"Crisis" carries with it an elastic meaning, said Bob VandePol, Pine Rest's executive director of employee, church and school assistance programs. Whether it's because of violence, suicide, a pastor's ethical failure, tragic death, or a natural disaster, the common element with them all is there's an immediate need for constructive direction.
It's about impact
"It's about the impact, not the incident," said VandePol. "So I've been to 100 bank robberies myself and it's amazing. You have seven tellers: one is curled in a fetal position, three are crying, one is giggling, one is yelling and one says, 'Can I go to the mall now?' People respond differently and so different things will be crises for different people but it's unique within a Christian context."
VandePol said PCR delivers psychological and spiritual first aid to organizations, which include churches, para church ministries, missionaries, schools and businesses.
PCR is parsed into crisis consultation and training.
Crisis consultation entails supporting an organization's leadership so critical, time-sensitive decisions are made and communicated. It can include onsite response intervention that may comprise leadership consultations, one-to-one meetings, small groups, large groups and family consultations offered on-site, by phone or live video.
Training can include individual and organizational impacts of crisis and loss; spiritual and psychological first aid skills; what to say and what not to say; knowing when you're in over your head; self and team resilience care.
An ally to ministers, churches
PCR is a valued ally to ministers and churches, according to VandePol.
"We need to support and equip the church because tragedies happen in churches and I believe churches will be increasingly targeted because of violence, persecution, things that are happening in other parts of the world," said VandePol.
"Pastors are not always trained in counseling, and Pax adds a lot of bench strength because if your pastor has one problematic situation, it can take up half their week," continued VandePol. "Within that program, we have Pax Crisis Response providing training for churches. Sometimes it's for the elders, sometimes it's for a speakers' ministry group or a youth group."
Counselors with moxie
VandePol said Pine Rest currently has around 30 clinicians, or counselors, with different areas of expertise who can respond to a crisis.
"They tend to be people with some moxie because you have to be really resilient, you have to have a strong faith and some competence and confidence and be able to think quickly on your feet and function more as a consultant than as a clinician," said VandePol. "So if you walk into some place where all hell has broken loose and a leaders asks, 'What do we do?' you have to have some suggestions. You can't stroke your chin and say, 'Tell me what you think.' You always have a plan. You may not get to use it, but you always have a plan."
The need for Pax Crisis Response elsewhere also convinced Pine Rest to develop a nationwide network, according to VandePol.
"So that if something happens to a Christian school in Texas, we can respond," said VandePol. "We are carefully selecting behavioral health professionals who are specifically trained in crisis response and share in that faith commitment."
PCR is akin to a psychological ambulance, said VandePol.
"These are going to be very short-term involvements," he said. "The goal is how can we help contain that crisis, consult with leadership, help with leadership with their messaging and style and how can we give people a chance to talk if they wish to because talking about what just happened re-files it from the dumbest part of your brain to the smartest part of your brain. It's important to normalize those reactions to an abnormal event."
In the end, VandePol said PCR is a calling.
"I believe there is no greater honor than to be there for people on the worst day of their lives," he said. "It's a tremendous honor and it's a tremendous responsibility because you have to do it well."