By Trevin Wax and Y Bonesteele
Before the pandemic, Lifeway went through a season of refining our values, and one of our favorite statements is “Better Together.”
We believe that championing team spirit is a must for a Christian organization, and that we do our best work when we are connected to others with different gifts and talents.
The value of being “better together” is not only true for Lifeway. The church has the opportunity right now to find creative ways to be better together, to persevere together, to move forward for the sake of the kingdom together.
In a recent survey, pastors were asked about the pressure points they are feeling most right now and the ways they most need support.
The results indicate a greater need for all those who belong to the Body of Christ to work together so that we can meet one another’s need in these times of uncertainty.
Pastors can’t do it all alone.
A Problem Throughout History
Church leaders often say that 20% of the congregation do 80% of the ministry. Whether or not that statistic is true, the point is that relatively few church members do most of the work.
In larger churches especially, it’s easy to slip into the role of a consumer of “religious goods and services” rather than be a partner in kingdom work and ministry.
But when crises come along, like the one we’re experiencing with COVID-19, that consumerist mindset just doesn’t cut it. We’re in an “all hands on deck” moment, and we’ve got the opportunity to see the Body of Christ working in unique and innovative ways.
Members Serving Members
Take a look at some of these comments from pastors in the Lifeway Research survey:
“Right now I’m most feeling pressure about not letting people fall through the cracks. I’m worried about those members that are not able to receive what we are putting out online. At this moment I could use the most support from church leaders and members calling these members to check in on them.”
“It’s a big pressure to be reaching out to everyone in our congregation, making sure that they are okay, and continuing to serve them with God’s Word in different capacities. I feel overwhelmed with increased ministry workload. I could use the most support with prayer and with other volunteers helping and continuing to help me serve our congregation and our community.”
Pastors know that during a season in which corporate gathering is unavailable the rest of the Body of Christ will need to step up and serve in different ways.
Pastors can’t do all the work of the ministry (and they never could); they’re called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
“Trying to distribute the work of keeping people connected has been difficult. We are seeing very little effort from leaders other than staff.”
“I am new to online streaming and video production and need volunteers to help produce the weekly worship.”
Pastors in smaller churches feel the need for support even more strongly:
“It is tough to keep in contact with those who do not have technology. We also have many adults wanting to connect/watch Bible Study teachings, but being the only one on staff and already running the student ministry and volunteering to help feed people in the community, I don’t have time to prepare one more lesson.”
“We are a small congregation, so most worship prep is on the pastor anyway, but now there are many more moving parts to that, especially in the area of communication, i.e. emailing links, texting, etc.”
The Future of Being Better Together
Perhaps a time like this reminds the church the importance of discipleship and training servant leaders. Or maybe this is a time to call out servant leaders to meet immediate needs.
As Jesus called Simon and Andrew and James and John by their boats, pastors have the opportunity to call on people they may otherwise overlook—members who have not been significantly involved in serving in the past, but who, while quarantined in their homes, may find an avenue of service.
Pastors can also be helping other pastors. In the survey, one pastor mentioned, “I have appreciated our denominational conference making internet opportunities for pastors to connect and share our experiences during this time.”
Bearing one another’s burdens and sharing similar stories eases the sense of anxiety. Pastors often feel isolated and alone. One pastor, when asked about the support he needed, simply said: “a call from the congregation asking how I am.”
Let’s remember that we are the body, all of us, pastors, leaders, volunteers, and members. Only Christ is the head.
So we all need to work together to get through this time together—for each other and for the Kingdom of God.
Trevin is the general editor of The Gospel Project, a theology advisor at Lifeway, and a visiting professor at Wheaton College.
Y is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway and has her M.Div from Talbot School of Theology.