COVID 19 – Phase Two Continued
Part Three: Cultivate Joy
Now that we have settled into social-distanced life, moved our ministries online, have care networks set-up, fostered community in our churches, and stepped back, it is time to embrace joy and help shepherd our people through the long road of Covid-19.
If you have your pulse on people, you’ll have the sense that people are not doing the greatest these days. If you gently prod people a little below the surface, you’ll discover that people are struggling in their relationships, family, marriage and emotional wellbeing. I don’t think this is universal, but I sense it is extremely common. As I said to a friend last week, we all need to be reminded that we are in a pandemic, not a paradise and it is okay (even normal) to not be okay.
Therefore, as we look into the future and lead our churches on the long journey ahead, it is time to help our people through this unusual season of stress and anxiety. Whether it is your staff team, your leadership teams or your church as a whole, now is the time to foster morale, encouragement and hope.
This, of course, is a complex and multifaceted process with lots of angles (teaching, activities, prayer, community, physical wellness, worship, counselling, etc.) but one that I think is often overlooked is laughter. It may seem odd to foster laughter in a pandemic, but laughter has a direct line to our stress and anxiety.
Did you know, when people are stressed, they often respond with “nervous laughter?” I’ve personally seen people respond with spontaneous laughter upon the news of a loved one dying and have witnessed front-line workers use dark humour to process unbearable situations. There is a direct neurological link between stress and laughter, and it travels in two directions. People often respond involuntarily to stress with laughter, but people can also use laughter to help proactively deal with stress.
Consequently, as we build resiliency and hope in our people in this season, let us not forget laughter and joy. Just as Paul and Silas sang with joy while in prison, we can sing and laugh in the midst of a pandemic (Acts 16). They had a joy that couldn’t be bound in chains nor silenced by suffering – the joy of the Lord was their strength (Nehemiah 8:1).
As a result, I think we need to help our staff teams cultivate joy in this season and laugh as often as possible. All shepherds need campfire stories and laughter to pass the time and release the pressure valve of stress and so do your leadership teams. Additionally, your people need to be able to laugh as part of your care response. Thus, what can you do in your church community to build and unleash joy in this season? Have your volunteer or staff leadership consider ways you can foster laughter in this season as a strategic means to help your people in this challenging time.
It may seem like an odd and counterintuitive suggestion, but I believe it is a key competency for building resiliency and fostering hope in this season. Therefore, do what you can to foster joy, find it in Christ Jesus, and laugh as often as possible.