I love pastors. For the last couple years I didn’t serve as a pastor while I was leading At Leadership Network, but I landed back into an intentional interim role on February 1st. I am pastoring my home church for a season. While I thought I was here to redirect a few things and prepare them for their next great season, God had other plans. As you are doing, pastor, I’m now helping to guide us through a crisis. I certainly didn’t see this one coming. You likely didn’t either. My heart is for you and your ministry though. I’ve talked to a number of pastors over the last week and want to share a few thoughts on my mind. Here are a few quick words of encouragement during the COVID-19 Crisis:
Pace yourself and the team. There is obviously a sense of urgency, but don’t overreact too soon. This is apparently going to be around for a while. You can’t solve all the problems the first week. Seminary never trained us for this. This may be something where we add layers of things we do and tweak every week of the crisis. And that may be needed as people are stuck at home and need variety to keep them engaged virtually.
I sense (and carry) the pressure to have all the answers immediately. This is one of those “build the plane as you fly it” situations. It’s okay to learn from other churches, test ideas, and try new things. We may actually learn some things that will help us long-term in the process.
The way we lead through a crisis often determines the quality of our ministry after the crisis. I gave some suggestions in THIS ARTICLE.
Communicate more than usual. People don’t want constant emails when they are sitting at work with plenty of other things to do. But in times like this people are often looking for information. They want to know what you are doing, thinking, and planning. You will need to add to your normal weekly communication. If possible, consider other means of sharing with them, including texting, video and Facebook Live.
And don’t forget to address the needs of the whole family. I share some thoughts HERE on helping children deal with this crisis.
Empower people. People have more time on their hands and want to help. Get people involved in doing ministry and sharing words of encouragement.
It’s always been interesting to me how people, especially in the church, seem to need permission to do what we’ve been called to do. They don’t wait to be told they can engage in political discussions online, but when it comes to hosting an online Bible study – “Pastor, would that be okay?” “Pastor, can I call a few friends and check on them?”
Let people know its okay to be the church. Remove any lids they have perceived of who can “minister” to people. Matt Dennings, a pastor in Missouri, shared with me a document he created to make reaching out to neighbors easier. He gave me permission to share it HERE.
Bless your community. Now is our time to actually show the community we really do love our neighbors.
This will look different in every community. Our local school system is providing food for children who depend on the school to feed them. That doesn’t appear to be a need for our church to do. But we are seeking ways we can invest in our community during these days.
Sometimes it might be as simple as leading our people to follow guidelines set by community leaders or encouraging those community leaders. Having been an elected official I can tell you it is a blessing to know there are at least some supporters. There are plenty of people who will complain.
Keep yourself strong. This includes protecting your own faith, heart and soul. You may need to look for some blessings in the chaos. We had total attendance of 21 Sunday. (That’s the crew who pulled off our online service.) That’s for a normally very large church. But our online engagement was up 899%. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Silver-lining.
Stay in touch with fellow pastors in your area or in your network. And don’t be afraid to do something light-hearted. Laugh with some friends. I was making a video yesterday and kept making the same mistake. The team and I laughed so hard. I laughed the hardest. It was good for my soul. Also, make sure you exercise and attempt to stay healthy. And wash your hands, pastor. Wash your hands.
Pastor, you’re needed during these days. In many ways, in times like this, we become the community’s pastor. Of course, we need medical personnel and emergency workers as always. We should never get in their way. But people need words of encouragement and hope during these days. They need answers. Words of encouragement we hopefully offer every week behind our pulpits is needed more than ever in times like these. Shepherd well.
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.