My heart is breaking along with the rest of America and the world over the senseless violence on Friday. The school shooting that occurred this past Friday is beyond the imagination of anyone. The horribly news, the terrifying description of the pain, anxiety, fear, and depression on the faces of those affected was heart wrenching to watch on T.V.
As a Christian my heart breaks, and my prayers go up for the family that is suffering through such tragedy of losing a child to this senseless and unexplainable act. I also pray for the minds and hearts of the first responders, the memories that have been formed in their mind from what they found as they went through the doors for the first time, for the children and teachers in the school that survived, but will forever be touched by this event. My prayer is simple “God grant them the presents of your Holy Spirit, and the helping and healing touch of your love, as you minister to their hearts and minds through this time.”
As the news keeps breaking and as the story continues to unfold, there has been talk and challenges issued by various groups about gun control, mental illness, and even teachers being armed. I’m not sure if any of these debates will mean much, or if the laws had been different there would have been a different outcome. However, I believe that there are two debates that the national media won’t engage in. The first is not the focus of this post but is worth mentioning. Christians often make the argument of how God being removed from the Public School has promoted a different value system among young people and adults over the past 30 years.
The second debate is more for the church than the media. How do we respond if this happens in our community? Newton, Connecticut is a microcosm of hundreds of thousands of small communities across America. On any given day, any school throughout America could face a similar tragedy. As a minister, Christian counselor, professional addiction counselor, and member of a church, there may be a time I’m called on in a time of crisis. My training and background will help me to respond. However, I’m so concerned today there are hundreds or even thousands of pastors that have never had the training or even the desire to learn how to help individuals in a crisis like this.
I believe as a pastor, church member, family member, and friend there are three essentials the church must get into their brain, heart, and ministry plan.
1. Tragedy is going to hit your church community in some form and at some point (it maybe a shooting, a natural disaster, or the death of a friend or family member). It is our responsibility to be pro-active now (have the training and plans in place to respond), and not re-active (running around the community looking for help) then.
2. Develop a prayer network that is going to reach across denominational, cultural, school district, city limits, state lines and the nation. Pray that God is going to protect our children, families, and communities.
3. Develop an ACTION PLAN … In times of crisis what do we do? How do we respond to the individuals effected by this crisis, how do we pray with them, what do we share with them, and where do we get them help? In my mind the ACTION PLAN is simply about the pastor knowing the answers to these questions, and having the tools to help. It is about the body of Christ, stepping up, being trained, and sharing the love of Christ with the hearts and minds of those affected. The church needs to also look at the on-going care of individuals affected by these events. Post-Trauma Stress Disorder is real, and the statement “pray about it” is a great come back but not the sole solution. Helping them to deal with the emotional loss, physical trauma, and haunting memories will take time to heal, and a loving church to assist them.
As we continue to read and hear more about this tragedy, I pray it is a wakeup call for the church to prepare for the worse, and thank God for his continue blessing on our community.