Pastor Support Group in the Age of COVID

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Since early in the days of COVID-19, a group of pastors in Classis BC Southeast has met every other week over Zoom. Sometimes as few as four, sometimes as many as fourteen, this group shares their joys and struggles, while also offering best practices, trouble-shooting challenges and encouraging creativity in faithful ministry.

Pastor "support groups" of all sorts have been lifelines for pastors for decades (and something our denomination strongly encourages and financially supports). But the intensity and novelty of this COVID-19 disruption has prompted a renewed sense of their importance. Like everyone else, pastors have found themselves deeply challenged by COVID. Already prone to isolation, they are finding that COVID has made it easier than ever to be disconnected and discouraged.  

This BC Southeast group exists to help cope with the disruptions and creatively navigate the challenges COVID is stirring up. If nothing else, the group provides a sympathetic listening ear. But often, the group’s sharing also stimulates creative solutions. 

Dealing with Disconnection

For instance, in a recent meeting, several pastors noted how hard it was for members to connect with one another. And how that lack of connection was prompting some to distance themselves from the church, creating a vicious circle where those feeling disconnected only disconnect more. The pastor’s group was a safe place to name this frustration and the grief beneath it. But the group also became a place to share creative responses.

One church is letting small groups sign up for times to meet in larger rooms of the church. Another church has hosted alcohol-free Happy Hour in the church parking lot, where members could visit with one another outside, at social distance, beverage in hand, for no reason except to connect. 

Of course, room sign-ups and Happy Hours don’t resolve all the challenges these pastors and their churches are facing. One pastor wondered if, instead of trying to come up with the creative solution to include every person in every gathering, he could just do a better job of naming the lament. He wondered how freeing it could be for himself and his congregation if he just named how hard this time is: how frustrating and difficult it is to get together. 

Overlooked Spouses

Another challenge named and affirmed by the group at a recent meeting was the experience of pastor’s spouses feeling overlooked or disconnected. Whether for reasons of health or work, some pastor’s spouses could not be regularly present when the church gathered. While the pastor was involved in more meetings than ever, the spouse was more absent than ever. Yet with so many other members disconnected during this season, these spouse’s absence was rarely noticed and some of them were feeling more church-less than ever. As they shared stories related to this challenge, the pastors realized how close to home this disconnection trend was. And that’s the beauty of this group: an experience many shared (disconnected spouses) could be recognized as a part of a wider challenge, likely affecting many in their classis. The group could then begin to imagine how they might address this shared challenge together. 

Nevertheless, Joy 

The sharing wasn’t all challenges and difficulties, though. One pastor noted new opportunities to connect with international students at the local university, since those students were stuck in BC all summer. Another wondered how this COVID experience might encourage a richer sense of neighborhood and parish churches, working more closely together in their communities. Yet another told the story of a woman who came to faith in Christ partly due to the hospitality the church showed her during the disruptions of COVID. 

Though it lasted just under sixty minutes, the gathering provided space to share joys, name challenges, generate solutions and help this group carry the load and fulfill their calling. Until the next time. 

Looking for a Group Like This?

Pastors and ministry staff of all kinds have been blessed by groups just like this one in BC. If you are serving in ministry and interested in joining a group like this, reach out to nearby pastors or ministry staff to form one yourself. For help making connections or forming a group, contact your regional pastor or reach out to Pastor Church Resources [email protected]  

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