Knowing how to respond to individuals in times of crisis is essential for effective church leadership. Before I retired from the ministry, I always tried to see hospitalized parishioners as soon as possible. Being present helped me assess what had happened and know how the parishioner’s life was affected. By visiting, I could better understand family dynamics, which in tern helped me know how to serve the family’s needs more effectively. For scheduled procedures, I sometimes met with the family beforehand or even had a conversation with them by phone. But in the case of a life-threatening event or crisis, I met with the family personally.
Words can be comforting, but there is no substitute for simply being present.
Do you remember the story of Job? Scripture tells us Job’s friends came to visit him when his life was in crisis. They started out well. The friends saw Job’s suffering and wanted to comfort him. So, they sat with Job in silence for seven days and nights. Job was agonizing from the many sores covering his body. He was struggling with the emotional pain caused by the loss of his family and possessions. And in the midst of this sorrow, Job was trying to understand God’s purposes in his life.
It seems Job’s friends never got into trouble until they opened their mouths.
I have known many people who tried to replace silence with unnecessary and superfluous words. In responding to suffering, focus on being fully present. Rely less on talking and more on listening. Do not fear silence or worry about not having all the answers. Instead, offer the assurance of the Lord’s presence through your own.
In times of crisis, our parishioners are confronted with physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. They may not remember the words that you say, but they will likely remember that you were there.