The last few decades have changed the way citizens get the news. Before the advent of the internet, the nightly newscast and the daily paper were primary sources of information, and they consisted of recaps of the stories their producers and editors deemed most important. Now, however, everyone with a smartphone can access reports of the latest events almost as soon as they happen. While there are certainly benefits to having so much information available, the expectation that people should be aware of everything that goes on all the time can take a significant toll on mental health and overall well-being.
Each person must decide how much he or she can handle when it comes to listening to the latest updates or scrolling social media to see what all their acquaintances are saying about what's going on in the world. Individual response is not enough, though. What is the church's role in caring for people as they try to balance being informed with staying sane?
Care for Members
Passengers on airplanes are instructed that, if an emergency situation occurs, they should put on their own oxygen masks before attempting to help others. The same principle applies to churches that long to offer solace when the world is hurting. No matter how much members want to help during times of crisis, they are not in the best position to do so unless they are being taken care of themselves. Depending on the unique needs of your congregation, there are several ways your leaders can reach out:
- Host support group discussions to give members a safe place to discuss their feelings about current events.
- Offer words of comfort or encouragement during sermons.
- Post statements from denominational leaders on social media accounts.
- Refer members who are most affected to the appropriate professional services.
It may be tempting to try to shield members from talk about world events, but this choice has the tendency to backfire. The more something affects people in their daily lives, the more help the church needs to offer.
Equip Members To Be Peacemakers
No matter how comforting an environment you create for your members, they cannot live in the protective bubble of the church all the time. The way the church responds to its members is likely to inform how they respond to their friends and family when controversial issues arise. Encourage members to seek credible information to share with grace and kindness. They may not agree with everyone in their lives, but they can learn how to be a calming presence.
Respond According to Needs
Good communication is important, but whether the latest crisis is local, federal or global, it likely offers the opportunity for productive action. The church is full of people who want to help in any way they can. You probably already have teams in place in your church that specialize in outreach. Turn to them in times of trouble and follow their lead. There is no reason the church can't be on the forefront of response when bad news is shared. Having groups in place that are ready to work with other organizations to assess and meet needs is a powerful way to help members learn how to respond to out-of-control situations with workable solutions.
Some people long for the good old days when it seemed that tragic events were the exception rather than the daily norm. Others contend that more bad things aren't happening; the average citizen is just more aware of them now. Whichever is closer to fact, the truth remains that the church must be in a position to offer rest for the weary and help for the hurting when the world is in crisis.