What if our moment isn’t today but tomorrow?
Dear Pastors and Church Leaders,
We have entered a unique season of ministry in our world. And it is probably more unique than you think.
The decision and planning to move to online services was difficult for many churches and leaders, but it is, potentially, just the beginning and one of the easiest things we’ll do in this pandemic. Although I pray we don’t have to do any of the following, I think we need to be prepared in case we do.
As we enter this season as church pastors and leaders, I believe we need to pre-emptively consider the following with our staff and elders’ teams (there are no universal solutions and each church and context will be different):
- Phase One – Initial Response to the Pandemic – Preparation & Social Distancing
- Social Care – This is the time to help people socially and spiritually. What are ways you can help care for and disciple your people? People will have time and questions, and this is a great time to engage with them. At Westlife Church, we have launched a whole host of online options (most of them interactive), are preparing resources for parents, youth and children who can’t be ministered to the same via virtual interactions, and in the coming days we will be personally and systematically connecting with every family in our church to touch base with them, pray for them, find out how we can help, explain the resources we have available, how to contact us if needed and let them know we love and care for them.
- Communication – This is the time to communicate relentlessly with people. This is the time for our communication people and departments to go into overdrive. People are consuming information and we need to provide it in abundance and in earnest.
- Resources to help – This is the time to build the war-chest. Ask your people to give in preparation. In the coming days, there will be the potential for great need and little time to raise when needed. The church needs to be in a place to provide help and resources to people in need.
- Phase Two – Response to the Pandemic: Caring for the Sick and Dying
- What is your plan to track, report and care for a dramatic increase in pastoral care concerns (caring for the sick and dying)? Does this plan rely on a few (what happens if some of that few get sick)?
- What are your protocols for your care team to keep everyone as safe as possible? How will you keep your pastoral and spiritual care workers safe while still making sure people don’t suffer alone or without spiritual care? This is not as easy as it appears.
- How will we be the church to our community (while employing the protocols determined above)? How will people know you are there to help? At Westlife, we are gearing up to connect and care through social media advertising if needed (letting the community know of ways we can personally help them). As people are social distancing, communicating ways we can help our neighbours will be increasingly difficult.
- How do we equip and empower our people on mission to love and care for their neighbours practically, personally and spiritually while not taking unnecessary risks for ourselves or others?
- How will we care for our people, as our staff may also get sick – they are not immune and we need to plan contingencies and ways to care for them when they need to isolate, get hospitalized, etc.
- Phase Three – Follow-up Response to the Pandemic: The Slow Return to Normal
- PTSD – How will we help people after this is over? Consider the time it took after 9/11 to return to a new normal. This will be no different. We will need to consider how we will help people with increased anxiety, issues of loneliness and depression, mental health challenges, increased need and desire for face-to-face relationships, financial implications for individuals, a bruised economy and those suffering from compassion fatigue and PTSD. These may be real things to consider in the future.
These are questions we need to be considering now and questions/plans I am leading our team through. Although the above are not comprehensive, they are the start of some important points for every church to consider for their context.
I want to reiterate. Every context and situation is different. Have a plan that works for you and your context, but have a plan! This is the time for the church to be preparing for the worst and celebrating the best. Jesus is in control and will lead us through this, but we need to be wise shepherds of His people and stewards of His resources as we care for the sheep and relentlessly and passionately pursue the lost.
What if our moment is not just now, but also in the coming tomorrows? What if the main thing we can do in this present moment is to plan (and pray we don’t have to implement it)?
Prayer and planning are two faces of the same coin. Earnestly, do both!
If you know of resources that might be helpful, this is the time to help, share, borrow, etc. Use the comments below to share freely!