Helping Through Crisis Webinar
Crisis can come upon a church in many ways and can create great hurt, sorrow, and difficulty throughout the church family. In this webinar, Ted Witzig Jr. walks through ways in which church leadership can support and pastor both individuals as well as the larger church community during these difficult times. Learn more as you watch this webinar recording.
Spiritual First Aid is an 8-session certificate course that teaches peer to peer spiritual and emotional care and trauma informed best practices.
Helping in Crisis & Loss
This webinar will discuss key principles & skills to encourage a mentor walking along side someone in a period of crisis or loss. [ACCFS]
Caring for Tragedy in the Church Community Podcast
In this episode of Breaking Bread, Ted Witzig Jr. speaks to those in the caring community. There are some things to know about support in times of crisis that will prove helpful to the troubled.
Tragedy and Suffering
This article series is not an attempt to answer all the questions related to suffering but rather to highlight some biblical truths to hold onto in the midst of life’s storms. [ACCFS]
Common Reactions After a Crisis
The brief, but very helpful, document outlines many of the common physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions people have to crisis and major stressors. [ACCFS]
Grief & Emotions
This article has resources that show & explains the wide range of emotions that people may feel when dealing with a loss. [ACCFS]
Phases of Grief
In this article, a diagram and video shows a model for understanding stages of grief. The brief descriptions of each phase can help individuals to understand their own grief as well as the emotions and reactions of others. [ACCFS]
Five Keys to Beating Trauma
While sources of trauma and responses to trauma can vary widely, this article will provide an overview of several keys known to help people beat trauma and even thrive despite it. [ACCFS]
We are all touched by crisis, Ted, we’re touched by it and I’d like to maybe use these rings. Sometimes it’s one degree away from the crisis, very near to us. And then others times is maybe two degrees away, or three degrees away, four degrees away. And it doesn’t go long and we’re touched by crisis in one of those rings. And so tonight is really intended to provide some teaching around this space. And I’d like to tap not only your pastoral experience, but also your professional experience working through crisis. And I’d like just to identify maybe the scope of tonight, and that is simply I’d like to talk about, identify two different areas that we’d like to focus on.
The first one there, caring for the victims following crisis. We understand that there is a unique situation in the victims themselves. But then we’ve got this number two, this larger supporting church community that’s very eager to support and touched by the crisis as well. And I would imagine there is a set of skills, a set of things to think about that are unique to that group and then also to the victim.
So we’re gonna hopefully tonight address both of that, but we always need to start with definition. All right. So let’s start with crisis, defining crisis, and we’ve got tragedy and disaster and kind of intermixing of these. But in your profession, you carefully articulate these. Because they do have proper place and meaning. How should we understand crisis tonight?
So, what I’d like to do, the definition I’ve laid out here for crisis is a sudden shock inducing experience that launches us into a place of uncertainty and emotional upheaval. When I talk about a crisis, and that’s gonna be our midpoint tonight, and it’s gonna be the bulk of what we talk about. When I talk about it, it’s something that happens after it’s happened, you can always say that there’s a before and an after to that event.
That’s a marker on one’s timeline. It’s a marker on the timeline. Okay? And so it jars us, it jars our sense of reality. And again, obviously these things could be small, medium, and large. And as well as things that can, sometimes things that can be a crisis automatically go to things that, when we think about, touch people.
But sometimes crisis impacts property and things of that nature. But tonight, how I’m using crisis is just meaning that emotional, that thing that creates this upheaval. On the next, right next to it, I want to use the term tragedy. And I’m gonna say with tragedy, it’s a crisis, but it also involves some, generally we’re talking about some kind of loss generally, some kind of oftentimes loss of life. Something that leaves us with a sense of agony, also, like some kind of unexpected, like this was just not how life was supposed to go.
Tragedy has a sense of suddenness or surprise. Is that an element? So, I think one of the things is that sometimes we have a little bit of a window of when something’s gonna happen. But, many times it just is part of the suddenness or the unexpected turn that really catches us and creates some of that jarring thing. So that’s why we don’t say like, even though if somebody’s grandma has been in the Alzheimer’s unit for 10 years, and she’s a believer and ready to go, there’s a loss. We rarely would call that a tragedy where when you think of a child dying unexpectedly in an accident, you go, oh, that just jars my sense of reality. And it doesn’t go like life is scripted to go.
When I use the term disaster here, I’m kind of moving it towards the side of thinking about generally natural disaster. Okay. Or large scale event that would hit a community. Okay. So, a tragedy oftentimes will impact a community because the shock of it ripples out. But when we’re talking about disaster, like a hurricane or tornado, we’re talking about a widespread of injury or property damage or things like that.
These are so familiar to us in our denomination. Certainly disasters are something that we respond to. And in fact, our winter work teams orient themselve around where disasters have been and that type of matter. So this is why we’re gonna define crises here tonight. We have lots of crises in our life that are worth talking about.
