What Families with Special Needs Wish Their Pastors Knew

Last week Sandra Peoples published an article on Key Ministry’s blog entitled “What Special Needs Families Wish Their Pastors Knew”.   In that article, she shared five main points:

  1. We are lonely.
  2. We wish we could do more.
  3. We know you can’t control every church member’s reaction to our family, but you do set the example.
  4. How you talk about disabilities from the pulpit has an impact on us.
  5. The challenges we face as our children grow up change and evolve.

After sharing that article on LifeLine’s Facebook Group, Trish Cox wrote her own addendum to this article.

What Families with Special Needs Wish Their Pastors (and other Church Staff) Knew

Trish Cox

1. Don’t wait until we are there to plan for us.  We need to feel that you cared enough to be ready for us any Sunday that we show up to visit. If you aren’t prepared, we often have “another” bad experience. For instance, if our child is in a wheelchair it would mean a lot if your usher could escort us to a row in the sanctuary that has a chair already removed so that our child doesn’t have to sit out in the aisle. Go ahead and do ongoing training, and have programs and people in place.  Talk to your children before we get there and discuss how we treat ALL friends in a Christ-centered way.
2. Your service to us will eventually enable us to serve.  We often go days without sleep and most likely NEVER have a day off so don’t ask us to serve at a potluck or in VBS. Think of ways you can be of service to our families. We will be most grateful if you refill our glass, fix us a meal, or pick up our kids on the way to VBS so we can go to the grocery story in under 2 hours, etc.
3. Ask us from time to time if we have needs that insurance doesn’t cover.  I guarantee you, we all have them. Then see what you can do to help fill the gaps for us.
4. When you take our kids to camp and make accommodations for them to participate like all of the other kids, you are our heroes! Calling us during the week helps ease our nerves. We may struggle more than you will ever know financially so offer to help us with camp or outing costs.
5. Siblings in our families often feel left out. Anything you can do to make a sibling feel special is most appreciated. Often times they don’t get to go to VBS or night time activities because it just takes too much to get us all out the door or the special needs sibling has to be in bed hours before the rest of us so if you are going by our house on your way to church please consider stopping to see if you can take a sibling with you and maybe for ice cream on the way home.
6. Relationships with our family may not be easy to develop on Sundays and Wednesdays, but there are multiple opportunities through our week. Many of us sit in waiting rooms for hours each week while our kiddos are with therapists. Offer to go along and chat with Mom or offer to keep the little sibling that gets very restless after 20 minutes of a 3 hour waiting room stint. If you see activity books on sale for a quarter think of us.
7. Be the balance for the negative in our lives.  Professionals, educators, and even family sometimes tell us all of the things our children are not doing or not doing as well as their peers.  We hear stuff that is hard to hear very often so when we pick up our kids in the children’s wing, tell us something that our kids did that was funny or sweet or helpful.
8. Recognize our contribution to our family.  Some of our children are not physically able to hug or verbally say thank you. Give us a hug and tell us that you love us.  Tell us that you appreciate our care for those God has entrusted to us.
9. Have a family bathroom in your facility and be sure the signage for directions to that facility are clear.  There are many physical accommodations to a building that might be made for someone who uses mobility equipment, but a family bathroom is a real treat for many of us. Taking a 12 year old to the bathroom, especially if the child is a different sex from the parent, is often embarrassing for the child and opens the parents to negative comments.
10. Honor the diets/nutritional boundaries that have been set for our children.  Many of our kids have issues with ordinary foods so always check with mom before giving a child any food.  The wrong food/additive can give our child ramifications for hours, days, or weeks.
11. Forgive us if we are grumpy or short, we have a lot on our plate (and we are tired!) We are forced to advocate for our child in the medical, educational, insurance, and social arenas.  Please don’t make us advocate at church, too.  

Share Button