Ministry to Adults in Crisis

A crisis is defined as an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life. The key word is “change.” A crisis is not necessarily a bad thing, although we most often use the word as a negative expression. Marriage, the birth of a child, retirement and other happy events are crises by definition.

There are three types of crises facing adults:

• General, shared crises – war, economic depression, natural disasters, epidemics, etc.

• Personal crises – family member’s death, divorce, moving, sickness, finances, etc.

• Spiritual and/or emotional crises – depression, fear, unresolved conflict, loss of self-esteem, loneliness, uselessness, etc.

There are unique crises based on the age of an adult:

• Young adult crises – leaving home, financial problems, unplanned pregnancy, etc.

• Median adult crises – job loss, family sickness, family conflicts, etc.

• Senior adult crises – death of a spouse, retirement, declining health, loss of influence, dependency, etc.

In ministering to a person facing a crisis, initiating contact and taking deliberate steps to a resolution is important. Look at these steps in helping someone in crisis to cope and hopefully find an answer:

Take the first step by contacting the person. Make the initial contact, assuring the person you’re praying for him and you want to help. Give time and attention to the person. Listen with your ears and your body language. Let him/her do most of the talking.

• Ask key questions to stimulate discussion. Give more time to listening than to talking. Don’t interrupt when he/she is talking.

• Allow for silences. Silence provides an opportunity for reflection. The pause could also give you time to summarize in your mind the key points he has made.

• Show patience. The crisis may not be solved immediately.

• Let emotions be expressed. Anger, sadness, distress and other emotions may need to be expressed through crying, harsh words, pouting and other ways.

Don’t be judgmental. Adverse criticism usually brings an abrupt halt to any good communication.

• Guide the person to work out the solution. Keep in contact and offer guidance as he pursues an answer.

Consider other avenues of help for a person experiencing a crisis:

Support Groups – Small groups of people with a common concern, problem or crisis who gather to give informative and emotional support to one another. These support groups:

• Look at a particular crisis from different points of view.

• Provide needed information about a particular crisis.

• Offer advice.

• Encourage participants to assert control over their lives and situations.

Informal Social Groups – Family, neighbors and friends who form a loving support system.

Formal Social Groups – Social service agencies that attempt to meet needs in crises situations.  

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Mic Morrow is an adult ministry specialist at LifeWay Church Resources, a division of LifeWay Church Resources.