The Church is in a unique location to help in times of hardships. Historically, the Church is a place where anyone could seek sanctuary when needed, protected under the power of God. Keep reading if you want to offer community support in a crisis but don’t know how to.
Provide a place for refuge
Depending on the severity of the situation, your church building might be needed as a place for refuge. Especially when natural disasters strike, injured people need a safe location where they can be supported and receive medical attention. Or, for a less extreme situation, offer a free sandwich and coffee to those who need it.
The action of offering a place to help will have incredible results. Grieving people can gather together for collective prayer, while members of the community can support with childcare for those who are struggling to keep it together. There is power and beauty in numbers, so make your church a safe space for all.
Organize your church volunteers to help
Churches often have a large pool of volunteers they can call on in difficult times. So, gather the troops and let them know it’s urgent to get as many helpers plugged in as possible. Urge them to reach out to their friends and family to encourage more sign-ups, as every extra pair of hands on board can make a difference.
Good organization of your volunteers is just as important as numbers, if not more. A hundred disorganized volunteers running around like headless chickens looking for direction is more trouble than it's worth. So assign sub-leaders, set groups on different missions, and do the best you can to help.
Become a central hub for donations
One of the best ways to use volunteers is to gather and distribute donations. Advertise your church as a drop-off point on social media and ask for more volunteers to help with distribution if needed. Decide which items are the most essential based on what has happened, and be clear with what you request.
For example, warm waterproof jackets will be a lot more useful following a devastating hurricane than kitchenware, but you might need kitchenware if a lot of people have been rendered temporarily homeless and the church is becoming a place to feed many. Deciding this in advance is efficient as it will save you time sorting through stacks of useless donations.
Be hopeful, but allow room for sadness
The simple act of communities banding together and providing community support services provides room for hope. We will support each other in difficult times with the guidance of God and the love of our neighbors. But, although hope is crucial and positivity gets people through the hardest of situations, remember to let people experience their emotions too.
Give those who are suffering permission to lament, grieve, and weep. Whether it's a church worker who needs a day off or a member of your congregation who is trying to remain strong, let your community know that their feelings are valid. Providing judgment-free support and a shoulder to cry on can be a lifeline in crisis times.
Make a long-term plan
Short-term relief is important but having a long-term plan is necessary. Recovering from a tragedy, whether a violent attack or a natural disaster, can have far-reaching implications that don’t come to light until several months down the line. Once basic needs like safety and security have been met, only half the job is done.
Create a plan to support those who are grieving by checking in on them on a semi-regular basis. Whether you invite them in for a coffee or start a support group for those who need it, let the victims of this crisis know that you are still there when the dust has settled. Many will find it difficult to discover a new rhythm of life.
Use the Word of God to guide you
Most importantly, lean into your faith to find guidance. Read Bible passages in times of uncertainty and gather with your community for regular group prayer. Sometimes, we don’t understand why disasters have happened but asking God:,“How can I help others in my community?” will guide us toward the right path.
If you have been through a tragic situation yourself, speaking to God through journaling and prayer can help a lot. Speak to Him, and He will answer. Lean into your faith in the darkest of times, and He will reward you with light. Though you may not understand it, trusting God’s plan is necessary.
The Church can be the best hub for community help in the wake of a disaster. Offering a place of refuge to those who need it is a lifeline when things get tough. You can distribute the donations to churches among vulnerable people and assemble your team of eager volunteers to support those who are suffering. Times of crisis can shine a light of positivity and love on the communities that band together.