Things aren’t normal, and we can’t lead like normal. Like any significant disruptor in life, we have a choice. We can complain about it (which I have done), or we can commit to making a difference (which I want to do). Leadership must take on a higher calling. People are increasingly more anxious. Some have had loved-ones become sick and even die. Everything has changed.
Leading in a crisis demands a different approach. We need to be far more diligent and aware. Author Peter Steinke writes, “How you handle yourself in times of change, ambiguity, or adversity is the touchstone of leadership.” Here are four principles to help us lead through this COVID -Crisis.
- Remain focused. Our purpose as a church hasn’t changed because of COVID-19. Most of our churches are doing very well. People are still coming to Christ. The Church is engaging with one another. One pastor shared that he has more people on his mid-week prayer meeting on zoom than they had at the church building. Remember that even in this tragic crisis, God is working.
- Submit to the Government. There is growing tension between the “Stay home, Stay safe” mandate, and the desire to meet together as a congregation. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities.” Our Christian witness is related to our citizenship. Just to be clear, the Romans were a very pagan government. Yet, Paul goes on to say that when we rebel against the government, we rebel against God (Romans 13:2ff) Yes, God is our ultimate authority, but he has placed imperfect governments to oversee our lives. And, just for record, NO, the church is not being singled out or persecuted at this time.
- Set an example. Pastor, your people are watching you! “Knowing that anxiety, like leaking water, flows down, leaders cannot be as anxious as everyone else. Because of the infectious nature of anxiety, the leader’s apprehensiveness contaminates the whole system” (Steinke). Yes, be real. It’s okay to acknowledge your own frustrations and anxieties. However, lead with others in mind. Your attitude and reactions affects others.
- Be flexible. It’s essential to make plans to transition back. Here’s a proposal from one of our pastors: When we can meet in groups of 10, we’ll meet in homes to watch online; when we can meet in groups of 50, we’ll have multiple services at the church building. Great plan! However, whatever plans we make, we must be flexible and willing to change direction. If Plan A doesn’t work, go with Plan B. And it would be good to have a Plan C!
- Communicate. Communicate. Let your congregation know what you are doing and what they can do. Announce changes and updates as soon as possible, using various means of communication. Explain why and what is going on. Build trust and cooperation by keeping in touch and the communication channels open.
BEFORE YOU GO
“Where there is the wind of change, some build walls; other build windmills” (Chinese Proverb). So, what other leadership principles do you think are needed? How do we build windmills instead of walls during these uncertain times? I’d love to hear from you!