the shape of leadership

Caring for an At-Risk Population

How should the Church respond now and in the days ahead?

Wendell Vinson on April 28, 2020

Times of crisis present important opportunities for the Church to share the love of Christ with our congregations and communities. In every city in America, the sudden appearance of COVID-19 made life more challenging in myriad ways — especially for the most vulnerable among us.

How should the Church respond now and in the days ahead as this pandemic subsides?

It’s a good time for all of us to embrace the big idea that the local church is God’s infrastructure for the healing of our communities. Whether it’s during a global crisis or in the everyday troubles the marginalized must navigate, the Church can play a vital role in meeting immediate needs and moving hurting people toward a better place long-term.

Jesus has entrusted the Church with the gospel, and there’s no better time to live out His message of hope and redemption than by responding to the needs of those who are trying to recover from this crisis.

Here are three ways your church can respond to the pandemic:

Community Engagement

Contacting your county health department director to ask how your congregation can serve the community is a great place to start.

Local officials can help you identify the most immediate needs of vulnerable community members. They can also offer guidance on when and how your church gatherings may resume.

In times of crisis, well-meaning people sometimes end up doing more harm than good. Avoid that mistake by working with the leadership that is in place. Respect and adhere to the protocols they have established. Respond to the needs that concern them the most. Show them your church can be a faithful partner.

The local church is God’s infrastructure for the healing of our communities.

Immediate Resources

Many families in your community are in significant need of food and basic household goods. In fact, the need is likely greater than anything you’ve previously witnessed in your city. Ordinary community safety nets are not sufficient to meet the increased demand.

This is a time for the Church to step up and engage in new ways. Churches can make a significant impact by mobilizing ministry teams and equipping them to respond. Rather than distributing resources in an impersonal way, consider adopting a model that builds ongoing relationships with those you are serving.

Train families in your church to become advocates who will care for families in need and walk with them on the long journey toward recovery. The result will be lasting friendships and eternal impact.

Trauma Care

Countless individuals and families are suffering losses during this time, and the Church has a unique opportunity to help hurting people in tangible ways while also pointing them to Jesus.

People have lost jobs, economic stability and even loved ones. In such times, having a caring friend can make all the difference. Perhaps you could train church members to offer the friendship and emotional support needed by those around them.

Also consider creating specialized groups to provide encouragement and resources for those struggling from the fallout of the pandemic. Such groups can be a safe place for people suffering in the areas of grief, mental health, addiction, joblessness, or marriage and family — giving people a way to connect and gain renewed hope and fresh perspective.

When people are processing significant loss, it can be a dark and lonely time. What if the people of God went out of our way, like Jesus so often did, to connect with hurting people and let them know they are not alone?

These are difficult days for us all, but in the midst of these challenges, God is at work in and through His Church. A.W. Tozer once wrote, “A scared world needs a fearless church.”

This has never been more true than now.

This article is part of a special COVID-19 supplement appearing in the May/June 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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