Love on a Tightrope
Posted by: jepenner on Friday, October 30, 2020 at 1:41PM
Love on a Tightrope
For pastors, COVID has been a time of walking a tightrope.
In a profession that relies heavily on in-person contact, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the burdens that pastors are required to shoulder: social distancing requirements, the move to online services, when to open up, how to open up, navigating arguments from those who favor and those who dislike mask-wearing. All of this on top of normal demands of ministry is a lot, says Kevin Yule of Scottsdale Bible Church in Scottsdale, AZ.
"It sounds cliché, but there really is no precedent for this. It can feel like whatever decision you make, half of the congregation will be upset. It's been such a rollercoaster. In the beginning, we were missing people and the connections we had when we were gathering for worship and small groups. In a way there was some excitement, too, because we found that we could get creative with online services. We got intentional with our personal one-on-one calls, and there were tons of handwritten letters and prayers over the phone. Now that we're back in person, we're still creative, but we're also tempering emotions. You go from sadness to encouragement, but there's still some apprehension about going after it again."
Scott Blount, of Vero Christian Church, had a similar experience.
"We went through periods of time when we weren't doing in-person services. We are back to those now, but it's a balancing act. We don't want to do either-or; we know that online attendance is great, but you miss out on the fellowship and social interactions. We're working on those, too."
But pastors say this uptick in creativity has led to tremendous outreach efforts – both from the congregation and from pastors themselves. In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, the job losses and shutdowns led groups to spring into action to serve those who were in need. While the number of job losses from church to church vary, the outpouring of support and service for those in crises has been telling.
"People were donating stimulus checks they knew they didn't need to those in the congregation who'd lost their jobs," says Blount. "Folks were providing meals – it was a very Acts 2 way of doing things."
"Our leadership team calls each member of the congregation at least once a month to discern needs and intercede in prayer,' says Steve Jones, also of Vero Christian Church.
Pastors, too, have come alongside each other for support. At Scottsdale Bible Church, Yule says pastors have prayed for each other and supported each other in ways that are deeply personal - perhaps more so than before.
"The men I've been meeting with have really stressed the importance of 'wait, be patient.' There's also a lot of prayer for our families and personal lives, even more than we would normally do before. […] I've found handwritten notes of encouragement from Jimmy, another staff member at SBC. During this season we've been able to slow down and focus on the hearts of the brothers and sisters we serve alongside. Jimmy has modeled that so well; there are things I've shared three weeks ago he's still praying for. Knowing you've got a brother in arms who's praying for you has been very encouraging. There's been a lot of one –on-one meetings that have been a lot of soul-care, but Jimmy is a great example of someone who's stepped up and loved me personally."
So, as we wrap up Pastors Appreciation Month, how can we continue to support the pastors in our lives? For Blount, the biggest way is through prayer.
"Pray that God will lead us as we navigate this strange time we're in," says Blount. "Prayer for guidance on how we bridge the gap between those who want to open and those who think we should stay closed. I pray for Vero and for Churches all over – that we will be known by our love."