Ministering to People in Crisis: Don't Just Stand There!

August 1st, 2008
This article is featured in the Preaching in the Moment (Aug/Sept/Oct 2008) issue of Circuit Rider
Photo credit digitalsadhu via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

What do you say or do when people's lives are falling apart? Feeling put on the spot may be uncomfortable, but as clergy and leaders, it is our role to have words and actions informed by wisdom to lead others from danger into safety, from chaos into calm, from despair into hope. Speaking and acting in a crisis calls for preparation. Following Joseph's example in Egypt, prepare for disaster in the times of peace and plenty. People demonstrate their love of God and neighbor as they pool resources for the care of others. Help them best know how to do that ahead of the stress and challenges that crisis brings.

When disaster strikes, teach your congregation what victims need. Whether from the pulpit or in a class, let them know that people in a crisis need:

Safety — Provide a place of physical safety for victims.

Security — Provide a feeling of security about their privacy and information.

Ventilation — Allow victims to express their feelings, memories, and thoughts.

Validation — Acknowledge their feelings, reactions, and thoughts.

Prediction — Help victims predict what will happen in the future because of what they experienced.

Preparation — Help them think about how to prepare physically and emotionally for the future


Evon O. Flesberg is a pastoral counselor in Brentwood, Tennessee, and a lecturer in pastoral theology and pastoral counseling at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is the author of The Switching Hour: Kids of Divorce Say Goodbye Again, from Abingdon Press.

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