We never know when times of crisis will come. No one could have ever predicted what 2020 would hold for us. However, most times of crisis don’t come in the form of a global pandemic. They are more often experienced more locally. Think about these fairly common crisis situations that you may face as a leader.
- A church building experiences a natural disaster that makes it uninhabitable for months ahead.
- Two local teens are killed in a car accident and now the local high school and community are grieving the unexpected loss.
- A prominent church member is arrested and rumors flying around the community are that he had been involved in a domestic battery situation.
- A young adult in your town is found dead, the community is in shock as the gruesome details filter out and arrests are made.
- A father leaves his wife and five children after being confronted about an adulterous affair, claiming he can’t deal with the pressure his family put on him.
Many churches and leaders have never prepared themselves or their organization to handle a crisis effectively. When they aren’t prepared to care in a crisis, their organization and their people are at a greater risk.
Mishandled crisis situations can result in people feeling unloved, disconnecting, and looking for other places to heal. Your ministry may gain a reputation that you can’t be trusted with other crisis situations. People can get stuck in the crisis and drain far more resources and time than necessary.
Our ministry has helped churches develop ministries that care for the hurting, including crisis situations. When we train church leadership teams, we use the simple acronym P.L.A.N. to help them develop an organized process for providing care in a crisis situation
When leaders don’t have a plan, we tend to panic, and this easily spreads to those around us. While the timing of crisis situations isn’t predictable, often times the types of crisis situations are predictable. The Red Cross doesn’t know where or when they will need to provide tornado relief, but they know how to prepare the supplies and teams so they can fulfill their mission in crisis situations.
As a leader, have you taken the time to adequately prepare for how you would lead through a crisis situation? Since presence is such an important priority in crisis situations, have you adequately trained leaders so that you can assure appropriate and timely presence when the need arises?
When you are dealing with a crisis situation, you need to learn to take an inventory surrounding the crisis. You will need to patiently find out the major details surrounding the crisis. You will also be listening for the needs that the person, family, or community thinks they need in that moment. The details and needs usually don’t come out in an organized fashion, but your job will be to help organize the details in a meaningful way to help begin to chart a path forward.
Remember though, your presence and listening to the person is more important than the problems to be solved. It’s ok to sit in silence with those who weep, listen to the memories of those who grieve, and take note of the fears that may grip their heart in this moment.
Effective leaders will be forming a plan at this stage, but you shouldn’t feel the need to overwhelm the suffering with all the details. Find a simple first step or something that can plant a seed of looking forward without losing the importance of simply being present in the moment.
No one person can meet every need in a crisis. No organization has every resource needed at their disposal. However, we can prioritize our needs at various points in the crisis, and develop a team that leverages different strengths and abilities.
If you begin to focus on low priority needs or wrongly assess your available resources, you waste precious time. Effective leaders will learn to triage the major needs and assign them strategically to the most capable people.
Crisis situations vary in length and intensity, but eventually, they do come to an end. One of the most important things you have to decide as a leader is when a crisis is over. You may think that you don’t get to decide that because those who are suffering get to decide its endpoint. However, effective leadership in a crisis will help people know when and how to begin to move forward.
While crisis situations are often life-defining events, they don’t need to be life-destroying events. Our job as a shepherd of people is to help them get back up, to re-embrace the purpose of their lives despite the sadness, anger, and fear they may be feeling intensely at this point. Effective crisis care pivots from the need of the moment to the needs of the future by developing a long-term plan for continued care.
If you are a leader, take some time to prepare yourself for how you would respond in a crisis personally, how your organization can navigate a crisis compassionately, and how those you lead can be equipped to serve faithfully. These steps can help you address a current crisis and better PLAN for future times of crisis.