Yes, we are back and refreshed from our Sabbatical! Thank you for letting us get away! We also came back to continued concerns about COVID. The Delta variant continues to spread. I’m hearing from our pastors that more people have gotten sick from this new wave than ever before. And while the list of symptoms varies from patient to patient, there are many unexpected side-effects.
I belong to a forum entitled Church Answers which allows thousands of pastors and leaders to ask questions they are facing in ministry. Recently Tom Rainer shared the seven most common concerns currently discussed. Here they are…
1. Greater polarization and divisions. In the first wave of COVID, churches faced divisions over politics, masks, regathering, streaming services, and social distancing. All those divisions still exist, but the polarization over vaccinations has been added to the mix.
2. Weariness expanded. We are all tired. Church leaders particularly feel the exhaustion of dealing with so many issues. Both church leaders and members can get ornery and critical as a consequence of their exhaustion.
3. Decision fatigue growing. We have spoken to countless pastors who tell us the biggest surprise of the pandemic as a church leader was all the new decisions they had to make. Every week, many church leaders are confronted with gather or don’t gather, masks or no masks, and other issues unique to the pandemic.
4. Hopelessness pervasive. The first major wave of COVID did not have the sense of hopelessness that is endemic with the second wave. You felt in the first round that it would be over and done, even if it took a year or so. The second wave has been a real challenge. Many church leaders find themselves reminding their church members of the hope of Christ more than they ever had.
5. Confusion about the path forward. With the first wave of COVID, church leaders expressed confidence in one of two paths forward. One perspective was that churches would resume their practices just as they were before the pandemic. The second and majority view was that churches would face a new normal and must learn to adjust. But church leaders today wonder if any stability is on the horizon. There seems to be change after change with no time to catch your breath.
6. Denominational structures destabilizing. Churches that are a part of a denomination had to deal with the reality that the level of resources and help was not nearly what it was in the past. Even before COVID, most denominational structures were shrinking. But with the second wave, we see many denominational structures destabilizing. They don’t know their own future, so they are often at a loss to help the churches they serve.
7. Major personnel shifts in churches. With the first wave of COVID, we saw many churches reduce personnel costs. This second wave seems to be ushering in a new era where church leaders must rethink everything about both full-time and part-time staff. The era of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry has arrived rapidly. There will not likely be a new normal any time soon, if ever.
Originally posted on September 6, 2021 by Tom Rainer
BEFORE YOU GO
No one anticipated this pandemic to hang on as long as it has. Some of the best advice I can give is simply to hang in there. One of the promises I keep coming back to is this: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV). Be faithful! Yes, it is messy. Yes, it isn’t easy. But Jesus never promised it would be! However, he did promise we would be fruitful as we keep Him and the cross central to all we do and say.