Do not, for any reason, EVER use tragedy as an opportunity to promote your church/ministry. This is not the time to promote your sermon series or VBS. Do provide the opportunity for resourcing, processing, asking questions. When appropriate, let people know that your church/ministry is a safe place to receive prayer or begin to process these tragic events. Share your wisdom on additional resources like professional counseling or in the case of a natural disaster, food, shelter, and other tangible resources. Be ready to direct inquirers to places and programs that can support their needs.
This is a small start to a long list of options for dealing with mass tragedy. Every event and family is different, but regardless of the horror we may have to face, God promises never to leave us or forsake us. Our privilege as Christians in the face of tragedy is to gently, warmly, and appropriately live out that truth. We worship a God who does not leave us to face loss alone. We worship a God who calls us to act as protectors, as friends to families in need, as good neighbors, and as shepherds when all seems to go astray. We can never fully prepare ourselves for a mass tragedy, but with thoughtful planning we can prepare our staff and congregations should the dreaded ravage our community. Let us be always ready to protect, pray, grieve, and support our communities and point to the God who mourns with those who mourn.
Tracey Bianchi is pastor for women and worship at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois.