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05 May '14

Five things congregations need to know about crisis management in the church

Posted by T.J. Addington in crisis, crisis management
Church leaders are periodically called to the unenviable position of needing to deal with crisis situations in their church. I say unenviable because crisis management is not an easy task and every member of the congregation has an opinion as to what should be said and done making it very difficult for leaders to negotiate the multiple opinions people have. 

Having served in this role as a church leader and consulting with churches walking through crisis situations, here are a number of things congregations need to know before they become critical of their leaders.

One. While I am always in favor of being more candid than less the truth is that leaders often cannot divulge everything they may know. There are people involved, legalities involved and "telling everything" is often not possible or helpful. Just because I am a member of a congregation does not mean that I have the right to know everything, especially in messy situations. Further, be wary of criticizing when you don't have all the facts.

Two. Remember that we choose leaders to lead on our behalf and we have a choice to either trust them or not. Too often, when leaders don't do what we want them to do (and we don't have all the information) we choose to mistrust their actions. That is deeply unfortunate as they are often deep in the muck solving issues on our behalf. 

Three. The more significant the crisis, the greater the chances that leaders will make some missteps along the way. This is not because they are unwise leaders but because it is the nature of crisis management. Before we criticize their actions, give them time to deal with the multitude of issues they are juggling. If we were in their shoes we would not get it all correct either.

Four. Unless the leaders themselves caused the crisis they are managing (usually this is not the case) remember that they are in the unenviable position of cleaning up a mess someone else created. What they need is our support and encouragement, not our criticism and our mistrust. It is easy to criticize. It is a lot harder to actually clean up or deal with a crisis situation.

Five. Often the crisis that leaders are dealing with have to do with sinful actions on the part of someone. Often, the most vocal critics of leaders as they handle the situation are doing so with sinful attitudes, words and actions. Don't compound the issues with responses that are un-Christlike. All that does is compound the issues.

What is the appropriate response of a congregation in a crisis situation? Pray for your leaders. Avoid gossip. Seek the unity of the church. Encourage those who are cleaning up on our behalf. Be patient. Do not judge motives of leaders. Be part of the solution, rather than adding to the problem.

(Posted from Charlotte NC)