Skip to main content

Pastoring When Tragedy Strikes

I can’t help but look to heaven and ask why? There seems to be so many tragedies recently from airplanes crashing, to ferry’s capsizing, bus crashes, and countless other stories around the world of dozens and even in some cases hundreds dying.  I realize that the news media (24 hour/7 day week) coverage plays a role in how we react to the news of death.

I have spent my entire adult life serving in the church, as a pastor, associate pastor, children’s pastor, men’s leaders, and college instructor. Helping people in crisis is difficult at any time, when a family member or friend dies after a long health related illness, we ask questions. When a young person commits suicide we look for answers.  When a plane crashes or ship sinks we demand answers.  Sadly, many times there is no good or acceptable answer. What there is; are frustrations, anger, resentment, denial, and multitude of others emotions that are so common of people in crisis and coping with a personal tragedy.

As pastors and ministers we are generally the first called when one of these tragedies strikes a family within our church or community. How we respond will determine much of how God will be viewed throughout the grief process and recovery process.  I have sat with many of family members, church members, and community members, watching other pastors with the bedside manors of a lion or bear (I have a few other words I thought of but, they are not really nice). My heart breaks for the family, as this pastor/minister opens his mouth and talks with no compassion or understanding of the human heart or need’s.  I often wonder what were they taught in Bible College or Seminary, or who showed them how to minister during these time.
If I could sit with pastors around the world today and share my heart, it would be these three simple things that I learned over the past 35 years of ministry, helping folks deal with a crisis from a sick child, loss of a parent, and destruction of property, to responding to a crisis at a school, or crash site.

1) Silence is a virtue, people want someone to listen to them cry and weep. Allowing them to vent and ask questions, process their emotions, and find answers in the compassion and love we share, as we simply sit with them.

2) Sharing should always be honest and positive. In the case of crisis hold out hope with them. I recently sat with a pastor that was ministering to a family of sick child, and he asked what are your plans for the funeral? Yes the patient was terminal, and there was little hope on the doctor’s part. However, as pastor we should help them focus on the positive of Christ love, and the possibility of Christ mercy, at the same time helping them prepare for God ending grace.

3) Serving Christ should be the most important task. I’m convinced that sharing Christ is my most important task, showing Christ mercy, love, and compassion is first and foremost in my focus throughout the time.

These three simple thoughts keep me focus, as I’m in the hospital, a family home, an emergency shelter, standing on the street corner, or at a crash site. I always have to remember “it is not about me, it is about them, finding peace in Christ love through a time that there is no answer that makes sense except Christ”.  However, in these times they need us to pray, encourage, have faith with them, that there is comfort in HIM (Christ),

Popular posts from this blog

Suicide & The Pulpit

Reports have emerged that Pastor Bill Lenz who was founder and longtime senior pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church in Harrison, WI died Monday by committing Suicide.   Bill was a strong advocate within the Christian community for Suicide Prevention, and along with his brother created Life Promotions, that ministers and teaches folks about Suicide Prevention and how to recover from those thoughts. Reports that I have read have stated that Pastor Lenz reported suffering with Anxiety,   Panic Attacks, and Depression for about three months, and his staff and board responded by providing support and encouragement including giving him time to seek counseling and treatment.   However, the depression became overwhelming and on Monday, he chose to take his own life.    My prayers are with his family, friends, staff, and members of his church.   Having provided Suicide Prevention training to staff members at churches and other organizations I am not sure what could have been done dif

Eight Reminders That Will Revolutionize YOU in Your Ministry to Men

     Many of you have accepted the challenge of ministering to men, whether as a pastor, a men’s small group leader, or another position within the local church. However, before we can be an effective leader of men, we must have our own house in order. We must strengthen and develop our own personal relationship with Christ, and then minister to men where they are in their growth as a Christian. Please understand I don’t write this out of some sense “having arrived” in ministry. I only write out of personal experience and watching other great men of God as they lead their men’s ministry. I have found these reminders to be the very foundational in how we revolutionize ourselves as we minister to men.        Before we get into reminders, we must first understand why our ministry to men is so critical in the local church. When I started in ministry in the 1970’s, the normal thought was to build a successful bus ministry and the families will flock to your church, or develop a ministry to

God help me stand in your place today!

I was reading Proverbs 25: 6-7 today … what a powerful passage of scripture. When you read those words in Christian Standard Bible they jump off the page: "Don’t brag about yourself before the king, and don’t stand in the place of the great; 7 for it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here!   " than to demote you in plain view of a noble." I’m fearful that too many preachers are promoting themselves above the place that God has called them to be. I was taught humility as a young preacher and even today I still hold on to these truths. I always allow the minister where I’m preaching or teaching to give my title that will be used such as Reverend, Doctor, Pastor, Bishop or Minister. I always sit on the front row or with my wife if she is there until the pastor asks me to come to the platform. I always respect the position of authority over me (Pastor/Bishop). I’m a guest at his church and acknowledge their position, and never assume that I have s