There is a lot that is happening to us that is out of our control. There are so many things that we feel powerless to change or even deal with. Yet how you respond as an individual and as a church at this time will determine what will happen in your future. How you respond will set in motion and determine what will happen in the days, months and even years to come. The question is whether you will encounter your future with intentionality or you will be more passive and you will experience your future by default. Either way this is a defining moment that will shape the kind of future that you will have. So what will you do? Unlike God’s grace, which is undeserved, what will happen in the future will be largely from our own making and doing. We will get what we create and what we allow.
The pinch is that we feel so helpless. We can’t gather in person as a church. We can’t talk with and work with groups. We make normal visitations. That casual conversation isn’t happening. Conversations are either intentional by telephone or an online meeting or not at all. So how can we be intentional during a time when we feel so helpless? There is a lot that is out of our control, but there is also a lot that we can control.
Certainly we pray, we ask for and seek the Lord’s blessing but we also seek to be wise and to be smart about our choices and actions. This is a defining moment. Be careful. Your leadership is showing.
What that means is that this is a perfect time to pursue reflection and thinking and dreaming. So much is open for change and making those shifts that just a few short weeks ago seemed impossible. So now there is a window of opportunity to make those mid-course corrections that we just didn’t even want to try to tackle before. No, I am not talking about contemporary or more creative worship, although that might be on the table. What I am talking about is moving to intentional ways to engage people, to address institutional stuckness and shifting to a more outward focus to connect with real people in our communities in real ways. And yes, this means a perfect time for coaching, which is a way to help one to think deeper, to explore options and live into that more intentional leadership.
In talking with others in the church during this time I am hearing a common theme. A third of the churches are just hunkering down and hoping to endure this time of social distancing and basically doing nothing. They are on hold. Little to no live streaming, no recorded services, basically nothing except for maybe a few more phone calls and little more. Then there is another third that is making an effort to doing a few things differently. They are posting the service on YouTube or trying to do a Facebook live stream. They are attempting to keep the machinery running by at least providing a touchpoint for their members. They are also hoping this will be over soon so they can get back to what they already know. “This too shall pass.”
But then there are a few other churches. They are grabbing this covid-19 shake-up to step up and be the church. Their baseline activities are refining their web sites, helping their members to shift to online worship and visual communities and providing clear communication and means for digital giving. But what might be even more important is that they are providing hope to neighbors and friends of their members. They are providing meals for locals who have lost their jobs. They are engaging with real people with real needs. They are partnering with the local leaders and first responders. Simply by staying connected and hearing of needs, they are responding in responsible and caring ways. Their members are not just “holding on” until this thing is over but seeing it as an opportunity to bring hurting people peace and comfort in the gospel.
No, this is not marketing the church. This is not manipulation. This is genuine, authentic Christianity. If people notice then they point to Jesus, not themselves. It is not about promoting the church, it is about the risen Lord Jesus.
So which category do you fit into? Are you just hanging on or are you embracing this time? Sure you may be overwhelmed. Sure it may be wearisome. Sure you may be tired. But now it the time to keep in touch, see possibilities and partner with your members to think beyond themselves and see how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus.
What will you be like afterward? If you are a part of that first third, you may have a hard time recovering. This time may have advanced the decline of your ministry. If you are a part of that second third, you may be tempted to try to snap back to the way things were. But what you will probably find is that will be difficult to do. No turning back. Things will be different when we are allowed to gather again. Regaining some momentum or trying to be like it was before will seem futile. Yet many will try. If you are a part of that final third, you will find your ministry flourishing in ways you never imagined. You will be scrambling to keep up with those who have checked you out online and want to talk more. You will be scrambling to step into a bigger role in your community. Yet you can by God’s grace and blessing. It will be a time to delegate more. To empower people even more. It will be a time to be even clearer and communicate who you are and what you wish to do by God’s grace even better. It will be a time to focus and pursue your mission purpose with even greater zeal. But more than anything, it will be a time to share with even more people the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So where do you want to be? So much is up to you. Hunker down and isolate even more? Or engage with not only your members but their contacts and connections and those in your community even more? It is a defining leadership moment. By God’s grace and the strength He provides we can and will step into the final third and even more. God bless you!
Scott specializes in leadership coaching, consulting, coach and leadership training. He is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church and others as an independent contractor. Listen to The Coaching Leader podcast and contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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