Church and Disasters

Disasters are one of the most significant causes of poverty, and poverty is one of the key factors that lead to disasters having a devastating impact. The majority of poor communities around the world are vulnerable to disasters of one kind or another. When disasters happen, the church is often the first place that people turn to for emotional and physical support. 

Helping churches and their communities to prevent disasters, reduce their impact when they do occur, and rebuild livelihoods and communities in the aftermath, is therefore crucial. This work is known as disaster management.  

Disaster management is best achieved when local churches and their communities work together with specialist NGOs and relief agencies. This section explores the strengths and weaknesses of the church in disaster management, and the potential complementary roles it can play alongside specialist agencies.

resources on how the church can respond to disasters

Disasters and local church front cover NEWDisasters and the local church
Disaster management is rarely taught in seminaries or Bible colleges. Yet, in times of crisis, church members will often look to their spiritual leaders, as well as to local government, for help and direction. This book is written for church leaders, in areas where disasters are common, who may find themselves engulfed by a crisis – be it flood or windstorm, drought or earthquake.

Research report on the impact of disasters and the local church (PDF 1 MB)
In response to demand, training was conducted to help partners understand the guidelines on ‘Disasters and the local church’. This report, commissioned by Tearfund, showcases the ways in which the guidelines have been used and the impact they have had on the churches that have used them. It also highlights lessons learnt and provides recommendations on how to improve the resources.

The local church and its engagement with disasters front cover NEWThe local church and its engagement with disasters (PDF 184 KB)
Through 12 case studies, this resource shows the strengths and abilities of the Church to respond to disasters.

Keeping the faith front cover NEWKeeping the Faith (PDF 7.4 MB)
In the Ebola Crisis in West Africa, faith leaders played a significant role in reducing the spread of Ebola further. This report shows how faith leaders got involved and why their work was so vital.
This report also exists as an Executive summary PDF 530 KB)


Strengths and the local Church in Disasters (PDF 62 KB)
This guidance note lists the strengths of the local church to be a potentially significant contributor to the work of disaster management.

Constraints and Challenges of working with the local church in disasters (PDF 39 KB)
This guidance note outlines a number of constraints and challenges associated with working with the local church in disaster management. 

Roles of the local church in responding to disasters (PDF 93 KB)
There are a number of key complementary roles, or niche areas, that local churches can play in contexts of disaster management. This guidance note suggests eight roles that the local church can provide in responding to disasters.

Examples of outworking the roles of the local church (PDF 75 KB)
This guidance note lists specific examples of how local churches have been involved in disaster management.

Key Principles for NGOs (PDF 57 KB)
This guidance note provides key principles for NGOs and relief agencies to follow when working with the local church in responding to disasters.

Examples of practice for key principles for NGOs (PDF 94 KB)
This guidance note provides examples of how key principles for NGOs have been outworked in practice.

Case studies

Mobilising the church in northern Kenya (Summary) (PDF 66 KB) and In-depth (PDF 71 KB)
A case study on Tearfund's work in mobilising local churches in drought-affected northern Kenya.

Earthquake response – the church volunteers (Summary) (PDF 72 KB) and In-depth (PDF 92 KB)
A case study on how a number of Mumbai churches sent volunteers to assist in the aftermath of the Gujarat earthquake in India in 2001.

The tsunami hits - the church responds (Summary) (PDF 109 KB) and In-depth (PDF 160 KB)
A case study on the response of two denominations to the immediate aftermath of the tsunami that hit southern India and other parts of Asia in 2004. 

Annual flooding - the church prepares (Summary) (PDF 72 KB) and In-depth (PDF 84 KB)
A case study on the organising and training of churches in the Brahmaputra Valley in India to respond to the annual floods.

Christians in conflict - the church as peacemaker (Summary) (PDF 75 KB) and In-depth (PDF 101 KB)
A case study on the role of senior church leaders in bringing reconciliation to two warring tribes in Northeast India. 

Crossing oceans (Summary) (PDF 152 KB) and In-depth (PDF 134 KB)
A case study about how three Christian relief agencies worked with a local church in responding to the tsunami aftermath in the Andaman Islands in 2004.

Local churches fight hunger and poverty in Malawi (In-depth) (PDF 124 KB)
A case study on the work of the Living Waters Church denomination of Malawi in mobilising more than 60 local churches in disaster risk reduction.