5 Ways to Make Progress in Lockdown Ministry
Now that we are becoming accustomed to ministry during the coronavirus lockdown, it’s a good time to pause and evaluate how to continue serving our churches best.
Last weekend was our twelfth live streamed Sunday at Christchurch Harborough. I don’t know what you expected going into lockdown, but I don’t imagine you were thinking much beyond this point, if this far. Yet all the indications are that as far as having to do things online we’re probably barely halfway yet.
This means it’s a great time to pause and take stock. All church leaders are approaching church in different ways depending on our church situations and personal capacity - which is itself a function of time and gifting. No two churches have identical strategies.
So, what can we do to keep making progress in our ministry? Here are five ideas.
Remember that the goal of ministry is unchanged
It’s worth remembering that the goal of ministry is always the same: we are there to shepherd the flock and reach outsiders.
We’re not technological innovators, internet ministry leaders, nor widely acclaimed practitioners. Some of us will find lockdown plays to our strengths; others will find it accentuates our weaknesses. In either case, let’s focus on the goal of ministry.
Each church is different. Each leader is different.
Ministry covetousness is always harmful, but especially so now. For example, I don’t have access to some of the resources my neighbouring pastor has, whereas he, on the other hand, can’t play the piano!
God has uniquely gifted us and we need to be content with this. Comparisons are not just about personal ability: they're also about context. I was very struck in my book group this week that two of us are channelling our inner-1950s pastor and doing most things (out of necessity) whilst two have very able assistants. That’s simply how it is. Whether someone has an assistant or not is not about how good I am at something.
It’s worth saying – especially so at the moment – that some churches and leaders simply find the experience of embracing technology too hard. That’s fine. We heard of one church this week that is doing nothing online, but simply recording audio messages and sending them around church members; another which is directing members towards another local church’s feed.
Don’t be afraid of learning new things
Being content with our gifting is not a call to stagnation - there may be new things we can learn.
For example, I’ve had to learn a bit of basic video editing. It took a while but paid off.
We probably don’t have huge amounts of time to invest in learning new skills, so don’t imagine you’ll be up to Grade 8 Pipe Organ by the end of the month. But there may be some micro-skills that could serve your people and which you could learn. Equally, there may be others in church who you could encourage to learn new skills too.
Re-evaluate what is sustainable
Going into lockdown probably resembled an under-12s 400m run. Some of us went out of the blocks at a hair-raising speed and have slowed and tired. Others – like the proverbial tortoise – did very little and are better paced for the long haul. But either way, twelve weeks in is a good time to evaluate what is sustainable in the longer term.
Don’t be afraid to pull back from some things if you simply can’t keep them going. Perhaps you do have some capacity to add? Probably all of us need to consider whether some of the things we do could be better replaced by an alternative.
Pacing yourself also includes, of course, the need for weekly and longer-term rest. Don’t forget to build this in. It will have to look different from how you would normally enjoy ‘Sabbath’, but don’t neglect to schedule it.
This goes for long periods of rest (aka holiday) as well as weekly breaks. And if you’re channelling the 1950s do-it-all pastor, that may mean your church needs a week off too.
Don’t let Satan accuse you about your lack of online charisma
I’ve come to the conclusion that the secular occupation most like online preaching and leading is a radio DJ. They have to chunter away to their listening audience although they have no interaction with them. It’s a particular and rare skill. Hence why so many radio shows nowadays have two presenters or teams of presenters. It means that DJs can interact with real people. The skill of making people feel that they’re physically with you is rare.
It probably means that some of us who are very comfortable preaching in buildings find doing it online hard. It probably means (though no one will tell us) that some of us who are ‘fair to middling’ preachers are pretty hopeless online. The number who will really be able to shine in this environment is likely to be low.
That’s okay. Speaking online is not what we were called to do, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much if we’re not that good at it (or if we fear others may think we are not that good). Don’t let Satan have this foothold.
Keep serving. Keep praying. Keep pressing on. And the Lord will do his work.