This week has been filled with ministering to families who are in crisis. One student was arrested, another single mom found what her son was looking at on his computer, and still another has been going too far physically with another student. I used to get shocked and saddened when the veil was lifted, letting me see the deep brokenness of families. I still am saddened when I hear of hurting families, but I am no longer shocked. I keep a realistic view of our brokenness and sinfulness. The reality is that if you are going to pour into the lives of students, you WILL be given the opportunity to help families in crisis. How you engage families can show Christ and reflect the way He has entered into our broken world. Here are some thoughts on ministering to families in crisis.

  1. Don’t Wait To Engage! – Families in crisis need you now, in the midst of their pain and struggles. When we respond quickly, we communicate that they are a priority to you and to God. They will feel God’s care and comfort when we are present in the middle of the storm. Even just a quick phone call can make a huge difference for those in crisis.
  2. Pray with them! – Most of us have no problem telling someone, “I’ll pray for you.” When we pray WITH them, instead of FOR them we are allowing God to be the comfort and wisdom they need right then and there. I’ve never received an email from someone saying, “Thanks for telling me you pray for me.” But I have received plenty of emails and notes from people who were thankful that I prayed with them in the moment. I take that feedback as evidence of which penetrates the heart more.
  3. Understand the difference between a crisis and a problem! – We don’t need to respond with the same intensity and timely nature when we are dealing with a problem as opposed to a crisis. If we responded to every little problem and complaint as if the world were ending, we wouldn’t get anything done. A problem is always important to the person affected (like a needing a packing list for a retreat at 11 the night before). A crisis is bigger than a matter of convenience and comfort. Crises (yes that is the plural form of crisis) are major life-shifting events. They are in the realm of death and sickness, extreme moral failures, and life altering events (such as an arrest). If we respond to problems as if they were crises, we will most likely miss out when a true crisis occurs.
  4. Follow-up! – Make sure you follow up after the event to see how the family is handling the situation. Often there are residual consequences to a crisis that will allow you to minister post-crisis. A few weeks ago, a student’s grandmother died. I visited the hospital and prayed with the family. A few days later I took the family to lunch while they cleared out the home. During lunch I found out that they needed help getting the student to school because they relied on the grandmother for transportation. Because I had followed up, I was able to offer my services and continue ministering to the family.

Jesus entered our crisis and did something about it. He was present with the broken and hurting. The Gospel demands that we do the same. He has healed us so that we can heal others in His name. Be the voice of hope, healing and redemption for families in crisis so they can experience the presence of Jesus working through you.