A couple welcomes
a new baby into their home; a woman has experienced a
painful divorce; an elderly man loses his wife of 50
years; a middle-aged man must change vocations; an
unmarried teenage girl is pregnant; and a young family
must relocate to a new city. As a minister, you often
help individuals during these times. Crisis situations
demand our ministry. A crisis is a time of opportunity.
What must we do when we recognize a crisis situation?
Five suggestions are offered.
During crisis situations ask
yourself a few questions. What are the needs of the
individuals? Are those needs being met? Can I mobilize
others to help? What can I do? When should I go? How
long should I stay? Is the crisis severe enough to
require an immediate response? Is the crisis something I
need to respond to at all? After making an assessment,
you will be able to respond in a wise and reasoned
Your availability should be
threefoldóbefore, during, and after the crisis. Before
the crisis you earn the right to minister. You prove you
care. During the crisis you put your faith into action.
After the crisis the need may be greatest because other
support has moved on.
Accept the Person
Pastors are likely to encounter those contemplating
suicide, homosexuals, unwed mothers, murderers, thieves,
those impacted by a dread disease, divorcees, and many
other crisis situations. An understanding, accepting
attitude will enhance your ability to minister to such
This idea of acceptance is amply
illustrated in Job's three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and
Zophar. When they first visited Job, they were content
to sit quietly; however, they could not resist the
temptation to give advice. These friends told Job
everything that was wrong without stopping to understand
or listen to him. They could not accept Job and his
You may give assurance
in several ways. Read a carefully selected passage of
Scripture. Give assurance by leaving a comforting
pamphlet or booklet. Give assurance by the gentle touch
of a hand. Give assurance through being silent. For some
reason most people feel they always must say something
to people experiencing crisis. Sometimes the best
comfort is to say nothing.
Ministers usually know about
service agencies that help people during times of
crisis, such as the Red Cross, funeral homes, counseling
centers, government services, and volunteer services.
Sharing information or locating information is greatly
needed service during a crisis. Timely information could
ease a state of panic. Consider building a file that
contains the names of helping agencies.
ministers can offer assistance is in the area of
decision making. People experiencing crisis often are
confused and display distorted decision-making
capability. You can help them explore alternatives and
offer clearheaded suggestions that may have been
No single formula is right for every
crisis. Ministering during crises is difficult. No one
can state with authority what must be done during these
times. Ministers always should be learning, growing, and
developing in caring ministries.
(Adapted from Tim Patrick, "Caring for Persons in
Times of Crisis," Church Administration, March 1989,