Disability Ministry 101: Practical ways you can minister to families with special needs

February 20, 2017

Sib Nafziger Charles, community and church relations manager for Joni and Friends Eastern Pennsylvania, offers eight ways churches can minister to families affected by disabilities:

1 Buddy Programs:
A buddy provides assistance, support and friendship to a person with a disability so the whole family can participate as valuable members of the church congregation. A buddy also provides assistance, safety and support to the classroom teacher and other students.

2 Sensory or Quiet Room:
Churches can provide a safe place—another room, closet, or even a store-bought tent—for people with special needs, especially for those on the autism spectrum, to go when overloaded or agitated.

3 Respite Care:
Respite events, which provide parents a temporary relief from the responsibilities of caring for children with physical or intellectual disabilities, is a church outreach activity that can draw cautious families over the threshold and into the church.

4 Advocate/Care Team for Families:
Many families affected by disabilities face burnout because, unlike regular illnesses, there is no end date for the care needed. To ease the load, church members can form teams to provide meals, transportation or otherwise to care for families.

5 Caregiver Support:
Church members can offer caregivers help with practical needs, such as transporting siblings to sports events. But don’t forget the emotional and spiritual needs and some of the “wants” of the family members, too.

6 Support Groups:
Consider starting support groups for moms, wives of husbands who have disabilities, singles, and men, who all need safe places to express their concerns and to laugh with others who understand their situations.

7 Sibling Groups:
Also consider offering a buddy system or support groups directly for siblings of those with disabilities. Plan special activities to ensure they don’t feel overlooked. Serve as the emergency contact to care for them whenever their parents have unexpected doctor visits.

8 Day of Pampering:
It’s amazing what a simple manicure or pedicure can do for a woman who is under stress! Knowing people just want to be honored, loved and celebrated, try planning a special day of enjoyment, relaxation, and pampering for family members who care for disabled loved ones.