If you have been in a church for any length of time, you have no doubt seen or experienced a crisis first hand. Things like the pastor retiring, interpersonal conflict among members, moral failure of church leaders and even changing the color of the carpet can lead to a crisis.
While such crisis situations will come, the real test is how will the church handle them. Is there a plan in place or do most churches just try to cope with them as they occur?
That is what Karen Legg, a Ph.D. student at Regent University aims to discover with a survey she is conducting. As the Christian daughter of a pastor and a church member of more than twenty five years, Karen is looking to discover what types of crises occur in the local church and how they are managed.
“My research in crisis communication indicates that most public relations specialists either do not mention the church setting (which is most common), or they assume there is no difference between the church and other organizations in the types of crises that occur or the way they should be handled,” says Karen.
She goes on to say, “Furthermore, a pilot study I conducted on this topic a few years ago indicated that a shockingly large number of churches had not prepared for future crises, and those that had, had based their plans on a business model of crisis management and communication. I believe there are important, fundamental differences between churches and other organizations, and I hope to illustrate this fact through my research.”
The survey she has put together has the following goals:
- Find out from pastors what types of crises they have experienced
- How often each crisis has occurred
- What is unique about the church environment as it relates to handling and communicating in a crisis
- How they view the role of media in a crisis
- To what extent they have planned for future crisis scenarios.
She believes that this information will prove quite valuable to both scholars and church leaders in helping them to plan and manage future crisis situations.
So, if you are in a pastoral position, I would encourage you to take a few moments and complete the survey. It will take about 10-15 minutes of your time and may even bring to light some issues you haven’t planned for should a crisis occur in your church.