Tonight we’re gonna really narrow in on this tragedy, disaster, sudden loss of life or extreme loss that really is a marker on one’s timeline to say, pre and post to this event in our life is gonna be how we understand crisis. Always good to see examples. You’ve kind of illustrated some of these. Certainly a natural disaster. Unexpected loss or death, robbery or assault. Accident. These types of matters that come to us, they’re unwelcome and they show up unannounced. So, let’s now go into the effects of crisis because this has a profound effect on the human experience. And Ted, I wanna draw that out from you, what that effect looks like.
So, we’re talking about this shock and one of the first things that’s shocked is our sense of safety. It’s a basic desire and need to be safe. Crisis oftentimes punctures that sense of safety. And that’s one of the things that really jars us, our sense of security and control. We operate, everybody knows this, but we operate with only partial control over life. But I don’t like to operate like that’s true. Okay. When I, as I go through my day, I want to operate like I have way more control.
Sometimes people will say, oh, we have no control. No, we have some control over life. There’s aspects of it and there, but what happens is, crisis by its nature punctures part of the things that we kind of assume are in order or safe. And then they turn out not to be.
So one of the things that does is emotionally, it stirs up emotion. Oftentimes with tragedy, there’s loss. And when there’s unexpected loss or loss that just hits us hard, we call that bereavement. And it just causes a lot of pain, sadness, other things. I mean, the anxiety around things.
Sometimes when something happens, you’re expecting it. It’s just like, what are we gonna do? And, sometimes though, it’s really interesting because you’ll see this too. This will happen when there’s been something happened someplace and people were hurt or whatever. And then sometimes there’s anger like why wasn’t this prevented or who did what or who should have done something. And so oftentimes in a desire to get control back, there’s one of the ways that people try to get control back is through having somebody to blame. And, sometimes there is somebody that’s done something, sometimes there isn’t. But a lot of it has to do with that sense of, I need to have control in my world.
Lastly, spiritually, crisis brings up a lot of different things. On one hand it can bring up the sense of just prayer and the church family and thankfulness to have people go through it with, and a God that that hears and sees us. But the other thing crisis does is it really rocks us around also. So sometimes we’re really left with a really deep question of why. And sometimes that why is one of those questions that just echoes. It’s like saying, why to God or why to other people? And there’s no answer. And that’s a painful place to be.
There’s two things that really occur to me from what you’ve said here, Ted, and that is this concept of shock. That a crisis, like what we’re talking about here tonight has an effect on the psychology but also on the physiology of a person. That this is not something just in the head, but it is all encompassing of a person’s life. So that concept of shock is huge.
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point here. Oftentimes when somebody has been at the scene of an accident or under a threat or something like that, their body goes into its fight or flight response. Other times it is so kind of overwhelmed that the body does the equivalent of shutting off breaker switches on an electrical panel, kind of self-protection. It’s self-protection and it’s kind of a shutting down, a numbing out. And so, early on, depending on those things, sometimes somebody’s ability to even think through things or to problem solve is gonna be really much lower.
And, then the second part with that shock piece, the second part that impressed me here is as human beings, we are meaning makers, aren’t we? Yes, we are. So that really throws us into a loop when we can’t make meaning of something or something is completely outside of our ability to wrap our mind around it or connect dots.
We really like it when point A and point B have a meaningful connection. And when we can see that and we can make sense of that connection. So when we have a point A and it goes to point R okay. And, we’re like, how do we get here? Our brain kicks in to try to make sense of that. It is one of the things that we have to really watch out for as ministers and as helpers to be careful about trying to figure out A to R, because our nature is to try to wanna understand. I don’t know why this child died, this person was assaulted, this house burned down. You know, those kind of things.
So we can be too hasty with meaning. Yes. That’s, I think, excellent to know. And we’re gonna talk more about that, I think. Ted, let’s look now at, this is uniquely about the victim, and I found this slide to be very interesting. You shared this with me. So this is something that you use with clients. But what we’re looking at here is the emotional journey following a disaster. And so I’ll just explain this much and then I’ll turn it over to you. But on the vertical axis, we’ve got emotion. So we have a high emotion down to low emotion. And then on the X axis, we have this time going along. And so this graph is really showing us how the emotional up and down goes through and after a crisis. Which is really, really critical when you think about helping people.
Yes, it is. What I’m gonna do to explain this is I’m gonna use the example of a hurricane. But you fill in other disasters and some will more or less approximate this. What you have here in the first section is you have this pre-disaster part, or warning and threat. Sometimes you have this, sometimes not. I mean, when there’s a car accident, boom, you didn’t know it was gonna happen even 15 seconds ahead of time. But like in a hurricane, sometimes you’ll know a day or two ahead of time, those kind of things. So sometimes there’s some pre-warning, but then there’s the impact.
