How to deal with tragedy in ministry – Matt Glancey & Jake Mouliert

Lee Lethers Podcast

Whether it is the death of a student through suicide or the death of a parent of one of your students, tragedy is something that will eventually find you in ministry.  Today on the podcast we talk with Matt Glancey and Jake Mouliert, both from Coastal Christian Ocean City in New Jersey. Matt shares some of the personal tragedies in his life and they both share about how the Lord allowed their church to minister to the community after the suicide of a student at their local school. They share some practical insights into how to deal with tragedy in your ministry.

You are going to face death in your ministry.

Matt and Jake’s ministry recently dealt with a recent suicide in the high school near their ministry.

While knowledge is good, the Holy Spirit alone has to be the one to guide you while you are in the situation.

“You don’t have the answer to why this young man took his life. You do have the answer to who is in control.” Knowing that God has a plan helps, because death feels like chaos.

If you think you don’t know how to handle a situation like this, just pray. God will open a door. You might minister to one person, but any impact is worth it.

Matt and Jake asked the students who knew the young man what they wanted to do as a ministry. This led to an organized prayer vigil for the student. Over 60 people came and the young man’s family became willing to talk about Christ. It was raw and real ministry.

James 1:19 says to be quick to hear. Youth leaders are doers, naturally wanting to fix things. But when ministering to someone who is grieving, do not try to give answers. Listen, be there for them and walk with them through the pain.

Anyone sharing an answer they think they have is incredibly damaging to those grieving, especially for those who do not know Christ. Even sharing a Bible verse can come across as offensive and uncaring. The comment “I know exactly how you feel” is also damaging. You don’t know how they feel. When you think you know how they feel, you start trying to fix. Just stop, pray and listen.

Do not go in with an answer, but go in with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide and direct you. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Sit and let your presence be known as a listening ear and a caring heart. Feel with the people that are hurting.

If you have loss in your past, it is a tool in your toolbox. Use the hurt as a fuel for your ministry. Jesus himself used the pain and hurt in his own life to minister to those around him. Death can bring you so close to life that every day becomes a gift you want to use to share Jesus.

Incarnational listening: a different kind of listening. You are listening to feel with them. To walk through it with them. Tell the person grieving that you are here to listen. Ask, “Do you want to talk?” or share a fond memory. Let them know it is ok to talk about the one they have lost. Go into the situation being vulnerable and let them share their burden with you.

While ministering, you will re-live some of your own pain, but let it bring you closer to God again. Facing death in ministry is one of the hardest things you will do, but the cross will shine through it. God is using us as His body.

When you listen well, you will see healing in those you minister to because they saw Jesus in you. You will also grow closer to God yourself because you know you are inadequate and will have to depend on Him. These two symptoms are usually signs of healthy listening.

Closing thoughts:

Don’t worry, trust in Jesus. “You can’t mess up when you are putting the cross before you.”

You need to recognize that you are going to face this in ministry. Simply listening may sound like a nothing answer, but your presence is impactful.