What is my “capacity” to serve? A friend of mine once put it this way: “If the power goes out for days, how far down my road do I go to check on people? Two houses? Ten houses?” The natural tendency is, of course, to “take care of our own.” But who does that include? Talk about a new way to look at the parable of the Good Samaritan!

When we see weather devastation in another part of the country, can our church community respond in any significant way? Are there concrete and enumerated ways we can help those in need, and do we even consider such help our responsibility?

I don’t have the answers to all of those questions, but they certainly prompt me to think about even simpler weather-related ministries that we can provide here at home, including providing meals and other assistance during the winter months, and checking on our seniors and other shut-ins during the heat of summer. I have even wondered whether we could take an informal survey of the talents and skills of our church members as a way to gauge the “capacity” of our church to serve. Who knows how we’ll be called on in a time of crisis? I would like to think our church community has the ability and capacity to answer any weather-related call.

sandy distaster

Can You Have Calm in the Chaos?

Finally, I also think about how the issues of “readiness” and “capacity” are so closely tied to communication and the ability to calmly and efficiently send and receive information. When tragedy finds us – amidst our families and friends or through the media – do we have a “collective conscience” that translates into action? Can we get the word out in a timely, accurate way? Can I lead our community in bold, practical ways when confusion, dismay and horror are trying to poison our spirit?

Certainly, our church has many ways to communicate: bulletins, signage, a web site, social media, emails and so forth. We also have experience using the group notification service One Call Now, which provides voice, text and email service for churches and others. But even with all of these tools, our church continues to work through the “system” of how and when and what we’ll communicate.

The tragedy of Hurricane Sandy – and what it has prompted in our leadership regarding improving our responsiveness, capacity and communication – leads me to urge every congregation to set up a response team focused on the mission of helping your community when severe weather events occur. For more information on setting up such a team – often called a Community Emergency Response Team (or CERT) – please click here.

phil elmore

Phil Elmore serves as Lead Pastor of Fields of Grace Worship Center as well as One Call Now’s Communications Evangelist.  http://www.onecallnow.com/religious