Caring for families impacted by disabilities and special needs often means having the calling and the commitment to provide a pastoral care experience that is based on a plan of how best to care for the needs of the family. Here are some things to consider when committing to caring for the spiritual needs of special needs families.
When I think about the scripture that exhorts Christ-followers to number our days correctly, I kind of get the meaning backwards. I think about things from a natural human perspective, when what I really need is God’s perspective. The verse isn’t so much about the volume of what I accomplish, but the quality and the purposefulness of what I do. It’s also what I let ministry do to change me. Without anyone reminding me, do I actually see the personal dignity of every person?
Many churches are at a place of that first talk with a pastor, where a concerned layperson might discuss whether churches should be worried about mental health. The American Psychiatric Association has created a guide is to equip faith community leaders to help with a mental health need, because “faith community leaders are gatekeepers or ‘first responders’ when individuals and families face mental health or substance use problems.”
The church in this story has no official disability ministry, no “program.” They try very hard to organically meet the needs of individual families who worship there. This is a church-in-progress. It’s a church family becoming an increasing reflection of Christ; God is growing fruit. They realize there is a lot they don’t know or understand. And they’re excited to learn and grow as a community.
In order to communicate with care and compassion, ministry leaders need to understand the five phases of special-needs parenting. In the video below, I give an overview of the phases, share what families need from their church in each phase, and give communication tips that are effective no matter what phase parents are in.