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I know my neighbor is hurting, but I don’t know how to help him. How do I assess his needs and find the best way to care for him?

Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute presents the Spiritual First Aid Course. This course is created both for Christian laypersons and professionals who care for others around them. Spiritual First Aid is not intended to diagnose or treat problems, but rather, is intended to give helpers a framework to humbly listen, assess the needs of others, and find ways to serve them effectively, whether that is by helping problem-solve or referring the person to others who can help.

The methodology of Spiritual First Aid follows the acronym BLESS: Belonging, Livelihood, Emotional, Safety, and Spiritual. Each of these areas of need is described in detail, with a firm realization that typically people experience needs in more than one category at the same time. Helpers are enabled to ask questions to identify the most pressing area of need at the moment, listen and then consider some ways to help, and then, if time, circle back to other areas of need. Throughout the course, there is an emphasis on caring for others with humility.

Spiritual First Aid is a research-based approach that can be used by helpers with anyone around them, not just other Christians. It was designed to train helpers in many different kinds of disaster zones, from hurricanes to mass shootings, but this online course has been specifically adapted to helping in the COVID-19 pandemic, although the principles can be used with anyone in need. 

The course is entirely online and self-paced, allowing for participants to move through as they wish. It includes short reading materials, video lectures, videos, and commentaries. One of the most unique features of this course are the role-play scenarios, each of which shows a video call between two individuals illustrating one of the areas of need. This is followed by a replay of the video, which is paused by discussions between the course facilitators to talk about what is happening, what is being done well, and what else could be added to the helper’s approach. 

Spiritual First Aid could be used by pastors, lay helpers, and even mental health professionals in learning better ways to care for the people around them. 

The course costs $99 for a single users with organizational and group rates available. The price includes a downloadable workbook in a variety of languages and many tip sheets by topic. You can learn more and sign up on their website.

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