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Helping Those in Crisis: The First 48 Hours

Because the first 48 hours have both danger and opportunity, it is essential that pastors and church leaders give thoughtful consideration to several issues in preparing their response.

By Jay Martin

A crisis, or critical incident, by its very nature is a human event or experience fraught with danger and opportunity. A crisis challenges and often completely overwhelms internal and external human resources, causing an extremely high distress level.

The danger lies in the possibility that a crisis may traumatize a person beyond his ability to recover. The consequence brings impairment in occupational, social, psychological, and relational functioning that lasts for weeks, months, or even years.

The opportunity lies in the fact persons in crisis are more open to the influence of others than at any time. If people receive a qualitative supportive response, most will recover more quickly and some will grow through the experience. According to research, one-third of those impacted by a crisis will have their functioning impaired a year and beyond.

What makes the first 48 hours so significant? The first 48 hours is often an ideal time to reach out to those impacted by critical events and provide immediate support, as well as lay the foundation for future ministry.

Your goal for responding during this initial period is to establish a potentially healing relationship with those directly impacted, as well as those who assist them. It is also to effectively communicate your concern and willingness to provide immediate practical assistance and ongoing support in the days ahead.

Because the first 48 hours have both danger and opportunity, it is essential that pastors and church leaders give thoughtful consideration to several issues: Who is impacted by such an event? To what type of event am I responding? How do I best initiate contact? What kind of reactions can I expect from those impacted? How can I relate in a way that is most helpful? What pitfalls do I need to avoid? Is it always essential I respond within 48 hours? When should I not respond during this period? What resources are available?

Read the rest of this article by obtaining a downloadable PDF of the Fall 2010 issue of Enrichment journal.

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