on helping children and adults with developmental disabilities flourish in all areas of their lives, including their faith. Moreover, it reflects the university-community partnerships needed to change the landscape for people with disabilities and their families, including working alongside With Ministries to explore new ways of worshiping together.

With Ministries has a long history of impactful work with churches in the areas of disability and faith formation. Their mission is to provide resources that support faith formation and congregational inclusion with individuals with disabilities. 

“We are grateful for this opportunity to broaden our impact and to resource church leadership so congregations flourish as one body,” said Rebecca Wall, executive director of With Ministries. “We are especially excited to partner with the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities as we seek to capture the difference this work makes in the lives of children, families and churches.” 

Highlights of this collaborative project include:

  • Developing a new and flexible framework for designing accessible, intergenerational worship that meaningfully engages children with disabilities and their families.

  • Partnering long-term with diverse churches and families to learn about accessible worship and prayer practices that engage children with extensive support needs.

  • Developing practical guidance and a portfolio of compelling resources for churches and families that can inspire and guide them on this journey.

  • Examining the reciprocal impact of accessible worship and prayer practices on children with disabilities, their parents and others within the local congregation.

Research finds that one in three families have left their church because their child with disabilities was not welcomed or included.

“We are convinced the church is called to welcome and weave children with disabilities into all they do,” Carter said. “Through rigorous research and compelling partnerships, our desire is to equip the church to respond to this call faithfully and fully.” 


The Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities invests in research, training, outreach, and clinical services that promote the flourishing of people with disabilities, their families, and communities. The Center hosts a growing number of programs, clinics, projects, and events focused on supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, and an array of other disabilities. Likewise, we are committed to helping schools, congregations, and communities welcome and support the full participation of people with disabilities and their families.


For more than 100 years, the School of Education has advanced Baylor’s mission across the globe while preparing students for a range of careers focused on education, leadership, and human development. With more than 60 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation. Likewise, the School of Education’s graduate programs have attained national recognition for their exemplary preparation of research scholars, educational leaders, innovators, and clinicians. Visit the School of Education website to learn more.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.