Are you prepared to take control if a crisis strikes your group during an event? Shawn Stewart, a youth leader with over twenty years of experience, has some excellent advice for leaders when it comes to dealing with crisis.
- Respond immediately. If it’s a health emergency of someone in the group, call 911. If it’s an emotional crisis call a meeting with the individual or individuals involved. Keep safety at the top of your list, then move on to addressing other physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
- Contact your organization’s leaders. “I learned to always call my pastor, apprise him of the situation, and ask him to stay near a phone in case I needed direction. If a minor is involved, it’s also important to call his or her parents or guardians immediately. Sometimes people will hold of, thinking it’s better to wait until they have all the information to inform the parents. But it’s much better to keep them in the loop from the very beginning.” explains Mr. Stewart.
- Get the group together. Rumors will fly and information will be twisted beyond reality if you don’t inform the group of the facts. Whether it has to do with one individual or ten individuals it’s best to include everyone in a brief informational session. Give them the facts, be serious, and calm. “The group will feed directly off the attitude of the key leader” Shawn explains. Once you have told them what is happening and what you are doing to address it, tell them what they need to go and do next. If you don’t provide something for them to do, it usually turns into a bit of chaos.” says Shawn.
- Debrief. After the crisis has passed, debrief your leadership team. What did you do right? What could you have done better?
If you are the key leader on a trip or at an event, you need to recognize that in a crisis you need to take the role of a director. Directing care, directing communications and directing the actions of the rest of the group. You’ll feel more confident if you plan ahead.
Shawn Stewart meets with his leaders before every event and brainstorms possible crisis and emergencies related to that specific trip. “When I took a youth group to serve in New York City, we realized the kids wouldn’t be used to the subway system. So we told everyone that if the entire group didn’t make it onto the subway at a stop, everyone needed to get off at the very next stop. Before I go into any crowd situation, I always inform my group where to meet if they get separated from everyone else. I’ve learned if you don’t plan ahead, you’re planning for disaster.”
Don’t approach events with an attitude of fear, but instead prepare to respond calmly to a crisis by taking planning steps before your trip or event.