I have spent my entire adult life serving in the church, as a pastor, associate pastor, children’s pastor, men’s leaders, and college instructor. Helping people in crisis is difficult at any time, when a family member or friend dies after a long health related illness, we ask questions. When a young person commits suicide we look for answers. When a plane crashes or ship sinks we demand answers. Sadly, many times there is no good or acceptable answer. What there is; are frustrations, anger, resentment, denial, and multitude of others emotions that are so common of people in crisis and coping with a personal tragedy.
As pastors and ministers we are generally the first called when one of these tragedies strikes a family within our church or community. How we respond will determine much of how God will be viewed throughout the grief process and recovery process. I have sat with many of family members, church members, and community members, watching other pastors with the bedside manors of a lion or bear (I have a few other words I thought of but, they are not really nice). My heart breaks for the family, as this pastor/minister opens his mouth and talks with no compassion or understanding of the human heart or need’s. I often wonder what were they taught in Bible College or Seminary, or who showed them how to minister during these time.
If I could sit with pastors around the world today and share my heart, it would be these three simple things that I learned over the past 35 years of ministry, helping folks deal with a crisis from a sick child, loss of a parent, and destruction of property, to responding to a crisis at a school, or crash site.
1) Silence is a virtue, people want someone to listen to them cry and weep. Allowing them to vent and ask questions, process their emotions, and find answers in the compassion and love we share, as we simply sit with them.
2) Sharing should always be honest and positive. In the case of crisis hold out hope with them. I recently sat with a pastor that was ministering to a family of sick child, and he asked what are your plans for the funeral? Yes the patient was terminal, and there was little hope on the doctor’s part. However, as pastor we should help them focus on the positive of Christ love, and the possibility of Christ mercy, at the same time helping them prepare for God ending grace.
3) Serving Christ should be the most important task. I’m convinced that sharing Christ is my most important task, showing Christ mercy, love, and compassion is first and foremost in my focus throughout the time.
These three simple thoughts keep me focus, as I’m in the hospital, a family home, an emergency shelter, standing on the street corner, or at a crash site. I always have to remember “it is not about me, it is about them, finding peace in Christ love through a time that there is no answer that makes sense except Christ”. However, in these times they need us to pray, encourage, have faith with them, that there is comfort in HIM (Christ),