That’s the moment at which the shock occurs. What happens, like when the hurricane comes in, then that’s when the winds are whipping and all those kind of things. But then right after that impact, that’s when there’s so much mobilization. We’re activated. We’re activated, and we wanna help. And we know particularly if it’s brothers and sisters or just anybody, we’re ust kinda like, Hey, you know what? We want to help. And that’s where this phase called the heroic phase comes in. It’s a beautiful phase because people come around, communities come around.
Oftentimes you’ll see uncommon acts of graciousness and coming together and bridge building during this time. I mean, you see it on levees around floods. You see it at hurricane sites, disaster sites. After a death in a community, people really come together. It’s a beautiful time and that leads to that place that’s referred to as the honeymoon, where there’s high community cohesion and there’s a sense that we’re gonna rebuild or we’re gonna get through this, we’re gonna get through it together.
And that’s a beautiful time. The issue, however, with that is that life does go on. And life goes on differently for people in those different rings. Remember at the beginning, Matt said some people are like one ring away from a loss, and sometimes two or three or four or five, whatever.
And so depending on how close you were in that inner ring of that, life doesn’t go on quite as, sometimes doesn’t feel like it’s gonna go on. Other times it goes on much slower. So what starts to happen is as the reality of the change sets in, the reality of how much time and energy it’s gonna take to rebuild.
That’s where disillusionment sets in. This is what sometimes happens several months later. And you can see that what happens is that first year after a major crisis, you oftentimes have a bumpy road. Now that doesn’t mean all days are bad and there’s never any blessings and things like that, but it’s just a lot of work in that first year because there’s a first of everything, a first of a birthday, a first of a Christmas. There’s a first of everything.
And who am I? Who am I after this crisis? Yeah, for sure. That is one of the things that happens. When there’s a crisis, sometimes somebody’s identity pivots greatly. So if I was married and my spouse all of a sudden died and was taken from me, I’m now a widow or widower, and boom, it just changed that fast.
I was a business owner and it failed, who am I now? And those kind of things. So there is an identity transition that goes on in crisis. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. And I think we need to be careful about trying to make it go all at once. But just understand that for those of us that are helpers, oftentimes we’re so focused on trying to get around people during that first month that we may not realize that month four to month nine may actually be the places where we’re needed the most.
And I see trigger events, I would imagine, then part of this disillusionment. Again, we’re thinking about the victim here. They are going to go through events of setback. And so you have different kinds of trigger events. Sometimes it’ll be like the hurricane victim who’s insurance company has now said, oh yes, we’re gonna help you with 50% of your coverage that you thought you were gonna get. Other times it’s just that thing of, it’s a child’s wedding or it’s somebody’s wedding and your mind goes, that would’ve been my child’s age or whatever. And so those are the kinds of things that happen. They’re, unavoidable. They’re going to happen. And so the goal isn’t to try to make those sad moments never occur, but the issue is to understand that they do occur for people.
And to understand that if you catch somebody at the right time and the right place, they might be really sad or they might be really joyful. And depending on that, it doesn’t mean that they’re doing badly or they’re failing or anything like that or fully recovered. It is a process.
And, so with that, are you suggesting that we should maybe be slow to evaluate? For sure. Okay. I would say it this way is that the presence or absence of tears, for example, doesn’t make somebody doing good or bad. The presence of somebody getting back into life quickly I think that’s one of the really heroic things. Like, you know what, hey, I’m back at it. Life hasn’t changed and it’s like, sometimes and I think one of the other things is we have to reserve judgment also, just hold back on it, because very oftentimes it’s really easy to know, well, that’s not how I would do it, or that’s what I think and I’ll be the first to tell you that a lot of times I think, well, if I walked in their shoes, would I do it differently? I don’t know.
No, I think we like things measured and so we look up to one year. We see a green dash line. And we’re like, okay, now there’s a number. That’s something I can take away tonight. So, help us understand what we should be thinking there with one year anniversary.
So, I really do think that the first year is different. Because of the firsts. Okay. And because of the amount of transition that happens in the first year after a significant loss or crisis. I don’t think that we should assume though that at 12 months in one day, boom, it’s, it’s over. I do think, however, that through this, we’re also not looking at it and saying there’s gonna be no healing during the first year. So don’t even try. It’s always gonna depend on the individual. It always depends too, is this the 16th hugely significant event in this person’s life? It does seem like some people just have event after event. Or is this a person’s first kind of thing? Does this person have a large support network? Do they have… lots of variables going?
That’s really helpful. And now we’re gonna pivot in. We’re gonna think about that supporting community. What kind of effect does crisis have on that supporting community? And, you know, we desperately want to help. And we wanna know what happened. And we are hurting as well. So speak to this matter here.
So I really think that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to go into the action phase. Again, remember I said we had that heroic phase right after the impact. And it’s not a bad thing. The thing about it is oftentimes there’s more things that we would like to be able to do than we can do. Cuz what we want to do is take away somebody’s pain. And restore them to a place of a sense of wholeness and whatever. So we have to remember that we can do some kinds of action, but that it also needs to be spread out over time. And that’s just one of the things in the church leader’s mindset. I would just say to us, we need to remember that help isn’t just in the first month. It needs to be paced out over time. The other thing about people wanna know what happened, it’s really interesting to me, because as stories unfolded, did you hear it? And people aren’t meaning to be bad. They aren’t meaning to gossip or anything. They’re just trying to piece together the story. Then the story shifts and this person and then somebody here is a part of this.
