The local church is generally quick to step up when someone gets sick or passes away. We deliver meals, meet practical needs, and offer encouragement. But what happens when the meal train slows down and people stop visiting? Grief and disability both offer a relentless reality that must be faced day after day. So, how can we give practical support to the families affected by disability in our church communities?
- Knowing What to Say: It can be challenging to know what to say when you are trying to support a friend in need. Many well-meaning friends have stumbled for words and unintentionally said something hurtful to their friend in pain. Sometimes it is best to just sit with your friend and say nothing at all. Your presence, your warmth, and your love will minister deeply. When you do feel like offering some words of comfort or encouragement, try to remember that they will be better received if you have earned the right to speak. Encouragement from someone you love is far more meaningful than encouragement from an acquaintance.
- Knowing What to Do: There are many creative ways to walk alongside your friend and make his or her burden more bearable. We don’t necessarily need to do weighty things; we just need to listen to the needs of our friend and listen to the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice. Challenge yourself to think about what your friends loves, what day-to-day tasks might be hard or impossible for them to do right now, what siblings in the family might be feeling put aside because of the disability, and what caregivers might simply enjoy. Avoid giving a vague offer of help, and instead try to be specific in what you offer —this can give an overwhelmed family the opportunity to simply say yes instead of making decisions and organizing help.
- Knowing How to Organize: Supporting families in need can be overwhelming, especially if the need is chronic and the care team is small. As you endeavor to support a family facing hardship, consider appointing someone who the family trusts and is comfortable with to act as the point of communication for everyone outside the family. This removes the time-consuming burden of communicating with many people and the awkwardness of having to ask, decline, or coordinate help themselves. As your care extends beyond a single family who needs help for a specific short-term need, we highly encourage you to establish an intentional and well-structured system of care. Establishing such a system will allow your church body to care not only for families impacted by disability, but also for other church members in need.
When we thoughtfully work together to meet one another’s needs, we express God’s love in a unique way. Supporting caregivers will open the door for deeper friendships, meet their practical needs, and allow us to experience the joy of their friendship. Through the process of caregiving, we have much to learn from the families that we serve while we help them find a sustainable rhythm of daily life.
The text for this blog post came from Doing Life Together, a book in the Irresistible Church series.