For church leaders to say the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way they do ministry would be an understatement. And it changes every day.
Pastors and church leaders have a unique set of concerns in this COVID-19 era. They’re grieving that they can’t meet with those they lead. They’re concerned about the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in their congregations. They’re concerned about keeping their people engaged and their ministries afloat.
They’re pouring themselves out, more than ever.
In the midst of their faithful service to God and to us, we, as people in their congregation, can minister to them. We talked with several pastors and church leaders about what they need from their people in this unprecedented season of ministry.
Here are a few of the recurring themes and direct quotes of ways their church members can care for them:
1. They need for you to lighten their load by caring for one another.
“The best way the members of my church can minister to me during this pandemic season is to minister to each other. As a pastor, I am concerned that our people stay in prayer and remain connected to one another. I want those who have needs to be served. I pray that our members will grow in faith, hope, and love. But I can’t reach out to everyone. My burden is lightened first by knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd, and second by knowing that people are doing the work of ministry among each other. When this is over, I will find great joy in knowing that ministry was happening though it all.”
“Think of creative ways to serve and send ideas to the pastor and staff. For example, one member asked if he could lead some virtual small groups for people not in community groups. We have to get creative about how to meet and have community without being around each other. (This is hard and unique.) Give us grace.”
2. They need for you to share your church’s livestream ministry activities on your social media platforms.
“Share our livestreams or content or let us know how they’re helping. Many of us are working far more than we ever worked, trying to salvage some measure of community, congregational worship, and discipleship. We’re not after clicks or views, but when you share it or let us know how it’s helping you, it helps us know the extra elbow grease is worth it.”
“Use this time to show appreciation and support (loyalty) to the church that they’ve been attending in person for years. There are other churches with a bigger online presence, but it is hurtful seeing a longtime member promoting what ‘the other church down the road’ is doing. Those churches often have a bigger staff, bigger budget, and bigger technology capabilities. I have a couple people who attend here, and have for many years, yet they only promote what larger churches are doing. Yes, I know ‘we are all one Church,’ but your smaller church may be struggling and could use that same help. Besides, these same people expect their church to serve them when they need it.”
3. They need for you to consider how their families are affected.
“Many of us are navigating these waters with extra family members in our house, some of which may be younger and need more attention. While we can’t go out for a date night, dropping off a meal, a movie, a board game, or something will not only let us know you care, but also serve as a not-so-subtle reminder to pull back and minister to our family.”
“Remember, our family is affected too. Our kids are at home, our spouses’ jobs are being altered, etc.”
4. They need for you to continue faithfully giving.
“It would be helpful if people other than the pastoral staff would remind people to give. We’re not saying ‘remember to tithe’ because it will save the church’s jobs. We’re saying to give because it is biblical. If something was biblical before coronavirus, it’s still biblical now.”
5. They need for you to understand the truth about how busy they are.
“Many may think since the building is not open, we are less busy. But it’s actually the opposite: We are very busy. When the congregation goes through tough times (job loss, fear, anxiety, etc.) we are called on a lot, which is great, and it’s part of our calling. But this means we get busy.”
“Give grace and understanding. Send encouragement, verses, thanks, etc. We are trying to help connect our people to the church while we can’t meet.”
What are some ways you have ministered to your church leadership during this season?
Joy Allmond serves on the Lifeway corporate communications team and is managing editor of Facts & Trends, Lifeway’s online magazine geared toward church leaders.