Dear Fellow Pastor,
As you enter into another week of COVID-19, I thought I would write some needed words of encouragement and some important things to consider.
First, I want to recognize the compounding toll of this season on your life and ministry. If you are like me, the initial rush of adrenaline common in crisis has worn off and the endless stream of challenges remains. Consequently, you are probably feeling a bit worn out and stretched thin. If so: Stop. Breathe. Pray. Care (for yourself, your family, as well as your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being). Lead. (in that order)
I’m not sure if this is universal, but I have worked harder in these last two weeks than ever before in my pastoral career. I want to remind us that this is a marathon, not a sprint and we have yet to approach the first giant hill in the race (we will face the first of several waves in COVID-19 in the next couple of weeks). Thus, it is vital to take a breath and prepare as we will be stretched beyond ourselves in the coming days.
As we approach the unknown future with huge leadership challenges and pastoral care needs, I want to humbly remind you of a truth you know and have preached about several times.
Sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle in our lives, and when we do, we discover that at the end of ourselves, we meet the unfiltered and endless goodness and greatness of our God. God is with you and He will not fail! Therefore, be strong and courageous. Take each day, each step in the marathon ahead, with trust in God’s goodness and grace as well as the promise that He cares for you, your family, and the church you lead infinitely more than you.
Second, I would humbly offer the following to consider in this season ahead as you lead your community of faith:
- Don’t journey these uncharted waters alone! Any expeditionary mission into uncharted territory knows the importance of travelling as a team. Therefore, gather some other pastors/leaders around you for mutual encouragement. This will most likely be the hardest season of your ministry career and you can’t do this alone. If you don’t feel it yet, you will. You need Jesus and you need others to cheer you on! If you feel alone and you don’t know where to turn, I’d be more than honoured to hear your heart, encourage you, and pray for you in this season (just contact me anytime). We are all trying to find our way and the worst thing we can do is push through the fog of this season alone. Rather, let’s be fellow sailors on this expedition together, calling, helping and encouraging each other forward through the fog.
- We will get through this, but it will be a long and difficult journey. I think we all need to be reminded of this hope. This season will not be weeks; it will be months (some predict a year). However long this season will be, it will end at some point and ministry will readjust to a new normal (whatever that is!). I think we need to honestly face the enormity of this challenge and its implications but also be reminded, with hope, that it will not prevail, and Jesus will prove to be faithful!
- Don’t be lulled into complacency, flatten the curve and escalate care. We may flatten the curve of COVID-19 in some way (I pray we are successful) but that will just slow down the impact of what will affect many of us (I also pray for an effective treatment with hope but plan with a sober assessment of the current facts). Thus, this is the time to be prepared and plan! Have a plan to care for the sick. Have a plan to care for those in financial peril. Have a plan for those in relational crisis (whatever cracks a marriage or family has will be burst wide open). Have a financial plan for your church as economic realities hit. Have a plan for congregational and community care for your church and make yourself redundant (in order words, not having all care dependant on you, as you may get sick at some point) as well as have a plan to reach your community in this season. These are the moments leaders are made for and when great leaders are forged!
- Continue to grow your online presence and invest resources (however limited) here. Be creative, be innovative, empower younger leaders, and be willing to fail. Although you are managing limited resources, this is the time to invest where people are. If you are in an older demographic as a leader, have younger leaders on your online ministry leadership team and use their assessment of what is working and not working. Be honest about your prejudices here: your perspective of what is working online is probably blinded by your age and you need younger voices to help you see what you may be blind to.
In all of this, remember the promise of Jesus to His disciples who would face great hardship and challenges as they followed Him, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)
Pastors: Take heart! This pandemic will not win. Jesus has overcome! These are the moments the Church was made for. Therefore, let us collectively shine our lights in the flog of fear and uncertainty with the eternal hope and love of Jesus!