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• Monday, September 05th, 2016
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Encore

This blog is not directly related to churches in transition,. Although, perhaps it could be . . .

A while back, we had a concern at our church when an older member called to tell a church friend that she was having a health issue, that her son was taking her to a hospital and that she would likely have surgery. That was the extent of the conversation and no one at the church heard anymore for weeks. There was growing concern. We didn’t know how to reach the woman’s son (who lived in a distant town), we didn’t know what hospital was conducting the surgery, we had no way of finding out how she was doing, or – most important – there was no way we could reach out and help her as a church community. We were flummoxed on how to proceed. Fortunately, the story ended well. She had successful surgery and was back with us within a few months.

However, there was an important lesson learned. Most churches have their members’ addresses and phone numbers, but they don’t necessarily have a list of emergency contacts. It’s common sense, isn’t it? Whether you’re part of a religious community, an employee in a business or even a resident in your condo/apartment/neighborhood – it’s logical that others have a way to notify your family or a friend in a crisis.

Once my church recognized our information void, it was surprisingly easy to gather what we needed. Our Stewards took on the project and sent out a generic email to all members. It was a simple enough message: Please send us the name, address, email address, and phone number of your emergency contact(s). Of course there are non-tech members without email who require a phone call – or a letter. However, the list was assembled in no time – much to the relief of the church community.

Note: This list should have a level of privacy. Obviously your pastor(s) needs it and perhaps the senior deacon or Stewards. If the church secretary maintains the list, it probably shouldn’t be out on an desk for all to peruse.

But here’s another view on this emergency contact project – it’s a two-way street. Church members providing emergency information should also tell their contacts about their church affiliation. Then, that contact will know to keep church family informed of crisis events. Pastors cannot visit congregants in distress if they don’t know what’s happening or where they are. And contacts, who might be dealing with life and death issues, could appreciate knowing they have a church’s support or, at the very least, the kind attention of a religious professional.

So how can this tie in with a church in transition? Many of your members’ emergency contacts are probably family members, some of whom (siblings and children) might even have been associated with your church at one time. They may have gotten married, moved away, simply become unchurched. Having their names and addresses offers an opportunity for outreach. With the permission of the individual, you might want to add that address to a church newsletter or “Church in Transition” update list.

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