Pastors who are experiencing “Coronafatigue” can probably use some practical encouragement right about now. It doesn’t take long to get caught up in the ministry whirlwind as we play whack-a-mole to the church challenges we have never faced before. Here are four of the most common mistakes I have observed that you can avoid in the coming weeks.
Making long term plans
Caregivers like us have a bias toward action—or at least we should. Sometimes, however, the wisest action is to wait for more information before you form a plan. The annoying fluidity of this pandemic deems it impossible to know what is coming next, much less when. Making reactionary long term decisions based on limited information is panicking, not pastoring. Buckle up for at least a couple of months of this mess, and stay as flexible as possible.
Ignoring the various authorities
Listen to your elected officials, whether you are required to or not. This week, our president recommended that we meet in groups no larger than ten, which is based on input from world class professionals. Most of us did not go to medical school, so there is no pressure for us to become pandemic experts.
Oklahoma Baptists’ Executive Director Hance Dilbeck is encouraging pastors to ask “should we?” instead of “must we?” Instead of corralling them into smaller worship services or home groups, think of ways to creatively connect them online as best you can until this pandemic passes. Facebook Live is a great place to start if you do not have recording equipment. Also, LifeWay Christian Resources is providing free online resources for families and groups to worship together.
Using your resources randomly
When frantic church members blow up our phones and inboxes with ideas on how you should serve your community, it is tempting to overcommit by saying “yes” too often. As a missionary to your community, you likely already know what particular needs your church is equipped to meet. If you are not sure, focus on your neediest neighbors, which are primarily your oldest ones in this particular season. Likewise, if there is a high percentage of children who get their meals at school, work with your school district to identify and help those children.
Many networks, conventions and associations are curating resources on their websites for pastors and churches to use. Some of the tools that we are desperate to use today will be strategically helpful on the other side of this pandemic, like online giving and worship for the homebound.
Ignoring your family or personal well being
People will be pulling you in all directions for a couple of months, so please remember that self-care is not selfish—it is strategic. Airline attendants always remind us to “Secure your mask on first, before you assist the other person.”
The best way to do that is to simply STOP, which is what “Sabbath” literally means. I want to encourage you to take 3-4 mini-Sabbaths a day to rest in the presence of God. Author Peter Scazzaro refers to this ancient discipline as “The Sacred Office.” There is no better time than right now to take a moment to pause and pray as you reflect on this passage:
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7 CSB).