The task of leading the church during COVID-19, and now as we regather and revamp ministry, has brought unforeseen challenges and opportunities. How can we as local church leaders navigate through and beyond the pandemic?
1. Improvise, adapt, and overcome. It’s not just a motto. It’s a way of life in ministry.
One of Paul’s go-to metaphors to encourage Timothy in the daunting task of leading the church in Ephesus is the soldier. The mental picture Paul wants Timothy to grasp is the endurance and discipline that characterizes a good soldier. Perhaps no other word picture captures what pastors, worship leaders, and staff have navigated over the last few months. It recalls a core Marine philosophy instilled in today’s soldier: improvise, adapt, and overcome. Along with the grace of Christ, this truth is essential to ministry endurance.
Especially in rural or semi-rural areas, not all of us were ready to be “live” on Sundays. We neither had the equipment, nor did we know where to begin. However, we quickly caught up to speed. While we are continuing to tweak what works best, we realize that being “live” not only has been a huge encouragement to our church family, but we have also been able to connect with numerous people in our community and beyond. Know that it’s worth it to do the homework, to get the equipment that’s right for your church, and to be “live” with your people and your community, even when COVID-19 subsides. The ability to be “live” online is a significant asset as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission in your community. Be purposeful with being “live.”
2. Don’t underestimate your people or their needs.
Be careful not to underestimate the needs of your people. To use a football analogy, realize that being online is not a touchdown. Think of being online with your people as helping you march down the field on your way to a touchdown. In other words, your people need more than your online sermons—they need resources they can utilize throughout the week too. Consider families as they take the rightful responsibility to disciple their children and students in the home. Work hard to find and provide resources that help families in your church and community take steps to make room for the Lord in their home. As we move forward into the “new normal,” churches that continue to provide resources and links that point people to articles, blogs, and how-to’s will enable and embolden others to take responsibility for their personal growth in the Lord.
In addition, don’t underestimate the patience and graciousness of your people. Online feeds will drop. Links to websites not properly formatted will result in page errors. You will make mistakes as you lead your people. Remember that your people are really gracious folks. Don’t take advantage of it, though. Communicate with them. Stay in touch. Do your best. As Paul expressed to both the Corinthian believers and the brethren in Colossae, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Your folks will be grateful even when it doesn’t work correctly.
3. Embrace the opportunity to make positive changes.
Any pastor can recognize areas where change is necessary. It might be a minor change, such as creating a new pathway of communication for your people, or it could be a major change, such as revamping what midweek ministry looks like to enable you to accomplish your purpose. I’m no mechanic, but I know enough that I realize necessity is like a spark plug. When you pull the cord to crank the engine, the spark plug is firing away, but an out-of-gas engine never comes to life. It’s only when fuel is applied that the engine rumbles to life. Through all things COVID-19, remember urgency is the fuel to change.
We often do not act on necessity because we feel it can’t be done. However, urgency ignites the fire to accomplish what is necessary. You are capable of improvising, adapting, and leading change. If we’ve learned anything, know this, you will never do what you think you can’t do until you decide to do what you thought you never could do.
Stay on the learning curve of leading the local church during a pandemic. Do your homework. Ask the hard questions. Listen closely to your people’s answers. Dream big. Pray. Lead. Your church matters. Your community matters. The gospel matters. It’s worth it!