The pinnacle of chaos strikes a notable chord in hearts when disaster strikes close to home, namely within our community.
Our streets are filled with chaos. Our neighbors are the ones with more questions than answers. Our families are searching for missing children. Our homes are lost. Our skyline is no longer recognizable.
Our eyes are not focused elsewhere in the world; the eyes of the world are focused squarely upon us.
As a pastor, how do you respond when the chaos hits close to home?
Understand the gravity of your response. Your community has suddenly felt itself brought to its knees. Your leadership is not only appreciated, it is fundamentally essential to moving your community forward through rescue, recovery and reconstruction.
Keep stillness inside of you.
This is what separates good leaders from exceptional leaders. Any leader can lead well when things are calm. Great leaders lead at all times in all circumstances. Take a brief moment to “be still and know that He is God.” Take a deep breath. Collect your thoughts. Refuse to make emotional decisions.
Locate the true need.
While many within your community are scared and dealing with the fallout from the disaster, find the areas where the need exhibited is great. Set your sights there and do something about it.
Set a course of action.
Find the need and fill it. Create order out of the chaos. Just step up and start working to bringing help to those who need it most. If you don’t know where to start, start somewhere. Sometimes it is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission. Don’t be debilitated by inactivity. Here’s a thought to remember: Most everyone else doesn’t know what to do either. You are all in the “make it up as you go” mode. It’s chaos. That’s ok. Just get moving.
Leverage your influence.
Leveraging your network, as you find inroads to meet specific needs through the mobilization of people who are looking to you for marching orders, step up and rally the troops. Connect with other leaders who are still brushing the dust off their pants and call out greatness within them. Call out greatness within your community. In a time when people feel isolated and alone, one of the greatest things you as a leader can do is lean heavily into unifying the community behind a common cause, and that is to rise from the destructive chaos you have collectively found yourselves in.
Make adjustments quickly.
As you move forward and more people and groups join your efforts to help your community, constantly evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it. Make adjustments to make it more scalable with more people involved and sustainable over the long haul.
Settle in for the marathon.
While response to a disaster starts at a sprinters pace, slow your pace down and set stride for the marathon ahead. You came out of the gate strong, now stay strong as you are settling in as the pace setter for the long race ahead. Make necessary adjustments to ensure that you, your leadership team, and your volunteer base can continue to make forward advancements to help without self-inflicted injuries.
Exit and transition well.
As with any disaster situation, there will come a time when the pace setting leader must call it done. As time progresses, the needs of the community change and become outside of the scope in which volunteers can help. Defer to organizations that specialize in redevelopment and reconstruction. Hand the baton to those who will run the next leg of the race.
So when disaster strikes and chaos ensues, keep the stillness inside of you and lead. Your community needs you.
* Caleb Magnino has responded to numerous disasters, including Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas and others.