Hurricane Harvey & Irma: How Do Church Planters Prepare For Next Big One?

Churches Reaching Out To Neighbors In Crisis In Texas And Florida

Recently Rev. Walter August Jr. let service out early at The Church at Bethel’s Family in Texas so members could take food and supplies to help neighbors hammered by Hurricane Harvey. Bethel’s Family is only one of a number of churches in Texas reaching out to their neighbors.
The week after Harvey struck, pastor August returned to his office to marry Eric Lark and Toni Lee. As he completed the paperwork, he asked about their plans. “We are going to change our clothes and we are going to serve” the bride replied. “I have an S.U.V. so I am coming around to pick up supplies.”
The latest report is that Hurricane Harvey has taken 30 lives. Over 40,000 homes have been destroyed. At least a half million cars have been destroyed as well. It is important to remember that while Harvey hammered Texas, monsoons devastated huge regions in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Mexico has also suffered a daunting earthquake.
Now “Monster Irma” has brought death and destruction to thousands of families in the Caribbean. There has been enormous flooding and devastation of homes and property as Irma traveled north through Florida. 50,000 people were in shelters and 5 million people are without power. There has been massive destruction of infrastructure, there are no final reports of how many lives have been lost, and Hurricane Jose is on its way. It will take years for these two regions and the families who live there to recover.
FEMA, the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, other agencies in Florida, and thousands of churches are among the first responders to the most devastating hurricane ever seen in the Unites States. All of us need to join the people in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean with our prayers and our contributions, and there are also opportunities to volunteer with organizations like The Salvation Army.

How Can Churches Old And New Prepare For New Crises?

After Katrina, denominations like the Southern Baptists and United Methodists developed sophisticated disaster preparedness strategies in cooperation with local disaster groups. There are now church leaders involved in this large response in Texas and in Florida.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea for all congregations, including new plants, to join them in preparing for the next crisis that will impact your lives and community? I do realize that new church plants often have very limited resources to create this kind of preparedness. You might begin like Austin Mustard Seed, a small church in Austin, Texas, did. They reached out to a church in Houston called Ecclesia to support their formidable efforts as first responders.
Or consider beginning like Axiom Church in Syracuse. They offer a discipleship course to develop a rule of life and rhythm of life. [Tweet “Disciple people to free up time to be more present to God but also to become first responders.”]

How Can All Of Us Prepare For The Next Local Crisis?

Let me share what Christine and I have done to prepare in both our home and with church leaders in Seattle, which is overdue for a major earthquake. We prepared by cross bracing our foundations to add stability. We prepared by purchasing earthquake insurance.
We also met with 50 Christian leaders In Seattle in 2007 because I suspected we were headed for a major economic recession. Though many of these leaders were skeptical that a recession was heading our way, they came up with some innovative ideas. One idea was to create a church “Craig’s List”, researching their congregations to make an online list of those who have an extra room in their homes or cars they could share.
After this idea-storming session, two churches actually offered courses they had imagined as the recession became more threatening. A Lutheran church offered a course on how to help families prepare by getting their finances in order. A Baptist congregation offered a course where older members taught younger members how to can vegetables and fruit from their gardens for tougher times.

How Can You Enable Your People To Prepare Now For The Next Crisis?

  1. How can you enable families and individuals to create economic, food water and medical reserves for the next local crisis? Check out the Covenant Church model here.
  2. How can your congregation, like the Mormons, also store food, water and medical supplies not only for your members but for your neighbors as well?
  3. How can your church develop a disaster preparedness plan? How can a new church plant take first step, in partnership with established churches, to develop a beginning plan? I find the Southern Baptist plan particularly helpful. Read more here.
  4. How can your church also join those moving from disaster relief to rebuilding with sustainable housing. After Katrina a number of churches and Christian organizations joined in building new forms of sustainable housing. This includes everything from constructing more resilient “Tiny Katrina Houses” to joining Habitat for Humanity in building more sustainable housing for those whose homes were destroyed in Texas and Florida. More information here. Could you or your church consider joining the huge opportunity to construct sustainable housing for the hundreds of families who have lost their homes?
  5. Consider joining Christians in Britain, Australia, and Canada, in working for creation care to decrease global warming to reduce the frequency and power of natural disasters… not only for people today but for the future of your kids and grand kids. Check out the Evangelical Environmental Network hereAlso Watershed Discipleship here. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to join those who are creating new ways to be the compassion of Jesus in theses increasingly turbulent times!

Please write us and tell us what you and your church are doing to get ready for “crisis next” so we can share with others.

About the Author

Tom Sine


As we race into a future of accelerating change and uncertainty leaders in the church, and those they work with, are looking for new ways to live, keep their noses above water and make a difference. 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change is a new book published by Fortress Press that Tom Sine has written with his friend Dwight Friesen who teaches theology at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and is a leader in the Parish Collective. Tom and Dwight offer 2020s Foresight Webinars in which they describe practical ways Christian leaders and educators can enable those they work with to: 1. Anticipate incoming waves of change so they have lead time to create new ways to respond 2. Innovate by learning to research a broad array of creative responses 3. Reflect on how to select innovative responses that both engage the new challenges and that reflect the way of Jesus. If you are interested, contact Tom. Check out his website on Innovation: Tom Sine holds a Ph.D. in history with a minor in strategic foresight. He has worked for three decades with a broad range of churches, non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and Tear Fund UK as well as college students and recent grads to create new ways to live and join those making a difference in these increasingly turbulent times. Tom and Christine Sine, and their pup, Goldie, live in an intergenerational community in Seattle where they seek to model a new way of living for the 2020s called the Mustard Seed House. They and their six other residents share a weekly meal and liturgy, monthly gardening and generous hospitality when social distancing is reduced. Christine has a very active blog on creative spiritual practices for times like these: Check out her newest book: The Gift of Wonder by IVP. Christine also hosts webinars on spirituality and gardening.

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