Serving a Team Member in Grief


When crisis hits any one in our circle of friends or community, we want to respond.  We send flowers, bring over meals, and do whatever we can to help.  When crisis hits someone on our ministry team, we feel the same desire to help them.  However, the method in which we choose to help is not always very helpful.

Everyone responds to crisis and grief differently, some will want to retreat and cleave to their family members.  Others want to do anything they can to keep their mind occupied.  This past week, my father in law passed away.  I’ve never seen my husband more interested in knocking things off his “honey do list”. 

Several years ago, my husband went through a series of surgeries that spanned over nine months.  He was not allowed to return to work until he was healed from his final surgery.  He was home bound, in significant pain, and required my constant attention.  However, he also slept a lot during the healing process.  I couldn’t leave the house but for short errands and picking up the kids, in case he needed me.  It was a great time for me to lean into Women’s Ministry with full gusto.  I was happy to take on more tasks, simply to have something to fill up my time.  However, our Women’s Ministry leader at the time kept trying to scale me back.  Her intentions were good, but she wasn’t understanding what I needed at the time.

When my Father In Law’s cancer came back and we were told he didn’t have much time left, this was a different scenario.  I needed to be available to my husband, so that I could accompany him on visits with his father.  I needed to make sure everything at the house was under control, so he didn’t need to worry about it.  This was a time where, in crisis, I needed to be relieved of commitments wherever possible. 

What I’ve learned over the years in ministry leadership, and from my own experiences, is that not only do we all handle crisis and grief differently…. but each crisis or grief is going to be different and handled accordingly.

So, how do you handle it when your Women’s Ministry team member is going through a crisis or grieving? 

  • Don’t assume.  How you would respond, or what you would want others to do for you, is not necessarily what she needs.  Don’t make assumptions or decisions based on your own feelings/opinion.
  • Do ask.   Ask your team member if she needs to take some time off, or if there are any of her tasks she would like to hand off (or that can be tabled).
  • Don’t overwhelm.  Take your conversations slowly, don’t put pressure on her to decide today what she needs or doesn’t.  Give her time to process your offer, and get back to you.  If she’s a very private person, don’t show up on her doorstep unannounced with the whole ministry team with a slew of freezer meals.
  • Do wait.  Make the offers, then wait patiently for her to respond.
  • Don’t miss her ques.  When at the church or at meetings, people are going to ask her questions or offer sympathy.  If you notice she seems to be growing upset, don’t miss her facial expressions and body language.  Step in and divert the questions or find a way to bring her out of the crowd to compose herself.  She’ll appreciate the rescue.
  • Do pray.  Pray for her family, the situation, her needs, peace, etc.  As a Women’s Ministry team, there is something incredibly beautiful and sacred when we intercede for those we serve with.


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