One thing we all have in common is that at some point in our life we will face profound loss. How do we help people in our church deal with loss?
When we talk about something like loss, we are stepping into the idea of caring for others. Many of us grew up thinking that was something only pastors do. When people are hurt from loss, we send them to the pastor or a staff member. I challenge this response and invite you to see caring for others in times of loss as a natural part of how you serve in your church. When people face pain, suffering, and loss, you can serve them and care for them in much the same way any pastor will. Your role as a part of the church is much different from what we assume for ourselves. Look at how apostle Peter described you as a part of the church:
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Peter is letting Christians understand that God chose them, and they are a diverse people who are united in a new Kingdom and called to declare the goodness of God. You are not just a volunteer or a church member. You are part of this “royal priesthood” that carries forward the hope and healing of Jesus to others. This means you can care for those facing loss, and trust me, your pastors need your help. No pastor or staff member can carry all the emotional weight of loss in a congregation. You are needed, and here are a few tips when helping people heal from loss:
Be proactive in checking on people facing loss.
People need you to check in on them and see how they are doing. You take the first step and check in on them.
Ask questions and listen to people facing loss.
Hurting people don’t need you to tell them stories of your pain. Hurting people need the chance to process their pain and loss. Open that door and listen to them.
Actually pray for people facing loss.
We talk about praying more than we pray. Don’t be that Christian. Take time and pray for people facing loss, even if it’s right in the moment you think about them.
Serve people who are facing loss without them asking.
Cook a meal, write a note, send a text before people facing loss even ask for help out loud. It’s much better to just go ahead and step into service rather than being asked to serve. Make that investment.
Check in on people who have faced loss.
Time does not heal all wounds. People grieve loss for years and years, and if you know that person, grieve with them, even in the future. Don’t push people to get over loss. Instead, remember to sit with them in the moment. God heals, not time.
As you care for people who have faced loss, you need to keep in mind one other thing: Caring for people who have faced loss does not mean you are responsible for their healing. Our job is to be present, serve, pray, and listen. God is the healer; you are not. There are times when the most loving thing you can do is encourage people to see a counselor to process on a deeper level. Never feel like you have to fix people or heal the hurt. Be present. Remember, the best thing Job’s friends did was to simply sit with him in his grief.