The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is part of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. Through collaborative research, training, and information sharing, ICI improves policies and practices to ensure that all children, youth, and adults with disabilities are valued by, and contribute to, their communities of choice. ICI supports individuals, families, and organizations based on its understanding of and expertise in community living, culture and diversity, education and development, assessment and evaluation, employment, health and safety, and residential services in Minnesota and across the country.

Project funder: The Kessler Foundation is a public charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with physical and cognitive disabilities caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, injuries to the brain and spinal cord, and other chronic conditions. The mission of Kessler Foundation is to improve quality of life for people with disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination.

The Institute on Community Integration has implemented customized training and consultation to communities of faith. The purpose of the project is to build capacity and support communities of faith in Minnesota to serve their members who have physical disabilities and that are seeking employment and career advancement.


While communities of faith are acknowledged for the spiritual, emotional, and instrumental supports (e.g., child care, social activities) they provide, the capacity of congregations to reach deeply throughout their local communities to connect individuals with disabilities to employment and career opportunities remains untested in any systematic way.

Project Goals

  1. Goal 1: Recruit faith communities, implement community-specific assessment, and plan for assisting members with disabilities.
  2. Goal 2: Equip and coach faith communities to support individuals with physical disabilities to secure and/or maintain employment.
  3. Goal 3: Identify, develop, and deploy resources for faith communities.
  4. Goal 4: Evaluate project impact and report.

Project Description

Through customized training, consortia seminars, and organizational consultation and ongoing support, this project will build the capacity of faith communities to better serve their members with disabilities to find and keep work. The project team has access to a wide range of resources that can be used by community leaders, people with disabilities, family members, and employers. Internal resources will be made available to communities, free of charge. Referrals to additional community resources can also be made.

This model does not replace the involvement of other service providers or employment agencies, but rather is a supplement to develop a full range of employment supports. We recognize that some people don't aspire to be "clients" of public or private programs—they prefer to use supports that occur naturally in their lives.

Our fundamental strategies are to (1) use faith communities' current knowledge of their members' histories, needs, and gifts while helping congregational teams to explore these dimensions with the individuals in greater depth; (2) use connections among and through congregation members and their knowledge of employment opportunities to match target member's abilities, skills, and preferences with those opportunities and/or develop new ones; and (3) develop resources and products others can use to begin and sustain similar initiatives.

Expectations of Faith Communities

For a faith community to participate in this project, with support from the Institute on Community Integration, each community commits to the following:

  1. Assist community members with physical (and other) disabilities find, maintain, and/or advance in their employment and careers.
  2. Provide information that describes current practice and future plans.
  3. Undergo a community assessment and develop a customized community capacity building plan.
  4. Participate in identified community training events and activities and employ project resources.
  5. Participate in the Putting Faith to Work Consortium – meetings and training events with other participating faith communities.

For more information, contact:

Joe Timmons, or 612.624.5659