The Potential Benefits Of Starting A Family Support Group

supportgroup“This group has been so helpful. I shared some ideas with a friend at work, and she was really encouraged. If it weren’t for the family support group, I wouldn’t have had anything to say,” the mother of an 11-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl with autism said. Her beaming eyes and broad smile expressed gratitude. “This group taught me that I can be a resource to other parents.” She dabbed a tear. “I didn’t think I had anything to offer. But I was wrong, this group showed me that I did.”

Family support groups, like the one we have for parents of children with special needs at First Baptist Orlando, are made up of parents with common interests and experiences. Parents who have been through, or are going through, a similar circumstance can do more than sympathize with you — they can relate to what you are going through and keep you from feeling like you are alone.

One of the greatest appeals for starting a family support group at church is that they are mutually beneficial for both families and churches.

Let’s consider ways that family support groups benefit churches.

First, the potential impact of family groups upon a church is often not realized. Family support groups provide another path for outreach to families who have children with disabilities. Churches should always be looking for effective ways to strengthen the families in their community and conduct outreach to these families. Family support groups offer the opportunity to meet real needs.

Second, family support groups can mobilize members of a congregation who might not otherwise be serving. Many people in your church may have a family member or close friend with a disability. Moved by compassion toward that person and their family, church members might want to help, but are unsure of how to get started. This impulse is far more common than most of us can imagine. Family groups provide an opportunity to serve through conversation and friendship. Because they do not require teaching or other high profile ministry skills or gifts, they serve as good entry-level ministries.

Finally, family support groups offer married couples an opportunity to serve together, even in the context of their own or others’ homes. This is critical. I know a couple who has served together in this manner for years. They have had countless opportunities to help couples who have a child with special needs.  Having watched them, I am at a loss to think of a better way that a couple could invest their lives for God’s Kingdom.

Let’s consider ways that churches can strengthen families who have children with disabilities.

First, the emotional and practical needs of families who have a child with special needs are obvious and pressing. It is always a privilege to love and serve others, but we love people best by pointing them to the Gospel. In the context of a family support group within a church, this should never be far from our thinking and our conversations.

Second, family support groups can also serve families of children with disabilities by helping parents better understand their child’s disability. For Christians, it is essential that they consider their child’s disability within the context of a Christ-centered life.

Finally, family support groups will help these families by offering ongoing encouragement to parents.

Churches can make a significant difference in times of challenge. Families want to know how to respond to their difficulties and crises from a biblical perspective. Churches can offer this like no other organization. Churches can also help parents by keeping them informed of available resources, including those based on a biblical worldview.

Family support groups are a great first step for churches who are seeking to find a way to minister to families who have a child with special needs.  Consider starting one today and positively impacting your community!

Michael Woods

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

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3 Comments on “The Potential Benefits Of Starting A Family Support Group”

  1. yvonne adamson Says:

    Hi me an my friend annmarie run a support group called moonbeams its a parent support group for parents an carese of children an family mebrrs with autism an other disabilities an i dont no wer i wud b without it we meet every first tues of the mth its good to no that ur not on ur own an sometimes we do feel asif wer on r own xx

    Reply

    • Michael Woods Says:

      Yvonne, awesome! Thank you for all that you and your friend do for others.

      Reply

      • yvonne adamson Says:

        Thanx but really its for me to keep me sane dont no wot i wud do if i didnt have moonbeams we also started an after school club an r kids love it as do the mums we all get together every other wed with r kids an the kids have all made new friendships an we all have pizza an other stuff an all the ms have a good old gab love it .So if i didnt have parent support group or after school club ad go mentsl xxxx

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