Crises have a way of clarifying who we are. Trials do change us, but they often reveal us more than anything else.
The same is true for churches and ministries.
When trials come, the health of a ministry is clearly seen.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I personally was in disbelief. “Surely this isn’t happening. No, we are going to continue with our lives as normal. This shouldn’t affect our church. OK, we might miss a couple of Sundays, but then we will be up and going again real soon…”
Days turned into weeks. Weeks have turned into months.
The last time we gathered physically was on Sunday, March 15th.
Despite my disbelief and doubt, we are still going through this crazy situation. This international pandemic did not seek my permission or insight. I doubt it sought yours either.
What do we do now? What will we do going forward?
Reset vs. Pause
I heard a great quote recently that provided a great summation for how spiritual leaders should respond during these days:
Hit the reset button, not the pause button.
For those who didn’t grow up during a time of gamers, you might miss the reference.
- The reset button allows a struggling system to reboot and get a fresh start.
- The pause button stops the game until you are ready to play again.
I love the illustration. When everything shut down, I felt the pull to pause. We are all accustomed to a certain way of doing things, I knew our options seemed limited.
Will we just hit the ministry pause and wait until we can do our norm again, or will we reset to continue ministry now and possibly learn from it for ministry in the future?
It would have been simpler to hit pause. Everyone would have understood it. Things were different, and we were hindered from giving our people what we normally provide.
Resetting would be challenging. These were uncharted territories. These were unfamiliar waters. We would have to brainstorm ideas that probably would get shut down. We would probably do a lot of work for a short period of time.
To pause would be convenient, but to reset would be considerate.
Life Changed, But It Didn’t Stop
To adapt to the times is considerate to your church family because they are going through fearful times as well. They need the church more than ever.
During our first meeting when the new reality was coming into focus, I told our staff, “Whatever we do, we will not take the easy route. Our people need more than that.”
As these weeks have gone by, I can say that has been true. Typical tasks now take an untypical amount of time. Every scenario has required multiple options. I have unequivocally reached a level of Zoom-fatigue.
You would never have convinced me that a quarantined schedule could cause more than typical ministerial exhaustion, but it has.
It has felt very different, but we have not become stagnate. Life changed for all of us, but it didn’t stop.
- People still need the gospel.
- Disciples still need to be matured.
- Marriages need saving.
- Finances need help.
- Situations require counseling.
- Hope deserves sharing.
This time has caused a slowing of a pace for sure, but, I pray, it has not caused us to step back.
Now Is Not the Time to Pause
A pandemic is not the time to pause ministry but to pursue opportunities.
Just because church campus doors have closed does not mean that we can’t be the church. I have found that, in perilous times, people are more open to spiritual instruction than at any other time. I know these circumstances won’t last forever, but I also know we still have some time to work toward whatever the new normal will be.
In the meantime, don’t treat it as the meantime.
Don’t pause during a pandemic.
Do things differently, but at least do something.
God can use the time when we feel most helpless to create the greatest type of spiritual awakening.
You can’t do your normal now? Good. Let’s see what God is leading us to do.
And I don’t think he wants us to pause and put down the controller.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.