Can Churches Help Families Raising Children with Disabilities Stay Together?

by Jul 3, 2024Special Needs Ministry, Special Needs Parenting, Spiritual Support0 comments

Can churches help families raising children with disabilities stay together? Guest blogger Mark Arnold explains his opinion.

Can churches help families raising children with disabilities stay together? Guest blogger Mark Arnold, who hails from the United Kingdom, answers that question by telling the story of how the church stepped in to support a family whose respite care ended during summer vacation when they needed it most.

Psychology Today reports that “the rate of divorce in families with a child with disabilities may be as high as 87%. The divorce rate in families with a child with autism is about 80%.” While these alarming figures are at the top end of those cited in the article, the general consensus seems to be that the rates are considerably higher for families of children with special needs than for the rest of the population.

The pressures of parenting a child with special needs of any age are very real. A significant decrease in government support offered to families in United Kingdom during the last few years, largely as a result of covid, means that families have to cope on their own without much help. Many couples have found it to be too much.

So is there hope? Is there a role for the church in filling some of the gaps that have been left as secular services have stopped? Can churches help families raising children with disabilities stay together? I believe the answer to these questions is yes.

A family I know found themselves beginning the summer holidays with no respite provision available. Their two children with conditions that require constant care and supervision so they asked their church if it could help. It stepped up magnificently. Here are some of the things they did.

  1. Food. Church members started doing what churches do in a crisis. They cooked! Lots of food was brought round to the family so that they didn’t have to think about preparing meals all the time.
  2. Childcare. A couple of people came at least once a week to look after the children. The parents used the break go out for a walk, get a coffee, watch a movie together.
  3. Respite breaks. The same team also occasionally took the children out to a theme park for the day. The parents were able to plan day long adventures out or to catch up on sleep—whatever they preferred.
  4. Home-improvement workday. The pressures of work, daily household chores, and caring for children meant the house and yard had been uncared for. The church arranged a workday, coinciding with the children’s trip to a theme park and the parents’ day out. During that day the church work crew decorated the house, completed a few outstanding repair jobs, tidied up the yard, and more.
  5. Small group fellowship. The parents were given support so they could attend their church small group and be spiritually nourished and to socialize, knowing their children were well cared for at home.

What the church did showed the family they were not forgotten, that they were loved and valued, that their church family cared about them and wanted to serve them. It made a huge difference to this family. Other churches can follow their example and respond in love to bless families that are struggling. By doing so, churches will play a part in reversing some of the divorce figures related to families caring for children with special needs.

So can churches help families raising children with disabilities stay together? My answer is yes!

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Image credit: Zoriana Stakhniv via Unsplash

By Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Network. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: or @Mark_J_Arnold


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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