What would you do if there was a shooting at the theater that you rent for your church on a Saturday evening? What if it was the night before Easter? Today we have a guest post from Tim Day, the senior pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto. The Meeting House is a 15 campus multisite church that you need to get to know more about. Tim Day works in partnership with Bruxy Cavey to lead The Meeting House. He is married to Liz and has three children, Nathan, Rachel and Josh. Tim enjoys creative writing and playing basketball. I’ve added a bit of my own commentary that bottom of this post in italics.
On the Saturday night before Easter, a man was shot outside of a mall where in its theatres one of our sites meets. The story instantly became headline news. The mall immediately became a crime scene. By 11 pm that evening we had confirmed the theatre we were using for our site would still allow us to have services. By 7 am we were informed by the police that all entrances to the mall were going to be closed because abandoned cars still in the parking lot and their need to do a controlled investigation. Here are the lessons we learned:
- Keep communicating with the police – These kinds of events rarely happen and so the police do not have a policy. At first they were going to close the parking lot entirely. With 30 minutes to go to our service time, they decided to open up some limited parking. They wanted to be cooperative but they are sorting it out as they go.
- Get solutions to keep the site open immediately so that can be communicated – We were able to bring a van and set up a shuttle from a nearby parking lot. Our local and central staff pulled this together within an hour on Easter Sunday.
- Be ready to speak to the media – We had a stream of media come through that morning. We had three staff ready to go for interviews. It allowed us to share hope in the midst of tragedy.
- People may stay away – We had people drive up and leave. Our numbers were down by about 30% that morning.
- Mobilize central support but also allow your local staff and volunteers to shine – Local staff and volunteers need support but they don’t need to be overtaken. This is their moment and it can be an incredible team building experience for them as they work together to respond to this unexpected situation.
In the end, we believe that God turned a tragedy into a chance to share with thousands and thousands the hope we have as believers.
Some lessons that I picked up as I watched this situation unfold …
- Social Media as Communication Channel // In times of emergencies your social media channels are perfectly suited for immediate communication like this. Our people are looking to those tools for up to date information and The Meeting House leveraged it well. Developing effective social channels is insurance for smooth communication when emergency situations of any kind arise.
- Biggest Media Moments are Surprises // This reminded me again that we need to work to build positive relationships with the media outlets in our community. That groundwork will pay off when a moment comes along that is unexpected and you need to simply respond to their questions. How can you communicate with the traditional media more this year?
- We will open. // I love the determination to still host services. The church is a beacon of light even in the midst of the darkest times in our community. It would have been “reasonable” for The Meeting House to cancel services but I’m glad they didn’t.