Gaylord Church Case Study
- Gaylord Evangelical Free (E-Free) Church, Michigan — Gaylord Campus
- E-Free Church is committed to meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be. The purpose of the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, thereby bringing lives into harmony with God and one another through worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and service using the Bible as the standard for faith and practice in all such matters.
- Two years ago, Gaylord E-Free Church started hosting Night to Shine, which is a prom for people with special needs. Since Night to Shine came to Gaylord, the church staff and volunteers got to know many of the families and care providers, and they learned that many of these guests want to attend church but have limitations hindering their ability and issues making it uncomfortable. So, when the leaders of Gaylord set out to renovate their children’s wing, one of their main goals was building their special needs ministry, which they call “Able Ministries.” The church raised the majority of the money for the project by January 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented some unforeseen financial difficulties and budget tightening. Despite experiencing these hiccups, the church leaders remained focused on growing their special needs ministry and providing a safe & inviting play area for their youth.
- “We are building the program to better support the needs of our church family and community,” says Jamie Fletcher, Director of Children's Ministries at E-Free Church, Gaylord. “We desire to provide spaces, accommodations, and modifications so those with special needs can participate to the fullest extent they are able.”
- “It allowed our painters and handymen to be in the building and not have to clean up shop at the end of every day,” says Brian Switalski, Gaylord Church Administrator. “So although COVID was a disadvantage, we used aspects of it to our advantage.”
Inclusive Play, Explained:
- When people hear about inclusive play, the first thing that many think of is providing access to people with physical disabilities, but inclusive play goes well beyond that. For a play environment to be truly inclusive, it must address the physical, cognitive, emotional, and sensory needs of everyone. Inclusive play breaks down the barriers that prohibit people from physically accessing an area while simultaneously allowing people to socially participate in an activity. Providing inclusive play lays the fundamental foundations of development, and it allows every child, regardless of ability, to have meaningful play experiences.
The WoW Solution:
- Gaylord Church’s commitment to creating a space that was inclusive and accessible to people of all abilities naturally led them to Worlds of Wow. Church Administrator Brian Switalski had originally heard of WoW from various conferences he had attended, and WoW’s product offerings like sensory rooms, accessible swings, climbing ladders, and focal walls were exactly what the church needed. When COVID-19 hit its peak in mid-2020, many thought the project would be derailed, but the empty churches created by the pandemic actually presented an opportunity to finish the project quickly and efficiently. After a year of hard work, Gaylord Church unveiled their remodeled children’s ministry to the congregation in September 2020. They are the first church in the area with a program specifically focused on inclusion, and they hope their efforts inspire surrounding churches.
- Factory, bright & vibrant
Spaces installed and remodeled:
- Sensory room
- Large group room
- Classroom focal walls
- Carpet throughout kids’ area
- “Kids Connect” hallways