Understand that the parents of children with severe cognitive disabilities will be perpetually exhausted. In the case of my own daughter, she must be watched constantly. Watching a Rebecca is not like watching a toddler. Watching her means following her and doing nothing else. No reading, no watching television, no browsing the internet. Not everyone’s situation will be like ours, but what all such families will have in common is the inordinate amount of time and effort spent on the care of another who cannot care for him – or herself.
You can help bear this burden (see Gal. 6:2) by offering to care for the child during the service so that the family can rest and worship. Perhaps you could set up a rotation with other caring people, so that the parents would have responsibility for the child one Sunday a month, and three or four other people would take the responsibility the other Sundays.
Beyond the walls of the church, you could arrange for the care of the child so that the parents can go out for an evening together. Do not underestimate the impact of such a ministry. Although statistics differ, parents of children with severe disabilities have a staggeringly higher-than-average divorce rate. A ministry of care beyond Sunday morning could be a marriage saver.
Welcoming such families will mean understanding that such children put serious restrictions on families. Turning down your invitation for the family to come over is not a snub, nor does it mean that the family doesn’t need and crave fellowship. The dangers (many typical households are full of dangers to people with cognitive disabilities) make a friendly, informal visit to a friend’s house impossible. My family has had to turn down and miss many fellowship opportunities for just this reason.
To show hospitality to such a family, you and your family or others from the church can make dinner and take it over. Or you could ask the parents what you would need to change at your house for them to be feel at ease with their child there, and assure them that you really want to know. Be persistent. Politeness will likely cause them to turn down your first inquiry.
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