So I do think it’s something that we can do as church leaders. Just awareness of is making sure that if there is a need for clarity of communication, to figure out what kind of information needs to be shared. Being able to say a little bit more about that later, but I think one of the things about it is like, you ever played that telephone game, Matt, where this person says this and this, well, that’s on a huge scale, a nationwide scale with phones and social media and emails and other things going on in between, which makes it hard to have accurate information.
The other thing we don’t want though, is we don’t want 150 people asking the victim for the story again and again and again. And, so just be mindful of that. We need to give people a break also. And sometimes there is a role that can be played of somebody in the church who helps to relay information.
Lastly, we hurt with the victim. Okay, we hurt. And depending even if it wasn’t somebody that was that close. We have empathy. And we care. And if it’s in our church family, or is it just in our community or our workplace, we care. But it does stir up strong emotions, grief, but it can also stir up anxiety. What if that happened? You know?
And, so just understand that strong emotion is part of the picture, but also that not everybody, by the way, is gonna feel strong emotion. Sometimes you’re gonna have somebody that that’s like, you know, yeah, you know what, it happened and we move on. You’re like, Oh wow. What’s that mean? And, as you know, people just process very different.
I think that’s the challenge of pastoring during times like this. You have the entire spectrum of grief, and you have the victim’s grief, and then you have this collective group grief which are at a different place. We’re gonna talk a little bit about what that looks like to pass for the supporting. And these points really compliment the points in the previous slide, and you’ve mentioned already to do patiently paced supportive action. And we saw that in the graph. And then helping the community remain informed in their conversation. I do want you to say a little bit more about this. Because sometimes as leaders, we know a little bit more than everybody else and we’re at a time, so anyway, tease that out too a little bit. What should be said? Is there any guidelines there?
Yeah, a couple things. Depending on the, this is always gonna be an, it depends. And so I wish that it wasn’t, but it’s gonna be an, it depends, because there are times when it is very important to systematically distribute information. And you may want to have an email that goes out at a certain time, or there are times to have a church family meeting. There are times to meet with smaller groups of the church and those kind of things. Even larger community meetings outside your church, those kind of things.
I will say this, it is important to know that during a point of a crisis, that when you say something to one person, that’s gonna be repeated many times, okay? And just understand that you can’t control the message once it’s been shared. Okay? Now, so all I’m saying about that, and I’m not saying don’t share, just understand that sometimes you think you’re telling one person but it might be more.
So there’s a discernment to know what is public knowledge and what is private knowledge. Exactly. The other thing, this is where also things like, oh, there are some losses that, again, very public if the tornado went through and everybody knows it and you’ve driven by the house and those kinda things. But then there’s other things like suicides. Places where there’s been drunk driving accidents or overdoses, there might be marital things or whatever. That’s really messy.
And again, I’m not saying that those things won’t come out but for us as church leaders, we have to be careful about how it comes out so that when we are in a capacity to inform, we are informing, when we’re a capacity to be meeting one-on-one with somebody or with a small family that we make sure we’re also maintaining their sense of privacy also.
That’s good. So stewarding that message and that communication and then providing resources to the community for the grief. I think one of the most enduring things that you find after crisis is just the grief. And grief is one of the most human experiences. It is also one that we have a great opportunity to walk with people through. People do it differently, but sometimes it is a little bit like forgiveness. I find that grieving and forgiving are two of the things that Christian people know that they should do but oftentimes don’t know how to do.
So if I said to you, Matt, you need to forgive. Well, I might have had the right diagnosis, but telling you that you need to isn’t the same thing as making sure that you have the skills to. So that’s where some of the resources to help people along the way can be helpful. And I think we’ll even get to some important resources in ways to do even that, to help that grieving process.
We’re gonna pivot now to supporting the victims. So this slide was really supporting that supportive community. And now what does it look like to pastor the victim? And what we’ve got here is three important bullets on the screen there. Working from the bottom up is first things first is that bottom foundation. Safety and stability. Then moving on to remembering and mourning, and then finally meaning and reconnection.
So this is a model, this three-tiered model we oftentimes use in counseling with people who are recovering from a lot of trauma. Okay, so I’m taking an individual model that I use in counseling and applying it out here, but you can think of it this way that safety and stabilization, that’s the first thing that we need to make sure that people have. And if they’re in shock, if they need water, food, shelter, that’s the ground floor.
And, so it’s really interesting because oftentimes even after people have experienced a trauma and they are safe, they don’t yet feel safe. So I remember quite a while ago, 2009, 2010, there was an earthquake in Haiti. It was real, it was a really, a bad one. But it was so interesting. I got to go into Haiti about six weeks later and people were still not going into buildings. And the earthquake was past, and those kind of things. But their trauma was not past and so their sense of safety had not resolved.
