Was I the only one who sat glued to the season premier of Jon and Kate Plus Eight the other night? After all the media hype, I had to see what was going on. Though I’m not a regular follower of the show, it broke my heart to see two sad, distant, and disconnected individuals. Not to mention the eight children who may bear the brunt of a crisis, unless issues get resolved.
But the Gosselin family isn’t the only family in crisis. Families all around us are struggling to survive in this mode. Maybe that hurting family is even our own. Whether that crisis is a broken relationship, a job loss, death, homelessness, disease, or a fire, crises take on many forms. Though every situation is unique, anything that affects the family unit affects the child. Just as family ministries include children, so should all children’s ministries include the family.
So what can we do for a family in crisis? How can we support and encourage them? Here are twelve practical ideas for ministering to families. Adjust them to meet your particular situation accordingly. And remember that as we serve the family, we will serve the children in their midst.
12 Practical Ways to Support Families in Crisis:
1. Don’t judge – Whether there is room for blame placing or not, don’t do it. The family doesn’t need our criticism. They need our love. They’re not the only ones with problems. We all sport a hefty list.
2. Be the body of Christ– What gifts or talents do you have? Use them to encourage. Are you hospitable? Invite them over for a night away. Skilled in the kitchen? Cook up their favorite meal. Love to encourage? Write them a handwritten note to express your support.
3. Establish a point person –Have one close family member or friend act as a mediator to organize help preparing meals, house cleaning, babysitting, or providing resources. This will allow the family to focus on the situation at hand as they receive the support of others.
4. Be someone who listens – If a family member wants to talk, give them room to process what they’re going through. Ask questions if they are appropriate and listen. Hear what they are really saying.
5. Be vulnerable – Family members may or may not want your input. If they do, respond with wisdom, honesty, and humility. Maybe share a struggle of your own if it relates. Just don’t ever pretend that you know what they are dealing with.
6. Don’t be afraid to use humor – Most likely, the family needs a smile and a break from the stress of the crisis. Tell a funny story, email them a random YouTubelink, give them a ridiculous movie to watch, send a clever card. Use good judgment as to the timing and type of humor utilized.
7. Provide resources – Give the family access to necessary resources. Depending on the particular situation, the resources might include a list of good counselors. The resources might be informative in nature, like books or articles. In the event of a job loss or displacement, the resources might include staples like food, clothes, and shelter. If a family is struggling to pay bills because of serious health expenses, organize a drive or event to raise funds. Get creative.
8. Make room in your schedule – We are all busy with our to-do lists. However, families in crisis need our availability. Drop your agenda to help them. Be accessible, not overbearing.
9. Take them to Jesus – Sometimes, the only way you can help is through prayer. But sometimes, prayer is just what they need. Go to God on behalf of them. If you have the opportunity to spend time with the family, don’t just tell them you’ll pray. Hold their hands, get on your knees, and pray right then and there.
10. Consider a fast – Giving up something to draw closer to Jesus promises great rewards. In Isaiah 58:6, God says that fasting loosens chains of injustice, unties cords of yokes, and sets the oppressed free. A family undergoing a crisis needs to be made whole again. We can certainly help in practical ways, but only God can bring complete healing. Invite Him to do that through a fast.
11. Mourn and rejoice – Romans 12:15 says to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Do just that. Walk with the family through the highs and lows. Sometimes a box of tissues is necessary. Sometimes a party is. Be ready and willing to participate in both.
12. Champion the child – Whether a child appears to be handling the crisis well or not, love that child lavishly. Children need to be championed and esteemed. Often, they absorb the shame, fear, anxiety and/or desperation of the crisis. Even if it’s something simple, show them the love of Jesus through you. Invite them over to play with your kids, take them out for ice cream, go to Build-a-Bear, send them a silly card, whatever it takes.
I hope and pray that this list provides a foundation for ministering to families in crisis. However, the ideas are just that; a foundation. Let’s not allow the Gosselins – or any other family for that matter – to deal with a crisis alone and disconnected.