A Church Plan to Reach The Hurting
There is no doubt that anyone who has experienced a remodel understands the depth of work, determination, and variety of skills it takes to accomplish.
As we see the growing levels of trauma and pain in the people around us in and in our church, it can be difficult to determine how best to meet the needs? In order to meet the evolving needs of your people, here is a guide on how to begin to evaluate and process how to create a psychologically remodeled space that will draw the hurt and lost to Jesus, the ultimate counselor and healer.
Step One: Take Inventory - Know Your Team and Environment
There is a common misconception that the word “trauma” refers to only the most severe circumstances that create pain. In truth, each person experiences life in their own unique ways: with their own genetics, backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, each circumstance can have different effects on different people. For one person, a child getting denied college admission is just an unfortunate part of life, whereas for someone else the same situation causes grief and devastation. Or one person may lose a loved one and find peace remarkably fast, whereas another begins to lose all sense of direction. As a church, this poses the unique challenge of providing a welcoming and safe place, a place where wounded and hurting people discover true care.
Pay attention to the community around you and find out what the common themes might be. Look at the culture, geography, socio-economic and cultural challenges of your church.
Step Two: Open Doors - Welcome the Problems and the Solutions
Before any work can be done, the front door must be open, not just to the guests you hope to welcome, but also to the professionals who can help see what areas might need to be torn out and redone. There are so many incredible professionals in the counseling field who can offer advice, support, guidance and insights on the current needs and best practices that can help your people. Open your door to those that are able to give you solid advice and ideas that will help you create a welcoming space.
In addition, does your front door and entry way welcome anyone who might show up? Anyone? If your heart doesn’t have an immediate yes, then begin looking at who might not feel welcome.
Step Three: Demolition - Remove the Barriers to Caring
Probably the hardest part of any remodel project is the demolition phase! It is messy, requires a lot of hard work, and a team of people with different abilities. But without removing barriers, the ability to build something welcoming and refreshing will be hindered or even impossible. With the multiple voices of those with a variety of talents, look at how your church is meeting the pain of your congregation.
Talk to your people, find out what their hurts are and what has helped or hindered their growth. Ask your administrative assistants, often they can see things that the pastoral staff might not be able to. It might be helpful to have a survey of the people you serve on what has helped during a hurting time in their lives, and what made it more difficult? Continue to listen, ask the questions, be attentive. Some barriers involve theological approaches to the hurt; some involve the attitude and lack of compassion; some might be practical and logistical. Find out from your people if they feel cared for, do they feel comfortable approaching the staff for help? And are there ways for them to express their needs that is easy, effective, safe, and confidential?
Step Four: Build - Resources and Professional Partnership
The beauty of welcoming professionals in the field of mental health to join you on your mission is that you have the support you need to know what the current needs are. As a mental health professional, it is essential to be able to refer clients to churches that have a clear way to provide support and comfort to those in pain.
Some considerations might include a clear organization of resources that are available, materials and a website that clearly communicates the unconditional love of Jesus, and education and training on how to be a “walking journal,” how to be a good listener.
The staff does not have the capacity to be the only ministers in the church. Therefore, having ways to train lay people to be able to successfully help those in trauma, is essential.
Step Five: Windows - Modeling Transparency
The Bible is full of a cast of incredible leaders and authors who frankly had horrific faults, lots of pain and lots of hurt. Yet, the Bible is extremely transparent, and in its ability to be transparent, there is the power that is comforting and provides safety to be broken.
When a pastor, teacher, or leader is open about their own struggles, fears and faults, it can draw in those outside who may look in and assume the church is only for those who have pretty lives and a strong faith. By the leaders providing an example of humility and authenticity, the space for being broken becomes safe.
Be aware of your social media posts. For a person who is hurting, or angry, or in a lot of pain, do your posts bring refreshment and offer hope? The truth is, the Gospel is the good news: not just for salvation but for a provision of hope for our current life situations. The Gospel can be proclaimed in multiple ways, including allowing people to see the reality of your life and how there are ups and downs.
Look at your values and your expectations of your staff and volunteers. Ask yourself; are you comfortable in being transparent in your church? Chances are, if you are scared and uncomfortable, there are people in your congregation who share your feelings.
It has been incredible how so many pastors and leaders have compassionately provided help during this difficult time. The word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.” Shepherds gain the trust of their sheep by spending time with them, being gentle, observant and protective.
But just like an earthly shepherd needs to stay healthy to be able to lead the sheep, you, too, need to make sure your needs are being met. Look over your calendar and your schedule and make sure you have times to rest: to feed your soul, rest your mind, and have support and care from others that you trust.
My prayer is that, as the hurt draw near your church home with hesitation and fear, that they will see the bright lights, feel the warmth, sense the unity and care, and be drawn closer in. As they peek into the doorway of your church’s heart, they will finally find the rest and support they have so desperately wanted and needed. And then I, along with my fellow counselors, can take the hands our hurting clients and lead them to your church’s door!