So you’re giving us an important tip about trauma, and that is, even though the event was in the past, it’s still very present. Yes. And I think that’s where for people, depending on what happened, some people, it’s just a matter of getting them out of the cold, get ’em some soup and a blanket and then they start to liven up. Other people, it’s gonna take longer. But remembering this, that safety and stabilization is important, first and foundationally, secondly, this process called remembering and mourning.
This oftentimes does not happen with the same people around them. So like the first responders or the people, the crew that’s there to help, oftentimes this remembering and mourning is when somebody is doing their grieving. And, there are times we do public grief, like at a visitation and those kind of things, but oftentimes later on it’s in the months following that we’re working through remembering what happened, mourning, working through hard things, and also working through some of the questions that get in the way.
When somebody is dealing with safety and stabilization, they might be saying, crying out and going, why God, why did this happen to me? Why did we get in this accident? Or whatever. That’s very common that those kind of things come up at safety and stabilization, but they’re not the time to try to answer.
Well, that leads to my question, Ted, suppose somebody comes into your home, a victim who has gone through crisis, comes into your home or into your office and says, Ted, I don’t think I believe God is good. I am struggling to believe if he’s even real. Take us to that moment. How would you handle that situation knowing that this is coming from crisis and recent crisis?
So one of the first things that I would say is I’m just so glad that you’re here and I’m just so glad that even though I don’t have answers, I wanna listen, I wanna understand your experience and I wanna walk with you through this. I think our knee jerk response, when you hear somebody and they go to, I don’t even know, and at that moment you’re hearing a no, no God is good, wait a minute. Your response to them saying, I don’t know if God is good, is to go, no, no, God is good. I can tell you that God is good and I don’t even know if He’s real. No, no, no. He’s real. Let me tell you.
And at that moment, when somebody’s in shock, when somebody’s raw with emotion, the goal is to do the first part of what Job’s friends did. And that was to listen and to hold that pain. The problem, isn’t that, and I’m not even saying that you can’t say things. I think what happens is we want to move them to the third phase, which is actually meaning and reconnection. We want it to make sense to them. We want them to have a sense of resolution. And this may take a long time.
And so I’m not trying to tell anybody that there’s not a time to say Scripture or to pray but I would say that the earlier it is, the further that somebody is from safety and stabilization, the less we want to be making meaning statements. This is why God did this. Well, let me tell you, and this is, because they’re having a strong emotional and oftentimes physical response to their bereavement. And they’re actually not making a very rational kind of philosophical, let me break down for you how human suffering fits in.
I really appreciate that, Ted. And what I hear from that response is that you, in that moment, absorb them. You absorb their grief and you absorb their artifact of lack of faith. We’ll call it that. You absorb that and in a way you’re saying, let my faith be yours for this moment. That is, we don’t need to fix this.
I really appreciate you saying that. One of the things that somebody did for me at a time when I was really rocked around by something, was they said that to me. They said, you need to let your faith rest in my faith right now. And it was really precious cuz I was really hung up on something and it was just, they were holding me in that moment because it didn’t make sense.
And I will tell you brothers and sisters, when something happens in crisis, it may not make a bit of sense to us either. And we have to be very careful about our own need to make it make sense for us personally, to make them make sense to them because they’re upset and it doesn’t make sense to them. And we go, it doesn’t make sense to me. Believe me as a counselor, Matt, I’ve had hundreds of people that have said the why question. And I’ll tell you, I’ve sat there many, many times. It took me a long time, longer than it should have to figure out that I’m not God’s attorney. Okay? And I wasn’t there to give a rational response, but you know what?
To be able to be just like Jesus came to the earth and in the incarnation to be the presence, the hands and feet of Jesus right there to absorb that. And, even to be able that they would even know that later on that we could have another conversation and then another. And then over time, oftentimes those things come around. But sometimes the other thing is sometimes people will come to a place of meaning. Well, they’ll go, let me tell you why, Matt, I can tell you why this happened for me. Other times we’ll go to our grave wondering, huh, I wonder why that happened. Maybe someday I’m gonna know. But regardless, I think the thing for us in the crisis moment, is to hold and to be present with the pain. To be present with the pain.
I really appreciate that. I think that’s very instructive. On this next slide, I want you to read this statement, and then explain the importance of this. This is, I know this is really wordy, but it really says something I think is very important.
So post-traumatic growth is the growth that we’re trying to help people gain coming out of a tragedy. So post-traumatic growth occurs in the context of suffering and significant psychological struggle. So notice that first of all, the growth occurs in the middle of suffering and significant struggle, and the focus on this growth should not come at the expense of empathy for the pain and the suffering of the trauma survivors.
Our tendency is to go, we have a belief, and in fact, many of us have even noticed this, that oftentimes we’ve grown significantly from our trials. One of the things that happens though, is if you try to push somebody forward in that, if you’re telling somebody who’s in significant suffering, you’re gonna really benefit from this someday.
