I had a moment this past week that almost broke me…
We were recording our service at 7pm. And I couldn’t get my brain to slow down enough to even focus on the blinking cursor in front of me long enough to type a single sentence. I have literally been dreaming at night about what we can do as a church and how to respond to needs. Every organization feels like a house of cards in the face of this global pandemic. Church plants feel that way on a normal week, but all the more so now. I’m seeing what others are doing and foolishly feeling the pressure to add that to my own plate. And I’m reaching the edge of my limits quickly.
I need the reminder today that I’m not Jesus and I don’t want my people to rely on me over Him. I need the reminder that I’m a member of the church, too, who will need to receive care just like everyone else. I need the reminder that I need to depend on Christ and not on my own capacities and capabilities. I need the reminder that Jesus will build His Church and COVID-19 will not prevail against it.
Here are six practical ways to help you preserve your own heart and sanity as you navigate life and church in our current times.
1. SLOW DOWN
Breathe. Take time to pray. Do something fun with your family to make memories out of this. Creating barriers is an unending challenge in pastoral ministry and that has been exacerbated by the move to online contact.
2. ENCOURAGE AND BUILD COMMUNITY
Help people connect to one another. If your church has more than a small handful of people, there is simply no way that you have the capacity to care for them all. It will be tempting to try to step in and meet everyone’s needs. Remember that you are not Jesus and that He is the one who people need.
3. LEAD PEOPLE TO MAINTAIN RHYTHMS IN THEIR LIVES
Whether you provide a video of a Sunday service, a liturgy guide, or an email devotional, encourage the people in the church to set aside time on Sunday to refocus their eyes on the hope we have in Christ. If you have groups or classes, work on creative ways to sustain some kind of regular connection and rhythm, and to equip your leaders to do so.
4. TAKE THINGS ONE DAY AT A TIME
There are all kinds of predictions and prognostications. The uncertainty is driving anxiety for people. The reality is that not one of us was created with the capacity for the flow of information we are seeing or for the number of decisions we are making. I know that I don’t have the emotional capacity to make plans beyond what is known right now. One way we can protect our own hearts and lead our churches well is to focus on the information we do have, plan and respond accordingly, and not allow the discussions or focus to look into a future that no one can predict. We have today’s mercies for today’s troubles. Tomorrow’s troubles will have new mercies as we face them.
5. LEAD AND CARE FOR YOUR CHURCH
A look at larger churches shows that they have specialized staff and are able to crank out incredible resources on a moment’s notice. On the other hand, pastors of smaller churches are able to connect personally with every member. Because none of us have faced anything like this before, it’s natural and good to see what others are doing. It also can become paralyzing as you realize all of the things you are not and cannot pull off. That’s ok. Yes, look at others and learn what you can, but interpret into the setting God has put you into and for the people entrusted to your care. It is not an accident that you are where you are in this moment (Acts 17:26-27).
6. CONNECT WITH OTHERS
We all need contact with other people. As a pastor, I’ve been running hard to try to figure out how to love and serve our people as the world gets turned upside down and changes in protocol rapidly roll in. I went into the Zoom call with our Community Group last week tired and in action mode. What I underestimated was my own need for love and support. Praying together was water for my parched soul, even over video. Having one of our friends pray for me was something I desperately needed. Reach out to other pastors for care and support. But don’t neglect trusting that we are members of our churches who need the prayer and care of the Body of Christ.
We have no idea how long things will look very different in our churches. Don’t give up. Lean into friendships and into the church for care. Reach out to people you love so you can laugh together, talk about your fears and uncertainties, and pray together.
The Church is not shut down, our gatherings just look a little different for now.
Press on, fight the good fight, stay in the race, and keep the faith.