As part of my preparation for a course I am running this autumn with Belfast Bible College, I have been thinking about some of the things church leaders (especially pastors and ministers) should be prioritising in the current climate. Here is my list of nine.
- Engage in an honest assessment of how you are doing. Have the past 6 months depleted your energy levels or your morale? Are there traces (or more) of weariness, of cynicism, or even despair? Is your sense of call strong, or have recent months blurred it?
- Take steps to ensure that you are not isolated. Remember that there is a difference between solitude (a worthwhile practice) and isolation (potentially draining). If you have a ministry team around you, that’s great, but makes sure that your times together are more than just business: seek to build each other up. If you are in a more solitary situation, do what you need to in order to connect with others.
- Leave some space for reflection on the ‘why’ of what your church is doing – don’t fill all the space with questions of logistics – the ‘what’ and ‘when’ questions.
- Seek to lead hopefully, but without denying the challenges of your situation.
- Be on your guard, work and pray for love and unity as opinions perhaps become more strongly held. The longer the Covid situation persists, the more likely it is that people will become more polarised in their views.
- Work hard to identify and reach those who have not been engaging and are in danger of dropping out (not least among young adults families) – and don’t forget vulnerable folk who are unable to gather for legitimate reasons. It may mean more work for you, but all of your people matter, and many of the more vulnerable folk are already quite cut off from much of ‘normal’ life.
- Identify some of the good practices of the past 6 months (like regular pastoral phone calls) that can be retained.
- Don’t assume that the bench mark for the future is being able to resume all you were doing on March 15. Just as there may be good practices that you have introduced and believe you should continue, be willing to leave behind some of the things you were doing pre-lockdown if you have realised they are not vital!
- Since the situation is still transitory, hold decisions lightly. Look forward to a time of rebuilding, but be sure to stay flexible.