You’re, yeah, just zip it.That’s what I would say. Zip it. That’s not the thing to say right then. Then I would also say for most of the, I’m gonna finish this, and it says, for most trauma survivors, post-traumatic growth and distress will coexist. It means that they’re growing. And feeling distress. Okay. As they’re coming out of it. And the growth emerges from the struggle with coping, not from the trauma itself. We have to be careful in this because sometimes when we say that God brings good things out of bad things, it can actually sound like we’re saying that the bad thing was a good thing.
Part of the reason I’m a counselor today, Matt, is because I had a good friend take his life when I was in high school. I will tell you two things about that. Number one, I will never, until the day I die, say that was a good event.I will also tell you, and I can testify that what God has done in me, through me and to me and how he’s motivated me, over time has brought amazing grace out of a really bad situation. But this situation was not good and I won’t tell you it was good. The flip side is to understand, brothers and sisters, that we have to walk with people as they’re struggling and we would rather look at people and go, the struggle switch is on, or it’s off. They’re in a good place or they’re in a bad place. It’s more like this. Okay. It’s more of a motion.
Well, Ted, what I’ve heard, actually you’ve alluded to this in previous slides and I think it comes up here, is you really have to understand yourself well. And why am I reacting to this situation? Because very often it’s me. I don’t like to see people struggle. So I’m going to help them not struggle, and I’m going to say the job is done when they’re not. But this is saying that the struggle, that there is purpose in the struggle and you can’t expedite that.
I think the other thing though is that I think that there are things that when we say expedite, it just means shove people through or move them faster than they are. But there are things that we can do to help people, making sure that they have adequate social support, if they need resources or counseling or a mentor or whatever or even just a meeting periodically just to check in with them. It means a huge amount for people to know that they’re not forgotten.
Well, let me follow that up with a question that came in, which I thought was really good, is when do you encourage the, maybe a person has lingered a long time in grief. Is there a time of pivot when we do become that firm hand in the back?
So there are some of those things and so I would say a couple things that, over time, so one of the things, one of the features is over time, our hope is that somebody’s trajectory is moving upwards. They’re gonna be going up and having good days and bad days and whatever, but the hope is the overall trajectory is moving the right direction.
If, for example, somebody has not only gone from being bereaved or going through grief, but is now in clinical depression and isn’t going to work, this is going the wrong direction, this is the wrong direction. So therefore we need to step in more. The other thing is that sometimes one of the things to do is to offer resources and say, not that they have to have ’em all right now and do ’em right. But to be able to say, hey, you know what, I’m aware of a support group. I’m aware, would it be helpful to x, y, or z? I just want you to know, I’m willing to facilitate that meeting.
Meeting them where they’re at. But also allowing that next step. That’s correct. You know, it’s something that the ministers will experience is preaching. And what that looks like in times of grief in crisis. I want you to speak to this, the opportunity and responsibility of preaching during crisis, and this is intimidating, very intimidating, very difficult.
We have one pulpit message heard by many different people, and they’re all at different rings of degrees of nearness to the trauma and to the crisis. And we have a variety of different people on their way of healing.
So, a couple of things, first of all is discerning the audience. And so it’s one thing, and this is just about knowing, it’s one thing to be at a funeral service. It’s another thing to be speaking with your youth group or, you know, and so the audience and their relationship to it. So, let’s say that something occurred and it let’s say there was a there was a suicide and you want to address the younger people that were impacted. And so the audience has a real clear connection to the topic and those kind of things. Other times you’re gonna be talking to people who are interested, but don’t have that interest. And, when I say I was gonna say interest for interest’s sake, and I don’t mean to say that always badly because sometimes people are curious and they wanna know. And it doesn’t mean that they’re bad to wanna know.
But I do think that we have to be careful about making from the pulpit broad sweeping statements, like here’s a good example. It’s after a loss, and people are feeling raw. And then to get up on the pulpit and to say, as believers, we have joy. And so it’s because of that, it’s time to be done being sad and so going back to making meaning too quickly. Knowing your audience for that. But also being aware, you mentioned discerning the message. Discerning, how this would land. How it’s gonna land. And how it’s gonna land with the individual, and then discerning and timing has gotta be a part of that.
I think the other thing here, this is where it’s hard and ,brothers and sisters, one of the things I would say is if you are a related to timing, message, and audience, if you are trying to figure that out and you’re not sure, this is where a call to ACCFS to talk to one of our counseling staff can be helpful. Not that we have all the answers, it’s just that we can help you walk through like, okay, in this kind of a situation, you might be wanting to think about this. Where in this kind of situation, you might wanna do this, and so don’t hesitate to call us, in something like this just to kind of walk through.
