Pastor, there are few more crucial times to step up our ministry efforts than when someone is going through a personal crisis. Whether it’s a struggling marriage, a job loss, a death in the family, or something else, you and your church family must be ready to meet the painful needs of those in crisis.
That doesn’t mean it’s all on your shoulders, though. As a pastor your job is to train your congregation for the work of ministry. Your church won’t grow if all the ministry is done by you and you alone. Plus, it’s simply not biblical.
When a crisis hits, it’s crucial that someone from your church personally reaches out to people inside and outside of your church. How do you do it? Here are six crucial ways.
1. Show up. Don’t just send an email. Don’t just write a card. And don’t even just make a call. You may do those three things, but that can’t be all you do. Someone from your church should personally show up when someone is going through a crisis. The church should walk into your life when everybody else walks out. You learn pretty quickly the difference between acquaintances, friends, and your church family during a crisis.
2. Share their pain. I’m not talking about sympathy. People don’t need your church’s sympathy. Sympathy is saying, “I’m sorry you hurt.” They need empathy: “I hurt with you.” The Bible says in Romans 12:15, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” That’s what you do. You spend time with them and share in their pain.
3. Offer prayer support. Pray for them, and pray with them. What do you pray for? First, you’ll want to ask God to help the person recognize his presence. People in a crisis need to be able to sense that God is with them. They often feel like he is distant.
Second, ask God to help the person receive his grace. Grace is the power to see the crisis through. Grace sustains you. Grace is the energy to help you keep going when you feel like giving up.
Third, mirror what the person says in prayer. When the person says, “I’m really angry and frustrated,” you pray, “God, Bob is really having a tough time right now. He’s upset and angry. He’s frustrated.” When you do that, you’re lifting their burdens. Sometimes people in crisis just don’t have enough energy to pray. So you pray for them.
4. Help them accept reality. You’ve got to help the person accept that they can’t change the past. The job won’t be returned to them. The person who has died won’t be returning either. The past can’t be changed. Acceptance is the only way to peace. God’s purpose has never been changed because of pain. The sooner the person accepts what’s happened, the sooner God can work in the person’s life.
5. Strengthen their faith. A crisis shakes your faith. But you need faith and trust in Christ to get you through it. Point the person to Scripture that tells of God’s great promises. God’s Word is full of promises that point to his ability to sustain us in difficult times. Challenge a person in crisis to memorize those scriptural promises. Why? When you need the Word, you often don’t have a Bible handy. That’s why people in crisis need to hide God’s Word in their heart.
The Word of God is the antidote to worry. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV). The word of God builds faith in times of crisis.
6. Speak words of hope. You should be a hope pusher, a hope dispenser. Share with the person Philippians 1:6: “God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished…” (TLB). God is not finished yet. Challenge the person to use the experience – no matter how tough it is – to grow.
Don’t let the person get stuck and let the crisis define their life. God may not solve the situation. That can’t be the focus of your conversation. Instead, help the person focus on becoming a man or woman of God through the crisis.
Are there people in your midst right now who are hurting? Don’t let them go through the crisis alone. When people are in pain, it’s time for the church to be the church.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved