Ministering in the Midst of Natural Disasters
Header photo by Univison.
Earlier this week, I awaited a phone call to tell me that friends from Houston had been evacuated in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. When I got the news, it was then my responsibility to pass the news through the proper channels. I had to call Tiffany, one of the most stellar adults in our youth ministry. When I called, I didn’t hear the happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine volunteer. I heard a weary, tearful, “hello?”
You see, I live in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge flooded in the late part of summer 2016. Many of the families in our church and in our youth ministry have only just moved back into their houses. Some had to abandon their homes. Others moved away completely. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and watching what has happened in Houston, Tiffany and my other colleagues are remembering some of the most horrific parts of their lives. So are my students.
What are we supposed to do when catastrophe touches our ministry?
Today, our staff was busy coordinating flood relief efforts from afar to benefit those who aided us the previous year. Our Sr. Pastor called a 5 minute prayer break. We met in the sanctuary and spent 5 minutes individually praying for whatever was on our hearts. 5 minutes is small and mighty.
I wasn’t here for the flood of 2016. I don’t know what it is like to be rescued by boat and lose all my possessions. I do know the anxiety of those around me every time a raindrop hits the ground. My youth families don’t need me to have experienced the flood to empathize when memories and pain resurface.
In the moment, my responsibility was to Tiffany and some of the other youth parents. Look for ways you can help tangibly while also allowing them the space to say “not right now”. The same friend we were concerned about in Houston is due here in a few months. Our conversation shifted from personal grief to ways in which we can minister to her flood victim to flood victim.
Remember that your students are students. They are not adults. Amid things like natural disasters, students often assume adult roles to help their families. Make space for your students to process what is happening. Talk. Reach Out. Re-establish the ordinary and routine that has been a part of the youth ministry. Allow them to be the kids that they are, not the adults they are having to be when they get home. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them one-on-one. It could make all the difference.
May the peace of Christ be with you.
Tori Mick is the Director of Youth Ministries for Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. She earned her M.A. in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary and The Center for Youth Ministry Training. She is passionate about youth, worship, social justice, and issues of race. When she’s not hanging out with her students, you can find her hanging out with her sweet dog Roscoe, traveling, trying new food, or reading a great book. You can connect with Tori on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER or her BLOG.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.