The reality has probably settled in by now… you’re not having church (in person) for a while. It took me about 10 days to work through the stages of grief. (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.) But now, we find ourselves at a place we’ve never been before, so what do we do?
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve talked, texted with, and read articles from countless pastors all trying to figure out the same thing: what now? The truth is, no one knows for sure; how could they? With humility and the same uncertainty as everyone else, here are 3 things I’m reminding myself during the COVID-19 crisis.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing. As leaders, we feel a need to step up, lead the way, and rally the troops. Our mind is racing with potential ideas or acts of desperation. We’re wrestling feelings of fear. What if we have to shut down the church? What if no one returns once this is over? What if everyone just decides to join a megachurch online? (Am I the only one who’s thought that?) When those thoughts fill your mind, something instinctual kicks in, and you believe you have to do something… anything!
The truth is there’s not much you can do right now. Yes, check on your people. Yes, make sure the elderly have what they need. Yes, prepare to provide some type of spiritual leadership online this weekend if you feel you need to, but remind yourself, God is not expecting you to save the day. He doesn’t need you to. Go home. Spend time with your spouse, kids, and grandkids. Work on a puzzle, read a book, grill a burger, take a nap, have a tea party with your daughter, take another nap. You get the point. It’s harder than it should be, but find ways to rest. What a tragedy if when this season is over, you’re too tired to relaunch with fresh passion and energy.
2. Focus On What Is Absolutely Essential
Napoleon made a habit of not responding to his mail in a timely fashion. He instructed his secretary to wait three weeks before opening any correspondence. When he finally heard what was in a letter, Napoleon loved to note how many supposedly “important” issues had simply resolved themselves and no longer required a reply.
“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”Herbert Simon
I thought of Napoleon’s story this week as I continued to scroll and scroll and scroll on my phone, reading more research, satire, and church updates. I convinced myself that it was important. I needed to stay up to date on what was happening, but in truth, it really just drained my optimism and peace.
Focus is essential when your options are limited, but you’re consuming what other churches are doing. I’m not saying don’t draw ideas from others, just be careful that in your attempt to collect ideas you don’t create a false sense of urgency that keeps you from resting. You don’t have to post a daily FB live devotion. You can, if you want to, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to buy thousands of dollars in new video equipment or create a new social network platform. Be careful that during this time, you don’t get caught in a rat race, thinking you have to keep up with other pastors and churches. You don’t.
Do the minimum you can to get the message out. The gap between great (cool, novel, HD) and good enough is closer than you think, especially during a crisis. Ignore what the church with millions of dollars of equipment and large platforms is doing. The most effective ministry you can do during this time probably doesn’t involve a computer. Make phone calls, drop off groceries, go pray in the empty church building. When there are times you need to be online, be there, but it’s not as much as you think. Don’t focus on trying to reach the entire internet. Focus on your congregation and provide what they need. Then take a nap. Did I mention that already?
3. Be Honest With Your People
Let’s just address the elephant in the room: you’re worried about offerings, or lack thereof. You’ve probably already run the numbers a hundred times in your head. You’re worried. I get it. Here’s my advice; just be honest with your church. People aren’t stupid, they may not have thought about it yet, because they’re worried about their financial issues, but once you explain the situation, they will understand. Don’t over-spiritualize it, use guilt, or be passive-aggressive. Try something like this:
“Hey church, it looks like we’re still going to be unable to meet together in person for a while. I wish I could say we have enough savings to defer offerings while we aren’t meeting in person. However, the reality is, we still need people to be obedient and generous during this time so we can stay open to meet the needs of the church and the church members who need help. I’ve provided the link below to give online. Thank you for your generosity.”
God owns all the money. Go back and read that last sentence again. Read it one more time.
We’re going to get through this. God is still building his church. Keep your head up and on straight. I’m praying for you. Thank you for everything you do to help build His church.
My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul.Proverbs 3:21-22