Book Review By Tommy Deal, Pinnacle Leadership Associate

Hunt, Gregory Lynn. Leading Congregations through Crisis. St. Louis: Chalice, 2012. Print.

The question is not “If?” but “When?”

Churches are not exempt from crises just because they are God’s people. In fact, accepting this mindset could be devastating when a crisis does occur.

Greg Hunt has written from experience and research how congregational leadership should prepare for situations BEFORE they occur. However, as a pastor who lived through a crisis with his congregation, he reflects on how a church can, and should, grow from the experiences. Leading Congregations Through Crisis is a gem of encouragement and best practices that every congregational leader should read.

Hunt writes, “What happens after a crisis…is crucial to the long-term spiritual and emotional health of the congregational community and many individuals and households connected with the congregation.” How God’s people exhibit their response to a crisis is a loud testimony of its spiritual health. Hunt reminds the reader that “stressful things happen on any given week in a congregation’s life.” What is needed is good pastoral care, careful/thoughtful leadership and proper communications.

Hunt pulls from his own pastoral experience when his church’s youth group was involved in a deadly crash on the way to camp. What he learned during this experience was there were very little resources to help congregations deal with or even prepare for crises. He interviewed numerous other congregational leaders who had “survived” crises.

Hunt describes a “crisis” as “a turning point for better or worse.” This is so true in congregations. How it lives through the crisis determines whether it will be a congregation that is stronger and more in line with God’s purpose for it, or whether it will struggle with knowing how to survive. Crises, according to Hunt, catch us off-guard, prove that our usual coping mechanisms aren’t enough and the high levels of stress impairs normal functioning.

Healthy congregational transformation can occur as a result of congregational crises. “Crises, properly managed, can facilitate a more fluid state within which congregations can discern and respond to God’s nudging toward renewal and ongoing transformation,” according to Hunt. A key to this is a non-anxious presence of leadership. With proper, Spirit-led leadership, a congregation can re-focus on its missional calling and become a stronger beacon of Christ’s Light to the world as a result of properly managing crises.

When should congregational leaders read this book? Now before something happens. And again during the crisis to guide the congregation’s leadership. Then, read it again several months after the crisis has waned, to affirm what you have done, where you have been, where you have gone and where you are going.

Contact Tommy at tommyd@pinnaclelead.com.