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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Showing Some Love

One in ten adults spend the majority of their time taking care of someone else–an elderly parent, a disabled spouse, a special needs child. A new study by LifeWay Research found that 14 percent of children have some sort of special need, whether a disability or medical condition.

Interestingly, the research found more unmarried people are caregivers than married people.

LifeWay went on to suggest these caregivers have needs mostly unmet by congregations–because faith groups don’t know how to meet the needs. A story released today offers a few suggestions:

  • Assume most caregivers won’t ask for help.

"Instead, have a plan in action to find out if basic needs are being met due to the onslaught of medical bills and the possible loss of income," wrote Carmen Leal, author of "The Twenty-third Psalm for Caregivers."

 "Suggest that the church benevolence fund can offer limited help and guide the caregiver through the application process."

  • Find the caregiver an advocate within the church.
  • Create a culture that "finds a need then meets it."  Leal offers examples of this from when her husband, David, had health issues:

    After David’s diagnosis doctors suggested a 5,000-calorie a day diet to help with his rapid weight loss. His loss of swallowing ability led to a feeding tube and the need for supplements such as Ensure or Boost. The best thing my home church did before we moved was to set up an opportunity for members to bring six packs or cases of Ensure to church for us.

    "Others clipped coupons to help defray the cost of purchasing Ensure. This simple act of kindness kept David alive and allowed me to use our money to buy groceries for growing teens."

  • Track resources available to families in need.

  • Meet spiritual needs.

    Personal visits and prayer are the minimum a caregiver should expect from their faith community, Leal said, and one of the most crucial matters to address is whether the person in need is trusting Jesus for salvation.

I would argue–as Leal did–that the last one is the most important. I once wrote a series on churches reaching out to families with disabilities. And several parents felt they need spiritual refreshment more than other parents. And they overwhelmingly said those needs are rarely met. Many don’t attend worship because their children are too disruptive.  

So it does seem that this is a good opportunity for churches to meet a need. I’ll confess to being a bit biased on this, as I’m the mom of two boys with autism.