Tragedy is something we experience in our fallen world in a multitude of different ways. From the internationally known wildfires in California that lead to people being displaced, to the war crimes in Eastern Aleppo in Syria that have sent out haunting photos, we see these images, hear their stories, and feel helpless and hopeless to enact change. Then we have the seemingly endless local tragedies of murders, rape, and car crashes which up end families and affect whole communities.

In the midst of this chaos stands the Church. In this darkness, there is light in Christ. And in the trauma someone receives, one can be restored. So what can the Church do to help?

To Starts With Hope

When talking with someone about tragedy, many times the person is looking for a sense of rational, a need to justify why what happened, happened. With trauma, reasoning can feel like something one can never actually catch. As a counselor, finding this purpose, this ability to find a logical order to things may be impossible. But with the worldview of Christianity, knowing God’s sovereignty, we can begin to accept God has a purpose.

“Part of God’s will in permitting or ordaining a calamity is that we weep with those who weep.”
– John Piper, Desiring God

Within a tragedy, something beautiful may be born. In this time of upheaval, we see a person totally dependent on others. This time, fostered by Christians who can support these individuals, may allow for a season of renewed faith. So what supports can the church give in these times of need?

How Can Churches Support Others In Crisis

Here are a couple of the things churches can do during a crisis situation. Remember, the point of this is to give people time to have hope, so not every one of these examples are going to incorporate some spiritual practice, nor to I think you should over spiritualize the process.

Within a tragedy, something beautiful may be born.

  1. Give Financially
    Many people who endure crisis lose everything. Sometimes, like in the case of Hurricane Harvey, this means ones very basic needs of warm clothing and food are lacking. Other times, it means helping pay medical bills that someone has incurred. Consider how you or your church can help support others.
  2. Give Time
    In some situations, money can help resolve situations, and this is a good thing. Other times, people simply need you to be present with this and that cost for many busy Americans actually is a greater sacrifice. Consider giving them an hour of your time where all you do is listen, pray, and listen some more.
  3. Give Transportation
    We sometimes come up with these elaborate ways of giving whole houses, paying thousands of dollars, and organizing whole donation drive,
    but in the little things, like making a counseling appointment or getting to a school activity, people are reminded their lives are not whole. Sometimes, giving someone regular means of transportation are important. Other times, it means driving them to crisis services or AA meetings so the individual can continue to make significant strides in recovery.
  4. Give Leadership
    Talk with your pastor on how to continue to inspire, organize, and lead these movements of recovery and healing from the pulpit. Let your leadership in your church know the need is strong and the importance ever growing.
  5. Give Rest
    With tragedy comes something called hypervigilance. This term means to “always be on guard.” It can include protecting your children from the dangers unknown (and probably non-existent) to the nightmares that haunt ones sleep. If your church is able to provide safe, consistent childcare so your congregation members can fully worship, you are truly meeting their needs.

There is certainly more a church could do to help in the tragedy, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Share in the comments below how your church has helped when tragedy strikes.

Published by Jeremy Smith

Jeremy is a Licensed Professional Counselor working with adults and youth. Jeremy has a history of working as a ministry director for Youth for Christ for 8 years and then working as a mental health and substance use adult counselor in Ohio, specifically running an Opioid Residential Treatment Center.

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