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Why COVID-19 Has Impacted Leadership

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Indeed, such are the times in which we live—especially for ministry leadership in kingdom work. We are all experiencing feelings similar to those immediately after life-altering moments like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the moon landing, and the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. We get the sense that the world we live in has changed dramatically and our lives will be significantly different going forward. Clearly, different times and circumstances call for different ways of leading.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the best of times for ministry leaders who have adapted to the reality of social distancing. They have employed technology to hold online services that have considerably increased their Sunday attendance and exposed many people to the gospel. They have led people to Christ, around the corner and around the world, by utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They have engaged in virtual discipleship by using applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They have continued to make phone calls and hospital visits as well as to send text messages to encourage their church members. They have inspired others by their faithfulness in spite of the obstacles and their humility in light of others’ grateful praise. Just as importantly, they have motivated many in their churches to step up and serve in new and innovative ways thus identifying new leaders who will serve the kingdom cause well going forward.  

As leaders, we must count the cost of the leadership to which we are called and be willing to pay the price to the glory of God and the edification of those we lead. It will require hard work, confession of sin, asking God to exhibit new fruits of the Spirit in our character, and even developing new skill sets to meet the needs of the present and the future. God “is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Practical Guidance

Here are three areas we may need to rethink as leaders of local churches going forward.

Mental Health and Wellness

The pandemic has exposed people’s mental health and wellness issues. While it’s true and nice to say that the family that prays together stays together, some members of your church may require counseling or practical helps to effectively address their issues. Be prepared to refer those who need it to a good Christian counselor and be prepared to share resources and helps to individuals, couples and families in need of practical assistance.  

Missions & Evangelism

Transitioning from regathering to rethinking the ministry, you may be tempted to go from mission-mode to maintenance-mode. That is, you may want to focus on church health at the expense of church growth and to emphasize fellowship over outreach. While both are important and necessary, please continue to reach out virtually online and in person. It should be “both/and” and not “either/or.” A hybrid model of both “in-person” and “virtual” ministry will be required if we are to be fruitful leaders going forward. This also includes rethinking the “work environment” to include people working from home and at the office yet functioning “virtually” when necessary.

Planning

Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on a regular basis. This could be done quarterly, bi-annually or annually by staff and/or lay leaders, and it will help your church thrive by recognizing opportunities and anticipating future challenges. As a church, consider establishing an Emergency Management Team (EMT) to develop contingency plans for the next pandemic, natural disaster, church shooting or other crisis. Remember to include lay leaders who have taken the initiative to lead during this pandemic (especially those who are techn-savvy) on your EMT.

Creating Movement

Shift to a truly shared vision

As a leader, you must ensure that your church’s vision, mission, and values are actually of God and not of man. A godly leader will ensure that the church has bought into God’s vision for the church and will consistently foster the pursuit of God and the realization of his vision. Ultimately, man-made individually-imposed visions result in superficial compliance, while godly, shared visions garner personal commitments that result in individual and social transformation to the glory of God. 

Shift to responsible optimism

Don’t continue to present the latest strategy or method for (insert ministry here) as a magic bullet that will continue to be effective in the future. Instead, offer an honest assessment of where things stand while highlighting that God is still on the throne building his church, and we have the joy and privilege of collaborating in his will to bring all things in subjection to Christ!

Personalize Leadership

Organic Leaders

Take the time to consider and write down the leaders that just started to lead in various areas during the pandemic. Maybe it was the first small group leader that started to put out a verse and prayer prompt each day for their group to consider. Perhaps it was a parent who created activities for their children and shared it with other parents. Identify and then plan how to leverage their leadership for future ministry in your congregation.

Mental Health and Wellness

If you do not already have a list of Christian counselors as referrals, consider where to gather those names and will do accomplish that task. Identify and prepare to share practical resources in various mental health areas like stress management, anxiety, overcoming habitual sin, Sabbath rest, etc.

Planning Team

If you have not already, brainstorm the individuals that should be on your planning team/EMT and make a list of the topics that you need to run through with them. The team should be diversified (staff and laity, older and younger, singles and married, men and women, etc.) and can also help be the “litmus test” for concepts and idea well before you are ready to implement.

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