There is so much information today about COVID-19 and how the church needs to respond to it—especially going forward.
I've been invited to more webinars than I can count. I receive new suggestions every day. Recently, I asked some of our staff to listen to some of them and take notes to share. I simply couldn't keep up with all of it.
Who should we be listening to right now as church leaders? Certainly, things are going to be different in the days ahead. What are the reliable sources of information?
In my opinion, there are at least five voices we need in our life right now. There may be others, and I'm open to more suggestions, but these are the ones I'm trying to glean from as much as I can.
5 Needed Voices for Church Leaders
- God: I threw this one in because it's true—always—but to starve off the naysayers when I don't state the obvious. Of course, we should be listening to God during this pandemic—and every other season of our ministry. And His voice should override any other voices. I believe God would, however, also have us use our minds and discern wisdom from others.
- Government leaders: I'm trying to listen to leaders closest to our church. For us, this is our county and city mayors. Thankfully, both are godly men and are closely working together. I realize that's unusual and may not be the case in your community.
But local governments best understand our community and are attempting to guide us through this pandemic. They need our support. I have also communicated with our local sheriff who has taken a very forward role in encouraging social distancing downtown—and we are a downtown church. Next for me is our state leadership and then federal leadership.
I think "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's" applies here in principle. The context of your community and state (or even country for my international readers) may be different, but we can't ignore our government leaders. Romans 13 teaches cooperation with our governing authorities. At the same time, God's word commands us to gather and fellowship as a body of believers. That's a very delicate balance of the two for all of us right now. Personally, I want to shepherd people well, but, as a large church with a long history, I also want to be a leader among our community and when we return to services.
- Other ministry leaders: I'm thankful for those who have time right now to reimagine things, as I'm busy trying to lead a local church. (And these are some of the ones I asked staff members to follow and take notes. You could do that with volunteers also.)
Here are a few I'm especially paying attention to. I know all of these leaders personally and respect them first as individuals, but also for their advice and wisdom in this time:
—Carey Nieuwhof: Carey is always forward-thinking. He's got a course on crisis leadership (and lots of other resources) I love that he's partnering with David Kinnaman and Gloo to study the pulse of the church each week.
—William Vanderbloemen: Vanderbloemen has been gathering some great information throughout this crisis. And his organization is putting it out often in "real time" as information became available. Very helpful.
—Shawn Lovejoy: Shawn is one of the most genuine people I know. He really wants to help people. He's been gathering pastors and leaders.
—Generis: Jim Shepherd, Brad Lewter, Dave Travis, Geoff Surratt and the whole team have been great resources through this crisis.
—Horizon Stewardship: I've been following Joe Park and his team on LinkedIn, and they are posting good stuff. I just did a webinar with them.
—Church Answers: Thom Rainer is a thinker and researcher. He has put together a great team, and they impact thousands of churches. I notice he has a webinar this week.
—ECFA: I appreciate this organization for their credibility and guidance. They are a trusted and reliable source on issues of law and finance.
—ERLC: When it came to whether or not we should ethically apply for government relief funds, Russell Moore and his team were my most trusted voice. They are passionate about religious freedom. I know they always take a biblical but practical approach to issues.
There are certainly others out there. Please feel free to add them in the comments and I may add to this post. I get nothing out of this post—no endorsement, no sponsorship fees and so forth. Again, I know the people behind these personally and consider them friends. I trust them as individuals.
- Other church leaders: Here's the reality. No one understands completely what you are going through as a pastor or church leader like another pastor or church leader. One reason, as a consultant, I always want to still have some role in the local church is so I don't lose the relevancy of actually doing the work. A go-to principle for me as a leader is "you can't see what I see until you sit where I sit". The ground always looks different when you are actually on the ground. We should glean all we can from those with the 10,000-foot view, but we should also be learning from our own peers.
I have been getting with a couple of different pastor groups, one local and one composed of pastors from around the nation. It's been my richest source for real practical application. You could form your own group of pastors. Share stories and pain. Learn from each other.
- Your gut: Here's the deal. Your church is not like any other church. The community to which you minister is also unique. I often say to "the more your heart is following Jesus, the more you can trust your gut." If you're listening to the first voice I mentioned—God—and gleaning the best you can from the others, don't stall with decision paralysis. You may simply have to make a call without all the answers. (That's called faith.)
Pastor, don't be afraid to be the innovator. Now is not the time to shrink back. It's a time to lead. Take the risks. Learn from the ground floor ministering to your people. See what is on their hearts and minds. What are the unique needs they have in this season? Many of these will be contextual to your community.
And don't forget you likely serve a larger audience today with your online presence. Some of these are right in your community. They may not have been involved in any church before, but they came looking for hope and you are meeting that need for them right now. Don't ignore that when people start coming back to your buildings.
I'm praying for you. By the way, I have room for some online coaching clients. Contact me for details. If I can help you, please let me know.
Ron Edmondson is a church and organizational leadership consultant. Most recently he was CEO of Leadership Network. Previously, he was a pastor, revitalizing two churches and planting two churches. He has also been a church leadership consultant.
For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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