In this last week I have seen a young mom lose her child at 20 weeks, a mother of two left by her husband for another woman, and a friend hurt by her church and questioning if she can attend church again. It seems that no one made it through these last few years without incredible loss and pain, and as ministry leaders we are often the ones who God uses to be the first steps toward healing. From the loss of loved ones, to financial strains, to divorce decisions, we carry the brokenness of hurting people and it is imperative that we do so with grace, honor, and wisdom.
As you and I navigate these hard and heavy conversations, here are couple things to remember as we are ministering to the hurting:
1. Listen Well: No matter how big or small their loss may be, the fact that they are opening up and sharing where there is deep pain and possibly even doubt is a vulnerability that as a leader we must steward well. Sitting with those that are hurting, listening, and allowing them to wrestle and talk through the different emotions and confusion, as well as affirming their pain and hard circumstances are all ways that you take on their pain and try to understand where they are coming from. Asking questions like: “Tell me what was going through your mind at that moment?” or “What is your biggest fear that keeps coming to mind?” are ways to help them process their hurt as well as help guide them in their wrestling toward God. When Paul encourages the Roman Christians to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” we are reminded of the need for walking alongside one another while displaying empathy and compassion in the context of love.
2. Give Away Hope, Not Advice: If you are like me you are a fixer. You want to call up that other person or make a plan A and a plan B to get them out of their pain or predicament, but the biggest need they have in moments of despair and hurt is to be reminded of the character and truths of God. This doesn’t mean that a simple Bible verse will fix all circumstances, but it does mean that our primary goal as ministry leaders is to remind them of the hope and care they have in God more than any answer we may have for them. Often times we think that relief of pain or different circumstances is the answer we need, but all throughout Scripture God uses the brokenness of this world to bring about His glory and purposes. In some circumstances we may have the means to be able to offer some physical resources or have the life experience to speak into their situation, but before we try to save the day we need to make sure that we are giving them the hope that Jesus offers more than a fix to a problem.
3. Refer and Resource: One of the first things I did when we moved to our new church was ask around for local Christian counselors, pregnancy resources centers, addiction recovery programs, and grief share groups. I have a list of books, articles, resources, and people that I am able to refer to for a variety of needs. In seminary I only took one course that had to do with member care and counseling related topics and it barely skimmed the surface of what topics I have had to face and not to mention the time and consistency that is needed for many. Most of us don’t have the credentials, background, or understanding to handle many of the difficult situations that are brought to us as ministers and yet God graciously allows us to be the first step in someone choosing to seek help and healing. We truly are better together when we utilize the different resources around us and allow other people to be extensions of our care.
4. Follow Up: this is probably the most important step after someone has shared with you what they are walking through. A simple email, text, or card helps to reemphasize the hope and grace you continue to offer them. I have a pastor friend who at Christmas time every year writes a card to everyone in his church congregation who has lost someone that year. A woman in our previous church would keep the anniversaries of women who had lost their spouses and would send them a bouquet of flowers on their anniversary. There is something about “remembering” together and gracious reminders that we aren’t alone in our griefs and losses, nor is our pain forgotten.
One final thought for you as we wrap up this post. It is very likely that you yourself, as a leader, have walked through some incredible challenges, losses, and hurt. I have found in this season that I rarely have a lot to give to those who are hurting, and my encouragement to you is that even as a leader you too must find spaces to be ministered to, for time of margin and reflection, for moments of quiet and Truth seeking. My prayer is that God would surround you with people who will listen well, encourage, and walk alongside you, as you do the same to those you shepherd and lead.
Posted on April 1, 2022
Jacki C. King is a respected and popular Bible teacher, conference speaker, and ministry leader. She has a passion for seeing women fall in love with Jesus and His Word while challenging them to be on mission in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Jacki is a native Texan who now lives in Central Arkansas with her husband Josh, who is a Lead Pastor, along with their three boys. Jacki holds a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry to Women from Criswell College and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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