As a women’s ministry leader, you’ve probably grown accustomed to relating to women in all stages and situations of life. Newlyweds, young mothers, empty nesters, singles, and grandmothers likely make up your women’s group. Yet even among these, you’ll always have a few with more complicated lives, such as those who are special needs mothers.
Special needs mothers need tremendous understanding, encouragement, and personal ministry. But no matter who your ladies are, they have to realize we all need each other. And one of your jobs is to guide the women of your church to recognize that the leader cannot do it all and that we’re together for a reason.
How do you enter into the nitty-gritty of a special needs mom’s daily life in order to effectively minister? You and the women of your church will have to listen to her in order to discover her needs.
If you read my previous blog, Ministering to the Special Needs Mom, you’re off to a great start!
Encourage All Women to Get to Know Her
Aside from the obvious need for friendship we all have, the women of your church need the spiritual blessing of personally knowing a special needs mom. There’s a phrase most of us have heard or said during pregnancy: “We don’t care if it’s a girl or boy, just so it’s healthy!”
While this is a perfectly normal desire, it has also planted an internal fear in many of us that results in avoiding those with disabilities or sickness. It’s a fear of the unknown. It’s a false guilt that her child has a problem and mine turned out okay, so I can’t minister to her. But it’s time to tear down that falsehood and move forward in love.
What will the women of your church learn from a special needs family?
They’ll learn that God is sovereign over all circumstances! They’ll see that God displays His glory in the brokenness of life. They’ll see that God’s grace truly is sufficient when all human answers fail. They’ll see the beauty of disabilities and sicknesses up close, and they’ll spiritually grow, learning priceless lessons for their own trials. By entering into someone else’s hardship, they demonstrate the gospel to a family and to a lost and dying world (Gal. 6:2).
- Encourage the women to ask the special needs mom questions about her child. Most special needs moms love answering questions, because it gives a sense that others care and want to understand. Open-ended questions are wonderful, such as, “Tell me how Taylor’s autism affects his daily life.” Avoid tough subjects, such as asking what they’ll do when they get too old to care for their child. Most special needs families don’t know yet, and it’s a difficult stage to even consider.
- Remind the ladies that their special needs friend has a testimony that they can be listening for, or when time permits, they can ask her to share.
- Encourage the women to avoid pitying the family. Pity does nothing, but compassion does everything. Pity fails to see the goodness of God in the struggle, but rejoicing in God’s grace will affect every part of each woman’s ministry to the family.
Ministering During the Week
Many special needs moms have standing weekly appointments with their child. If your special needs mother talks a lot about her “wild Tuesdays” or mentions how tired she is on therapy days, you have a perfect opportunity for your women to minister.
- Women could take turns accompanying the mother and her child to her child’s therapy or doctor appointments. Depending on the child’s age, an extra set of hands could ease the strain and offer fellowship.
- What about her other children? It’s not uncommon to see a mom packing all her kids to the doctor because she feels she can’t ask for sitters. Consider having your women’s group take turns watching her other children and bringing them home when the appointment is over.
- Another option is to have your ladies take turns providing a meal to the family on therapy or doctor appointment days. There’s nothing quite as difficult as mustering up the energy to cook after spending hours getting your child the treatment they need.
Being a Lifeline
Most special needs moms I’ve met have very few people who are capable of watching their child. Because of this, the special needs mom may be unable to do typical things that others take for granted. It’s not uncommon for her to cancel her own appointments or events due to the inability to find a sitter.
The women of your church can become a tremendous asset to her, just by learning to watch her child.
- Ask her how much support from family and friends she has locally. Even if grandparents or other relatives are handy, it will still enhance the child’s life to have more people interested and available to babysit.
- Talk privately with the women of your group. See who is open to learning to watch the child. If the child has higher needs, it could be a better approach for two women to show up in a pair to babysit. Don’t forget to include the older teens of your church. While they likely cannot babysit alone, it’s a great opportunity to pair them up with an adult for ministry.
- After you’ve created a list of available women to babysit, arrange a meeting with the special needs mom and everyone involved. This is where everyone can ask questions and learn even more about the child. Repeat visits to the home before watching the child are a great idea.
Not every woman will feel comfortable learning to babysit, and this is okay. Be watchful for practical ways to bless the special needs mother. For instance, a “spring cleaning party” would be wonderful to help her catch up.
The special needs mom often places herself last but rarely complains. If you want to surprise her out of the blue, ask her family about her favorite salon or clothing store. Insert a gift card into a card telling her how much you love her and appreciate what she does for her children.
As you guide all the women of your church to connect with the special needs mother, it’s likely that a few will develop a keener sense of ministry for the family. Utilize these women in a way that enhances spontaneous ministry. Ask if they’ll be “extra eyes and ears” for you as a leader.
They’ll be the ones who notice that the special needs mom has missed church two weeks in a row. They might see the special needs family struggling to keep it together at a churchwide dinner and move to sit near them for support. They could even keep ministry fun by helping remember the special needs mom’s birthday or honoring her on Mother’s Day.
May the Lord bless you and your women’s ministry as you stretch yourselves to grow spiritually and minister to special needs mothers in your church or community.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1–3).