Helping when mass tragedy strikes your congregation
For the past century, and arguably longer, generations have self-identified with their own answer to this question. Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when news broke that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, when the World Trade Center collapsed? Sadly, recent events have set up our younger generations with even more options for an answer. Whether a movie theater, high school, college campus, or elementary school classroom, mass shootings now join a tragedy landscape that includes missing airplanes, commuter rail crashes, and natural disasters like tsunamis, mudslides, and tornadoes.
We all hope and pray that our communities will be safe, but what if a mass tragedy does strike? Is your congregation prepared to navigate widespread grief or wipe tears during multiple funerals? And do you have a plan if that tragedy garners national attention and media interest?
The reality is that (thankfully) most of us will not have to navigate the intense challenges of a mass tragedy. But we would be naive to operate without at least a loose plan in place for if it happens. Mass tragedies blindside us and force previously unnoticed communities into our national vernacular. Think Columbine High School, a once little-known place that is a household name. I serve on staff at a church that has been touched by more than one mass tragedy. There is no perfect set of rules to navigate these issues—they are unexpected, they bring feelings of grief so deep we wonder if the cavern of loss has an end. They feel inexplicable and they happen in a blink. The following is not an exhaustive list of how to manage, but rather a set of starter notes for leaders on how to honor God and the families who suffer most when mass tragedy strikes. Keep reading
What else might your church do when mass tragedy strikes? Is your church prepared for the worst case scenarios in such tragedies?Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain