Timothy Coombs has developed a theory thatis used by many crisis management professionals and researchers. The theory is called Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).
In short, an organization’s reputation is a stake whenever a crisis occurs. Because people try to assign blame for a crisis, they will look at who/what to attribute responsibility. This is true for singular events as well as multiple events. While taking in many of the normal crises issues, SCCT also takes into account the crisis history of an organization. It may be that one crisis is completely unrelated to another, but in the public’s mind, if crisis after crisis continue to occur at one intuition the public will rightly assume there is something wrong with the institution as a whole, thus creating a new, and different, crisis.
This is well and good for organizations, but what does itmean for the church?
Local churches have pasts and those pasts need to be understood by new leadership. Even a church plant carries the baggage of the planter, members anddenomination it is part of.
By understanding the history of the church (and/or denomination),a pastor will be able to better speak into crises that come up over the course of time. Additionally, in understanding these things,the pastor can wisely avoid landmines laid in years past.
It is unwise for a new pastor to not consider the history of the church they are coming to lead. Both the beautiful and ugly aspects of a church’s history can help speak to the culture of the church and mitigate the potential crises they will face.
There are many different ‘publics’ that a church deal with. From visitorsto the community to members and youth,the church must have continuity with the message it is presenting to all. The church exists because of the mission, and it exists to be on mission, so it stands that the message of the church must always be the gospel
In the proper understanding of past crises, the pastor can help a church be effective by allowing the gospel to be the only offensive thing that the church proclaims. Through understanding and mitigating past crises,the leader can establish the gospel as primary.
Sam Morris, is the Electronic Marketing Specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife have one son.