One pastor’s recommendation to equip the church to respond well to grief

By Shirley Thiessen

Dear Pastor,

Are you tired of being the only one in your church who reaches out to the broken-hearted?

Initially, people rally around those who’ve lost a loved one. It’s impressive. They generously provide meals for the family. The funeral is well attended. They send cards and flowers.

But you know, the sorrow spikes intensely in the weeks, months and years after the funeral is done. While everyone’s life returns to “normal,” the mourner feels alone to absorb their loss – often without compassionate support.

God loves the hurting through every believer. Not just you, Pastor. So, what is your strategy for equipping your people to express empathy to the hurting?

I’d like to offer some help with that. Created with the church in mind is an online resource, “Hope Heroes – a framework for sharing hope with the brokenhearted.” A Hope Hero is someone who puts aside their discomfort with death and loss to be a caring friend for a grieving soul. Their superpower is empathy. A Hope Hero does the L.A.P.P.

Listen. Acknowledge the loss. Pray. Patiently be present.

With two hours of content organized into 5 easy-to-digest videos, the Hope Heroes course provides best practices for those between 9 years and 99. With practical ideas, stories and Scripture, it’s a learning exercise most effectively done together in small groups or families.

Ed Fontaine, pastor of Springvale Church in Ontario, wants you to know how the Hope Heroes course has equipped his church. Take two minutes to watch here. Ed shares one outcome that will surprise you.

When we notice those who grieve and express empathy, God’s love shines through the darkness and hope rises.

As their pastor, you bear witness to the tears, lament and questions of those in mourning.

“Where are my church friends and small group members? It feels like they’re avoiding me.”

“How come no one asks about my grief or mentions my loved one’s name?”

“Why are you the only one who checks in with me?”    

It’s no secret that Satan is an opportunist with a vested interest in stifling your church’s impact. He baits the broken heart of the believer – and the unbeliever – into a posture of despair and hopelessness.

Pain causes many to ask, “Does God really love me? Can I trust him?”

It’s not that hard to cast doubt of God’s love and care if a griever feels invisible and alone when they come to your church.

Sometimes we lose sight of why it matters so much to develop Hope Heroes – caring grief companions – in our churches. But when we remember that every act of empathy and compassion reveals the loving heart of our Father God, our mission is clear – love!

As followers of Christ, we are to be known for our love.

Let’s be the reason a grieving soul believes God loves them. Let’s be Hope Heroes.

Start today by taking your staff through the Hope Heroes course. When leaders model the value of expressing empathy, it becomes contagious with congregants. And you’ll no longer be the only one who compassionately reaches out to the broken-hearted.


Shirley Thiessen is author of The Little Black Funeral Dress and founder of Corner Bend Ministries. Learn more at CornerBend.com.

© 2022 Shirley Thiessen. All rights reserved. Used with permission.