If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that connecting with other people is a big part of our life and happiness. Numerous studies have shown that isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, anxiety and other health issues. This is especially true if you consider yourself a people person.
We were created by God with a need and desire to live in community with others.
Some time ago, while I was working from home, I made the decision that I would go through the contact list on my phone. My goal is to reach out and reconnect with my family, friends and acquaintances by calling or texting. (Full disclosure, it’s a much bigger task than I initially thought. Apparently, I never delete a contact.)
Because I’m a pastor, many of those I’m reconnecting with are individuals who also serve in ministry. At some point in almost every conversation we end up asking each other, “How are things going in the ministry?”
After several conversations, it became apparent to me that there are some common themes with those who work and serve in ministry. I believe that it’s important for you to know what your pastor is really thinking and feeling as they minister in this season of COVID-19. So here are the five things your pastor is thinking and feeling right now.
First, he is busier than ever. He is learning new ways of doing ministry on multiple platforms. Not only is he preparing sermons to preach and lessons to teach, but he’s also preparing for both in-person and online audiences. He’s learning how to navigate social media posts. He’s maneuvering through counseling via phone calls and emails.
Zoom meetings have replaced coffee, lunch and conference room meetings. Hospital visits are restricted, if they are allowed at all. And we haven’t even mentioned drive-through funeral visitation, remote baptisms and social distanced in-person gatherings. It all adds up to a busy schedule.
Second, each week your minister is trying to get excited for in-person worship services that contain less than half the normal amount of people in attendance. He definitely feels the pressure to keep everyone safe, so he’s attentive to mask-wearing, social-distancing and sanitizing. He also knows that there is a good percentage of the church family that are not attending in-person or watching online. All of this weighs heavily on him.
Third, and honestly, your pastor’s heart is divided. He feels the responsibility of reassuring everyone that, “When this is over, it’ll all be good,” but deep down he wonders if that’s really true. What if the new normal becomes normal and the old normal never returns? What if life isn’t better, and we aren’t stronger on the other side? What if there is no other side?
Fourth, believe it or not, your pastor is just as tired as you are of using pandemic language. He’s wearied from words and phrases like: unprecedented, quarantine, epidemic, social-distancing, pivot and flatten the curve. But you also should know that he’s made up a few words of his own. For example: COV-idiot. (I think you can figure out what that one means.)
Finally, your pastor is praying more desperately and seeking God’s wisdom more than ever before. He’s been called to lead a church family through a season for which he’s ill-prepared. He prays for those who are vulnerable. He prays for those who are angry. He prays for those who have dropped off the radar. He’s thankful for those who have returned and are serving faithfully.
The bottom line is that he’s praying more desperately and intensely than ever before. Yet, he’s thanking God that he’s been given the privilege of serving Him at such a time as this.
So now that you know what you pastor is really thinking, what can you do?
Encourage him. Be flexible as the church makes changes to keep everyone healthy. Be willing to lend a hand when you see a need. Pray for him.
And don’t be a COV-idiot.
Michael Kast is campus pastor of Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus.