The AAIDD Religion and Spirituality Leadership Award

Purpose and Focus of the Recognition

The purpose of the Religion & Spirituality Leadership Award is to recognize the creative work of individuals who are dedicated to promoting respect for the dignity of individuals with IDD, which is concerned with the whole person, and facilitates opportunities to grow spiritually, foster meaningful relationships and participation within congregational life.  Such work respects each person’s religious identity and interests.

Shelly Christensen, MA, FAAIDD, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Religion and Spirituality Leadership Award. Shelly is a speaker, consultant and author of From Longing to Belonging: A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions in Your Faith Community.

(Read announcement and learn more)

Award Presentation:

Award Criteria

  1. Demonstrates a devotion to follow a sense of call and vocation in relationships, or in
    community, with people experiencing developmental disabilities.
  2. Demonstrates the understanding of and the capacity to blend the pastoral and prophetic
    dimensions of ministry and service with others.
  3. Demonstrates a capacity to expand and enhance our understanding of the spiritual needs
    and gifts of people with developmental disabilities.
  4. Demonstrates the competence to write and teach while also living in community, or having direct relationships, with people experiencing developmental disabilities and their families.
  5. Demonstrates attention to appropriate support that promotes growth, development and flourishing.

Nomination Procedure

  1. Nominations for the 2022 award will be accepted in early 2022. For more information, contact 
  2. Nominations should include:
    • A brief biography/vitae
    • List of articles and books published, writings, etc.
    • Nomination letter highlighting professional and practical experiences related to the field of developmental disabilities.
    • Why you are nominating this individual and why he/she should be considered for the Nouwen Award.

Past Recipients of the Award

  • 2020 Rev. Terry DeYoung
  • 2019 Rev. Andy Calder
  • 2018 Lida Merrill
  • 2017 Dr. Thomas Hoeksema
  • 2016 Benjamin T. Conner
  • 2015 Barbara J. Newman
  • 2014 Nella Uitvlugt
  • 2013 Sister Gabrielle Kowalski
  • 2012 Rev. Bill Gaventa
  • 2010 David Morstad
  • 2008 Reverend Joseph D. McNulty
  • 2007 Nancy Eiesland
  • 2006 Ron Vredeveld
  • 2005 Sara Simon
  • 2004 Charles Luce
  • 2003 Jimmy Olin Pierson
  • 2002 Ginny Thornburgh
  • 2001 Sr. Sue Mostellar