Community Killers: Crisis

Here is Part Two in my series on dealing with "Community Killers". Today the topic is "Crisis".

Every group experiences crisis at some point. Death, illness, divorce, and financial ruin are just some of the issues that can threaten to destroy a group. These crisis, however, are not to be feared. Rather, they should be embraced as an opportunity for the group to care for one another in unique and deeply meaningful ways. The following are five suggestions (certainly not an exhaustive list) which can help a group handle crisis successfully:

Openness. The first step in a group’s efforts to deal with crisis is simply knowing about and understanding the crisis. If a member does not feel comfortable sharing the crisis issues in their life, the group cannot come to their aid. A willingness to share not only the crisis situation, but also the details can significantly impact the degree to which the group can offer assistance.

The role of the leader sometimes requires a person to be observant and discerning regarding the unspoken signs of crisis. Noticing that a group member is unusually absent or late, or that their participation in the group or demeaner has changed over time may create an opportunity for the group to meet a need they weren’t even aware of. Sometimes, the group leader may need to approach a group member outside of their gathering to ask questions and determine the degree to which the person should be open with the group.

The key is that the more the group knows, the more they can help, and the more they will have an opportunity to grow together.

Prayer. For believers, crisis is never really crisis. We have confidence (although we may not always feel it or exhibit it) that God is in control, and that He is working in every circumstance for our good. Of course for the person who finds their life “falling apart”, that is often little consolation. Sometimes, when a situation seems beyond hope, people turn to prayer as a last resort. Sadly, it should be the resort to which we turn first.

We have many promises in the Bible that prayer is effective, that God listens to the prayer of the righteous, and that when two or three gather God is present with them. Prayer is a powerful tool, particularly in the hands of a unified group of believers. How can a group pray for their friend in crisis? They can pray for resolution to the situation, they can pray for peace for the oppressed, they can pray for strength to accept the final outcome, they can pray for the testimony of the person in crisis, and they can pray for others who are affected by the crisis. Of course, the scope of prayer in any situation is limited only by the group itself.

Communication. As a group works to serve a member in crisis, communication is of the utmost importance. Group members need to be made aware of changes (positive and negative) in the situations as well as needs that arise and are met. It may be wise for the group leader to assign a “point person” who can maintain close touch with the member in crisis and pass the crucial information along to the group as needed.

Follow-Up. One of the worst things that can happen in a crisis is for the person to “fall through the cracks”. It is too easy when someone talks about their crisis for the group to immediately respond with care and concern, but as time goes by the level of involvement decreases and eventually fades away.

Keeping a crisis in the forefront of the group’s mind (without allowing it to overshadow all else) can be done by regularly praying, and giving updates during group gatherings. The group leaders should ensure that any commitments made to the person by the group are followed-through.

Presence. Sometimes for a person in crisis, it is more than enough to simple be with them. One of the most important things a group can do for a suffering member is to provide support through presence. An important question to regularly ask during a crisis is, “What can we do right now for you?” The follow up is just as important, “Do you want someone to be with you?” An effective group can unify to provide around the clock presence if necessary, or to just have the occasional visitation if desired.

It should be noted that some crisis will last far longer than others, and often the length of the crisis will be the true measuring stick of the love and commitment of the group. Also, crisis may arise that require far more attention, assistance, and counsel than the group is capable of providing. The leader and members of the group must be willing and able to recognize the extent to which they are capable of providing care, and then must assist the member in finding the necessary extra help, whether it be from the church, a doctor, or other sources.

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