Dear Pastors, Deacons, Elders and Other Church Leaders:
Since March, you have had a hand in leading your congregation through one of the most challenging seasons in its history. We thank God for the ways you sensed his presence in your life and among your people during various stages of quarantine. Now, as regions across the US and Canada begin reopening (and possibly re-closing and re-opening again), your steady and faithful leadership remains just as important as ever.
Here are some areas that may require special attention as you move into a season of being partially gathered.
- Leaders are Tired
- Clarify Expectations of Staff and Volunteers So much ministry happens behind the scenes, we may not have a good sense of just how much work folks have put in to serve the church. Check in with each other. Review job descriptions. Make adjustments as appropriate. Remember that some of your people won’t be good at taking care of themselves; they’ll need you to encourage or give permission for them to rest. In all these things, be honest and gracious.
- Self-Care A strong sense of duty can be a wonderful expression of God’s work in a person’s life. It can also push us toward thinking the most important thing is what I do for God, instead of who I am with God. As Pastor Pete Scazzero puts it in his helpful book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, it is possible to try to do more for God than our being with God can sustain. Leaders should be checking in with themselves and each other to ask how they are sustaining rhythms of abiding in Christ. What does Sabbath look like right now? What about quiet time? Retreat? Accountability? Many of our spiritual disciplines have had to be adjusted because of COVID-19.
- Pastor’s Spiritual Vitality Toolkit (English), (Spanish), (Korean)
- Leading as a Non-Anxious Presence
- Don't Try This Alone
- For Pastors,
- Decision-Making Is Hard If you thought decision-making was challenging during the quarantine stage, you’ve probably already realized the decisions you’re making now may actually be more complicated. Previously, we all just knew we had to stay home. Now the advice from our local governments varies widely and changes frequently. As always, the way you make a decision can have as much of an impact on your desired outcomes as the decision itself. Use decision-making times as opportunities to listen well, build trust and lean into the Spirit’s unifying presence.
- Pay Attention to Loss and Grief Every person in your community has lost something because of COVID-19. In fact, every person in your community has lost many things because of COVID-19. For some, the losses are concrete: someone they love has died or become very sick; someone they love has lost a job or a business. For many, the losses are ambiguous; a little harder to name, but still spiritually, emotionally, and mentally significant. Take time to tend to your own grief and loss. Encourage those around you to do the same.
- Communicate Things are changing quickly. Communicating clearly and well is a tangible way to love your congregation. Even communicating “I don’t know” or “We’re still not sure” can help relieve anxious congregations and build trust. Let everyone know that you and your fellow leaders are committed to serving members as well as possible, that you are committed to learning what you need to learn, and that this is a new opportunity to offer grace to one another in a new ministry landscape. Coronavirus has moved all of us into a “let’s try it out” age.
- Stay Connected
- Continue to connect with all of the people in your fellowship group/district/grow group. People still need assurance that your church is still a living community that they are a part of. Partially-gathered churches are especially mindful of people who cannot join others to gather.
- Remain connected to people who are in the hospital and to those who are ill at home.
- The people you call may have questions about how the church is functioning in the COVID-19 environment. Don’t feel like you have to be the answer person. If you don’t know how to respond to their question then say, “That’s a good question. I’ll see if I can get an answer for you.” And then make good on your promise.
- Keep exploring new ways to serve and minister to others. One of the best outcomes of this COVID-19 season has been an outpouring of creative ideas. Expecting to keep up the pace of creative ideas may be unrealistic, but this season remains a prime opportunity to experiment, to risk a little and to learn lots.
- Connect Your Stories to God’s Story The Bible makes clear that God’s people are not strangers to times of upheaval and grief. In fact, God seems to do some of his most extraordinary work among his people during times of wandering, exile and displacement. Help people connect their experience to the God of hope and promise we find in scripture and in our life together.
- Ask for Help
- If your church is struggling with decision-making, conflict, understanding local health recommendations or almost anything out reach out to other churches in your area.
- If your church is struggling with some of the extra financial burdens associated with COVID-19, consider applying to the CRCNA’s COVID-19 Church Engagement Fund. (Or, if your church is so fortunate to be emerging from this season with excess, consider contributing to the fund in order to support churches that are struggling.)
- Pastor Church Resources supports congregations and their leaders in times of transition and discernment by providing consultations and resources that foster personal and communal health. Contact us at [email protected].