But the timing, I do think that one of the things that is oftentimes really helpful is, and I’m sure that many of you already do this, but at major holidays, like a Christmas or a New Year’s time when we have those times when you kind of go, you know what, hey, in this past year you may have lost a loved one. And, those kind of things. And just to be sensitive to those kind of things. I also think that there are, and I’m just gonna tell you I don’t know how to do this always because it’s really easy to celebrate the birth of a new baby, but we don’t always know about the miscarriage or the infertility and those kind of things. But I would say this, Matt, related to timing, is that for us, we just have to watch out for that feeling that I have to give God’s answer. Past Scripture, we gotta be pretty careful about just saying, this is how it’s gonna be.
What I hear too is you’re saying really there is a way to be pastoral across the message. And reflect God’s heart in that moment. And to maybe take that posture. I’d like to look at this concept of lament, and I know you’ve spoken to lament this is an opportunity we have with a community who is grieving. Lament is a huge genre in the Bible. It is. The psalms, a third of the Psalms I guess are laments. And so it was very much built into the Hebrew worship, that lament. But you would be kind of hard pressed to thumb through a hymn book and find lament songs. They’re just not there in abundance.
It’s an interesting thing. So, the concept of lament, the definition here is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. And, I think one of the things that, this is an opportunity for us as church leaders, but also as a congregation to think about, how do we express our questions and the agony to God.
And, the interesting thing is He invites us to do it. It is throughout the psalms, the minor prophets you see it, but let’s talk about how to lead both yourself. And I wanted to say this, I think that we as all human beings, I would say for ourselves in ministry, because some of the time things happen to us in ministry and we just hurt and sometimes we’re absorbing the congregation’s hurt, sometimes they’re directing their hurt at us. Other times it’s like, Lord, what am I supposed to do?
So the four parts of lament come down to this, and the first part is turning to God. It’s addressing God. This is really important because it is very possible after kind of a crisis moment for people to just turn away. Just like, I don’t even want to talk to God. So, what He invites us to do in lament is to speak to Him. And, this is where the psalmist would oftentimes say, God, why don’t you, you know this is what’s going on. What’s happening? Very raw, very vulnerable, very raw. And we are, I think one of the things is if we would look at the Psalms as they are, and actually think of saying it, they’re super raw.
Okay. I mean, how many times have you prayed over the pulpit to break the teeth of your enemies? You know, may they be dashed against the stones. That’s rough stuff. But, the whole point is turning to God. And then expressing the complaint. Some people, and there is a very wide belief amongst Christians that we have to sugarcoat it to God.
And, I think that the interesting thing, and again, I understand we’re worried about not being respectful to God and who He is as a sovereign Lord and all those things. But here’s the other thing. In the Psalms, they cried out and said, where are You? How could You, do You not see what’s happening here, Lord?
And so for the parent who’s lost a child, or the person who has experienced loss, Lord, You know the where and the why, the ask is then in the third place is, Lord, I need you to come through. Oftentimes what we want at this place is we just want oftentimes a very specific miracle.
But this is Lord, Lord, I need you to show up to help me. I need you to turn the lights on in my darkness. And then after that, it’s the expression of praise or trust. And so it’s Lord, all this hasn’t happened yet, but I’m gonna start working, I’m gonna start moving in this direction of trusting You because I have to do that in faith. And this is key because in lament we’re saying, Lord, I hurt and I’m gonna walk in faith even though it doesn’t feel good.
I wanna say two things about this that I would really wanna ask the ministers and wives to think about. Number one is in prayer and from the pulpit and other places and with people, we need to pray. And God asked to pray and pray, believing in all those things. We need to always remember to add the Lord if it’s Your will. Okay? And to really lean into that. I will say that many times we work with people who are broken because they’ve been really encouraged to pray believing, and again, I would encourage them to pray believing, but they’ve been encouraged to pray in a way that if it doesn’t turn out the way that they wished, it means that their faith was what was wrong.
Okay. And, we have to really watch out for that. The other thing I would say is that we have to be careful about oversharing our emotions, but I wanna say one of the most powerful things that we can do, particularly in a one-on-one relationship, but there’s times to do this from the pulpit as well, and that’s to just say, wow, you know what, this really hits me hard too. And really acknowledge your own humanity.
That’s really helpful. I think there’s a lot here. I do wanna pause cuz we have five minutes left. If anybody had something they want to ask, you can chat that in or you can unmute yourself. And, as people maybe prepare to do that, let me just make this one comment about this concept of lament.
I heard somebody say that if we were to engage the Psalms and the rawness of the Psalms as a community, we would have far less crime, far less hatred, far less violence, far less all of that because all of our emotion goes out wrong in all of those other ways. And God has in the canon of Scripture and in the practice of His holy people and in faith believing people a way and a route and a trajectory for all of that. And, you see it penned in Psalms in very, very vivid ways. So we have an opportunity, I think, I think you’re right, Ted, to help lead congregation in that way.
