This weekend I experienced my first major crisis as a youth pastor. It was about 4pm on Friday afternoon, and I was at McDonald’s with a student. That’s when I got the phone call. The voice at the other end was shaky, and eventually went on to tell me one of our seniors had been in a very serious accident. As I drove up to the hospital a million thoughts were racing through my mind. What if he doesn’t make it? What do I tell his parents? What do I say to his sixth grade brother? What if I can’t keep it together? As my mind was racing, all I could say was, “God please be with me.” Walking into the hospital to meet parents who are upset, and fearing for their child’s life is never an easy circumstance. There were some things that I have learned throughout this process that will be staples for me in times of crisis…here are a few.
- God is in control. We can be mad, angry, sad, and speechless about the present situation, but we must always rest in the fact that God is in control. Hold on to the idea that God can use tough circumstances to bring Him glory, no matter how bad that situation looks (Genesis 50:20).
- Be there. Never underestimate the power of presence. This particular youth’s parents do not attend church, however they were so glad to be surrounded by their student’s youth pastor and small group leaders.
- Pray hard. When I arrived at the hospital, one of the very first things the mother said was, “Please pray.” This struck me because these people do not attend a church, or seem to have any interest in Christianity, however she definitely saw the power of prayer that day. About 5 or 6 of us from church showed up and began praying for our student. It was a powerful and emotional time of prayer.
- Help out with the family tasks. When a family is in a crisis, they don’t think about daily tasks. Go buy their family dinner for that night. Find out if you can set up a person to cook food for them for the rest of the week. Get a group of students together to take care of their yard work. Pick up their children from school. Whatever you do, help the family out with things that may not be on their radar, but need to be taken care of.
- Silence is OK. It’s not up to you to entertain the hurting family. I found myself wanting to fill the silence in the waiting room with conversation. This desire to fill the silence led me into meaningless conversation. I learned very quickly that in crazy times, silence can be best.
- Use this time as a witnessing opportunity. We have been reaching out to this student’s family. We brought our senior pastor up to the hospital, and he got to meet the family, and let them know how much we have been praying for them. That is one of many things we have done. Some things you can do are, invite the family to church, or have them over to your house. Don’t let this just be a circumstance, but use this as an opportunity for God to work on people’s hearts.
Those are some things I learned this weekend. What else would you add to this list?
Alex Wierda is the Youth Pastor at Central Christian Church.