Dear Church Leader,
Summer is here! The sun is shining, the weather is unusually warm, and you are more tired than you realize. This has been one of the most difficult years in recent ministry history, involving persistent change, conflict and confusion. As a result, stress has compounded and compacted like sediment over our hearts and leadership, and I want to give you peer permission and encouragement to rest in the coming days and begin to let Jesus, the living water, gently soften your heart, bringing rest and restoration.
As you enter your summer, I would encourage you to take these five things with you!
First, take your holidays. If you have them, use them and guard them. Intentionally shut down and decompress. I took some time off in June and discovered I was more tired than I thought. You may be tempted to save your holidays for later (“I can’t really go anywhere anyway”). Guard against this. Take your time and disconnect as much as possible. You need it more than you realize. I know I did!
Second, take a personal inventory of how you are doing. Be honest with yourself. How is your soul? Have you been self-medicating in the increased isolation of the season? Do you need help? Just as there were increased mental health changes of lockdown (which you probably experienced), there will also be mental health challenges as things move back to full engagement with people (especially for anyone who has any form of social anxiety). Take time to reflect, grieve losses, do a moral inventory, consider your relationships and ask God and others to walk with you through all of this.
Third, take time to plan for the future with hope and caution. There will be lots of appropriate excitement for a vaccinated Fall. Embrace the excitement but chase that excitement with some caution and backup plans. There is reasonable concern about variants and the possibility of more restrictions in the fall/winter. As you plan ahead, don’t put all your planning or hopes in a fully in-person future. I am not making a case for future restrictions, but it is good leadership to be prepared. We are not out of Covid yet, even though it may increasingly seem like it.
Fourth, take it slow. As you prepare for the future, I would caution you to not jump back to all your old patterns and methodologies. Just don’t relaunch everything you did before, hire back all the same staff positions, and structure everything the way you did two years ago. It may feel comfortable, but it would be foolish. A post-Covid reality will look different than a pre-Covid reality. Not everyone will come back in person and those that do will all not come back at the same time or in the same way. People’s attendance and giving patterns will change and we would be foolish to not account for this. Don’t get me wrong, the future is hopeful, but the future will look different than the past.
Finally, take stock. Take time with your leadership team(s) to list all the ways God has been faithful in the last 16-18 months. Covid seems like five years packed into one and we can forget all the things God did in the last year. It will be an encouraging time that will give you hope as you look to the future.
Covid has been long! It has been filled with pain, sickness, disruption, death, conflict, change and more change. Don’t underestimate the impact of this on your spiritual life, emotional wellbeing, relationships, family and ministry.
Take these five things into your summer, embrace rest and let God cultivate hope back into your life and ministry!