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Jun 05
2007
CEN

Spiritual Care in Church Shelters

Posted by: CEN

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"Individuals inquiring into faith issues during a crisis need what we call "spiritual care."  In a multicultural environment, those providing spiritual care must be sensitive to and aware of the varied expressions of faith and belief. Within that context, a Christian emergency response service provides spiritual care from a biblical perspective."

What is the Purpose?

Church shelters provide Spiritual Care teams for the community during stressful and transitory times caused by anything from a personal crisis to a community disaster. These teams are simply being the "hands and feet of Christ," meeting religious/spiritual, emotional, social, and even  physical needs. Spiritual Care team members respect a person's culture, religious traditions, and faith commitments while providing the comfort and care needed. As individuals inquire about faith, team members are invited to share the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

What is "Spiritual Care?"

Individuals inquiring into faith issues during a crisis need what we call "spiritual care."  In a multicultural environment, those providing spiritual care must be sensitive to and aware of the varied expressions of faith and belief. Within that context, a Christian emergency response service provides spiritual care from a biblical perspective. Christian care during a disaster responds to an individual's or community's need for faith and comfort by providing companionship, prayer, encouragement, and guidance based on biblical values. The simple presence of a person who knows God can be healing and comforting in a time of crisis. Examples of how Spiritual Care teams can help:

  • pray with people in crisis.
  • accompany them at difficult times (such as notification of confirmation of a family member's death).
  • provide sacred space where the person can sit quietly in the presence of God.
  • allow people to express their spiritual reactions, including sadness and grief, anger and rage, and their need for spiritual comfort from and connection  with God.

Who do Church Shetlers Serve?

Spiritual Care teams  may serve a number of overlapping groups, such as:

  • Individuals.
  • Families.
  • The community of family members who have suffered a crisis.
  • The community of neighbors and extended family members of those affected.
  • The community of workers.
  • The broader community where a disaster occurs.

Expectations of Spirtual Care Teams

  • Proper training for  crisis intervention, as part of the church outpost's  crisis response plan.
  • Coordination of the team  through an endorsed and recognized agency.
  • Prompt arrival at a crisis site.
  • Appropriate crisis spiritual care established and maintained within the overall crisis management plan onsite.
  • Identify  current  and potential challeges to providing spiritual care;  determine what resources and services are necessary to overcome them and develop an    ongoing support strategy for the community.

Background

Why should churches be involved in the spiritual care of their community?

Crises whether individual, family, or community?undermine our fundamental sense of security. Studies show that up to 35 percent of people involved in a trauma continue to experience significant distress after the event, affecting their ability to cope physically, emotionally, behaviorally, mentally, or spiritually.

With understanding and support, many stress reactions pass in a short period of time. Occasionally, the traumatic experience is so painful that professional assistance from a chaplain, physician, or counselor is beneficial. Reports show that 59 percent of trauma victims are likely to seek support from their clergy counselor, compared to 45 percent who seek assistance from a physician and 40 percent from a mental health professional.

Research also shows that 67 percent of victims of violence turn to God for help in coping; 47 percent of victims say they turned to their church for assistance.

Many people now seek spiritual care as their preferred source of personal support. Spiritual care is required in all accredited hospitals; accrediting bodies acknowledge that spiritual care is an essential element of comprehensive health care. This reflects the increasing recognition for professionally trained spiritual care providers?both on-site at disasters, as well as available in the weeks and months following a disaster.

Church shelter servcies may include:

  1. Supplying on-scene assistance in mitigating the stress reactions of affected community members as requested by the sending agency.
  2. Offering referrals of community support networks to affected families.
  3. Serving as liaisons with other helping agencies in a trauma situation.
  4. Providing assistance with any community ecumenical services associated with a  trauma where the county employees are involved.

Training

Administration, training and coordination are available for churches and community agencies in developing an appropriate Christian crisis response network. The following training components are:

  • Prayer, share and care strategies in trauma.
  • Biblical guidance assistance.
  • Evangelism and trauma considerations.
  • Crisis response history.
  • Mission and expectations of Christian responders.
  • Crisis intervention strategies.
  • Grief / stress management interventions.
  • Stress response syndromes.
  • Coping strategies.
  • Cross-cultural considerations.
  • Children in crisis issues.
  • Responder wellness considerations.
  • Confidentiality / legal considerations.
  • Aviation disaster response.

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