Have you personally experienced a heartbreaking and difficult circumstance in your life, such as infertility, a prodigal child, or a painful divorce? Or does your story include a struggle with depression or an experience with abuse? What did you do as you found restoration, peace, and healing? Did you ever think God might be able to use your experience in the life of another woman?
God wants to use women to help other women dealing with crisis. He also desires to redeem our own experiences to walk in understanding with other women dealing with experiences similar to ours. What are some basic skills necessary to listen to women in crisis? Today, let’s consider a few factors to help us minister to other women in various crisis situations.
1. Avoid Common Communication Barriers.
Certain verbal phrases and nonverbal approaches tend to shut down communication. As leaders, we want to avoid these common pitfalls. Consider a the following examples:
- Directing, commanding. “Stop talking such nonsense; you’ll be all right.” “You get that notion out of your head right now.”
- Moralizing, preaching. “You ought to look at the bright side.” “You should pray more about it.”
- Disagreeing, blaming. “You’re not thinking clearly, if that’s how you feel.” “You’re off base to think everyone has deserted you.”
- Ridiculing, shaming, and labeling. “You’re acting very immature.” “How can you say that when so many are worse off than you?”
- Warning, promising. “If you will calm down, I’ll listen to you.” “If you stay in that mood, you will just get worse.”
2. Remember the Importance of Confidentiality.
Consider it a privilege when someone turns to you for help. You have received the gift of trust. Do not betray that trust or trivialize it by gossiping about others’ misfortune. Always ask permission before sharing someone’s privileged information with family members, prayer partners, church staff, or anyone else. Hold your tongue; respect yourself as well as the person who confided in you. The only exception to confidentiality is the rule of safety. If a woman shares that she plans to harm herself or someone else, you are legally responsible to help keep her safe even if it means betraying her trust.
3. Recognize Your Own Vulnerability.
As you minister to someone who hurts, you hurt. When she mourns, you mourn. Don’t deny your personal feelings. Feed yourself emotionally and spiritually so you can continue to care for and nurture others.
4. Know Your Limitations.
Recognize when to refer someone to a professional counselor or therapist. Often listening and caring are not sufficient help. Some tasks fall outside the scope of what you can do. Every minister needs to have a network of competent Christian professionals who can serve as referral sources. Spend time building a list of doctors, biblical counselors, and other professionals you trust so that you will be ready and able to refer a woman to someone else if that becomes necessary.
What else have you found it’s important to remember as you minister to women in crisis?