I think also with that is that there’s an opportunity to use, whether you’re using an ACCFS course on grief or a Bible study on grief, a one-on-one workbook with grief. There’s so many tools. I think one of the things that happens is oftentimes we just assume that grief is gonna occur naturally or that healing after a crisis is gonna occur naturally. I don’t wanna tell you that it can’t or that it’s not. But I think that we assume that because hard things, oftentimes we’ve grown through hard things that it means everybody’s gonna grow through hard things. And, the fact is that some people are gonna be stuck in their crisis and stuck in their grief, and we need to be able to step in.
Thanks for that. Just a few minutes left. Again, if anybody wishes to unmute and ask a question, this would be a great time for it.
Matt and Ted, I just wanna highlight one thing that you’ve shared so far, and then I know you’ve got some finish up stuff. Speak to this idea of, one of the questions that was chatted in or shared earlier is this idea of restoring the hope. How do you restore hope and faith in Jesus Christ after a crisis or traumatic event? And I appreciate the discussion tonight, really kind of highlighted, you know, don’t jump too quickly into meaning making or be aware of our tendency towards meaning making. Speak to the role that a church leader can have and just maybe being a constant, steady presence. What impact can that have in a scenario like this? Just that idea of being a constant, steady presence and perseverance of constancy through that.
That’s a great point. So, one of the things that we have the opportunity to do as a body of believers is to walk together through the milestones, wonderful things and the hard things. I think that being able to meet with somebody periodically allows us to do a couple of things. It allows us to take their temperature over time, not physically, but to see how they’re doing and to watch the trajectory a bit. Again, the more intense the crisis, the more we should probably have some way to check in.
That doesn’t mean either that it has to be only the elders should do that, or only a minister. It might be that we have people in the congregation or different ones. But this concept of being able to have the process across time, I also think that it’s important to start with helping people engage their lives and the Word and those kind of things.
And to know it’s okay to not feel all the typical joy and those kind of things. And, to let that emerge over over time. And, with that though, I think that the longer it goes, then you can move from dealing with some of the, let’s cope with this, to over time when somebody’s kind of back to more of their thinking selves or whatever, then you can actually start, well, let’s, you know, if they wanna engage things about what the Bible says about suffering and those kind of things, that’s fine, but you’re gonna do that later on and not in the beginning.
I see a chat here. Arlan, are you gonna finish up? No, I was gonna call attention to that chat. There’s a chat about how do you walk? It says, how do we walk well with people in long-term crisis addiction, chronic illness, long-term challenges? So, this is a tragedy in one sense, but this is that long-term crisis.
So, this follows a little bit different of a route, but there’s some common pieces. I would say that for people with chronic illness, long-term challenges, the biggest thing that happens is because our lives go on, it’s easy to assume that their lives are going on. And then here’s the next thing. We’ll assume that no news is good news. And, I’ll tell you, my biggest criticism of elders before I was an elder was about how long it took them to get back to people and things like that. And then I’m gonna tell you, and now I know why. I absolutely know why because I’m just dealing with the stuff that’s right here and the concept of getting back to that person. So I do think that having people to kind of check in along the way is a really, is there an expectation piece to this question, Ted?
Is there an expectation piece of what health is gonna be or what success? Whenever there’s an expectation, the gap between expectation and reality is frustration. So, I dunno, getting to the point of acceptance of what success or what health looks like in a situation is what you’re getting at, Matt. So one of the aspects that we run into here is the fact that some situations, A, our expectation is we’re gonna be able to get the person to a really good place. And, sometimes they’re not on board with that. Other times, they’re looking to us to do more than we can do for them. And that’s a really hard thing. I would love to be able to do more than I can, but I can’t. I think the other thing that I would also say is that some problems are cyclical and they go up and down and they ebb and flow. And so we need to step in in certain points and we need to step out at other points.
So this is where it’s a little bit like at the beginning of being an elder, I thought I was gonna put together a plan to address a whole bunch of different things. And I found out that I didn’t have one, I couldn’t do a one size fits all thing. But I do think that one of the things to say is what are the components? So who is following up with spiritual care? Who are the mentors and support people? Are there counselors involved? What’s the motivation level?
This is gonna require a team. It’s gonna require a team with measured expectation. But I also think accompanying with lament that we just talked about for sure, there’s just so much health that comes through, not the fixing, but the walking through the grief. I really appreciate that.
We are very cognizant of the time. This is gonna be posted on the website. We do have resources that are gonna be posted there that are, I think, good places to go with links if you like that. But I just wanted to finish with this quote here, Ted.
So, it just says this, A tragedy gives the believing community a unique opportunity to act as a family of God. It is. And you see that over and over again. And I think that our church community, in fact, I am so thankful to be part of our church family for this. Cuz as I know right now, if calamity happened to my family, that people that I do not know personally would help me. And that just is amazing. So we pray more, we’re more thoughtful about what is important to light, and we get to display Christ to the world. And, that doesn’t mean that the things aren’t hard. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t tears. But what it means is that as we walk through this, we actually display something.
That’s powerful. And I think that’s a great place to draw this to a close. Thank you each one for being on here.