By Aaron Wilson
Quarantines and social distancing have created extra margin in calendars to the extent that some people have said, “We’ve never had so much free time.”
But for others, this season of social distancing has caused them to be busier than ever. This is certainly the case for pastors and church leaders.
God created the local church to operate in a rhythm of gathering for corporate worship and being scattered on mission. But during this off-balance season when churches can’t come together in-person, pastors are having to adapt.
This creates extra work for pastors because a church that’s constantly scattered takes more effort to shepherd.
Still, God intends for pastors to worship Him through rest, even during a pandemic. To help achieve this, here are four things you can cross off your to-do list as a pastor during COVID-19.
1. Pastors don’t have to recreate the essence of a physical gathering.
As worship services have moved online, pastors are feeling the pressure to digitally replicate a typical Sunday-morning experience.
But regardless of the production quality of virtual gatherings, they will never replace the power of worshiping together in-person.
It’s unnatural for a local church to be physically apart week after week. Services that take place online will therefore always cause you and your people to feel like something is lacking.
This is actually a good thing as it reminds your people what they were made for and what they’re missing.
Don’t create needless stress for yourself by laboring to craft the “perfect” online church service. Such a thing doesn’t exist.
Give yourself the gift of realizing this season is one to get through, not master.
2. Pastors don’t have to analyze their online preaching stats.
Never before have pastors had so many tools available for them to instantly monitor the reception of their message.
For example, online services now allow pastors to track views, impressions, finishes, likes, comments, shares, and even what turns of phrase elicited certain emojis on Facebook.
This can spiritually paralyze pastors who feel the need to constantly analyze such data and draw a sense of worth from it.
Not to mention, most of this data isn’t truly reflective of a sermon’s impact and can be easily misinterpreted if you’re not accustomed to tracking such stats.
Don’t give into the feeling you must scrutinize your online sermon analytics. Preach as faithfully as you can to an empty room, take a break, and then move on to the next week’s message.
During this season, your people need an online shepherd, not a marketing statistician.
3. Pastors don’t need to have all the answers.
“When will this be over? Why is it happening? What is God up to?”
Because pastors have the gift of teaching, they instinctively want to help answer such questions from their people.
But in these strange times, it can be an act of worship to replace the need for answers with a simple trust in God.
In a helpful article, Michael Kelley looks at Job’s friends and the disciples who asked Jesus to explain the “why” behind a man’s suffering (John 9:1-5).
It can be dangerous, Kelley argues, to claim we understand God’s purposes in allowing suffering to take place.
Kelley writes, “Rather than trying to explain our suffering, let us give thanks that God brings good out of bad; that God redeems the pain of His people; and that God is wiser than we are. Let’s not explain our suffering; let’s endeavor to trust God before, during, and after it.”
Don’t entertain the impossible burden of trying to help your people make sense of everything that’s going on.
There’s freedom and worship found in a pastor saying, “I can’t answer all your questions; but I can model what it looks like to trust God during this time.”
4. Pastors don’t have to carry the church on their shoulders.
The challenges presented by COVID-19 are real and demand solutions that require creativity and resourcefulness.
But as pastors tap into a spirit of pragmatism, they can start to believe the lie that it’s up to them to hold the church together.
Christ boldly declared to Peter, “I will build my church,” and Paul wrote that nothing in all creation would separate God’s people from His love. That includes the coronavirus.
This means the Church will survive not being able to worship together corporately for a season. And likewise, local churches will not fall apart due to a lack of in-person face time with their pastor.
Pastors, therefore, don’t have to be a jack-of-all trades during this time or be constantly in front of their people by way of virtual communications.
In a season when it might be tempting to “over-perform” in an attempt to justify one’s paycheck while the church office is closed, pastors should continue to look for ways to equip the saints to do the work of ministry—not attempt to do all the ministry as one person or as a small staff of people.
While every church will have different needs in this season, the fear of thinking “it’s all on me” can cause pastors and ministries to overcompensate to the point they will quickly burn out.
As COVID-19 continues, take time each week to reassess how you are spending your time. Look to delegate or even eliminate activities that could be fostering burnout or neglect to your health and the care of your own family.
Christ is the head of the Church. The government will rest upon His shoulders. Regardless of how it may feel, it’s not all on you to hold things together.
Only one thing is necessary
During turbulent times such as a pandemic, it’s easy for pastors to start each day with an overwhelming list of messages to craft, people to contact, and business to address.
While tackling these responsibilities, it can be helpful to pause and consider the tasks that call for attention but are actually unnecessary and may even be harmful to your ministry.
Christ lovingly corrected Mary for being “worried and upset about many things,” imploring her to make “the right choice” of focusing on what was necessary.
What might the Lord be encouraging you to shave off your list of expectations during this season of busyness so that—in the midst of a pandemic—you can make the right choices for your family and ministry?
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor for Facts & Trends.