Supporting a family in the church

Revd Malcolm Duncan, senior pastor at Goldhill Baptist Church speaks of his encounter with a family on the birth of their child with a profound disability. Whilst downhearted members of the congregation want to pray for the couple, Malcolm sees a story of Hope and Joy.

There are 1.5 million people in the UK living with learning disabilities. Despite medical advances in screening, 200 babies are born every week with a learning disability.

So how do you, as a church leader:

  • Support a family affected by learning disabilities?
  • Respond to a young couple in your church that you have prepared for marriage, presided at their wedding, blessed them on the announcement that they are expecting their first child to later hear that their unborn child is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome?
  • Approach the faithful Christian couple who have attended church every Sunday for as long as you can remember with their learning disabled child; and their increasing frailty tells you they need help in caring for their child? 

Useful references:

  • For parents concerned about who will provide the care for their child in the future, Prospects has services around the UK.
    Read more
  • Pastoral care and ministry; Prospects is developing a Toolkit to help church leaders reach out to people with learning disabilities and their families. The Toolkit is under continual development as new events arise. Please click on the attached link below. 
  • A useful guide for church leaders is Opening the Doors – Ministry with people with learning disabilities and people on the autistic spectrum. Please click on the attached link below.

Jesus’ ministry, in his life and death, is summed up in the theme of love for those in need. His story fleshes out the character and direction of his love.

It is inclusive, compassionate, practical and persistent, but never patronising or oppressive – it gives others space to be and to grow. According to St John’s Gospel ch.13, Jesus’ disciples are called to love and serve one another in the same manner.

The Church is therefore called to welcome, accept and empower people with learning disabilities in ways that are inclusive, compassionate, practical and persistent. They are loved by God and invited to be members of the body of Christ. That means that love must be expressed in the acceptance of all people as equal in their difference.