Seasons change. When a season changes there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. Some seasons of life are welcomed while others are dreaded. And while we may not be able to prevent a season from occuring we can choose how we respond. Right now we are in a season unwelcomed through the COVID-19 virus. It has forced me to slow down in ways that have allowed me to reflect on the craziness from 2019. Allow me to share what lessons I learned in our first crisis as a church that are helping in our current crisis.
It’s hard to think about a time being crazy when compared to 2020, but that is exactly what our church leadership encountered in 2019. Last year was a season of transition and change for our staff. We said goodbye to some while welcoming new team members on. We restructured our leadership, moved positions around, and even created new ministries. By the time the school year rolled around it seemed that the “Promised Land” was before us! Little did we know that our staff would be shaken to our core just a few months into Autumn.
I remember the day clearly when Paul went to the hospital. Paul was many things to me. He was a friend, mentor, my friend and Lead Pastor’s father, and eventually a member of my team at Calvary Church. He suffered an accident earlier in the year where it was clearly through the hands of God that he survived. Yet almost 6 months later he was told he had cancer.
Our team began to move swiftly to make the necessary adjustments to our ministry and to not have Paul and his wife worry about their responsibilities at the church. I was humbled to see them come together, not only in an emergency, but doing so with honor, grace, and wisdom, to prepare for Paul’s return. I visited Paul as often as I could. Just a few weeks later it was evident that Paul would recieve his eternal reward. Our staff came together and we were able to lead him in worship and communion in his hospital room just one day before he was rewarded. Nothing could prepare our staff, our pastor, myself, and our church, for what we were about to experience.
How leaders respond to tragedy reveals the truth buried deep within their hearts. Several members of our team met and determined a plan that would cover the following 6 weeks to allow our pastor time to heal. Looking back at that week’s agenda, I had no idea how important that time of planning would become. Our worship pastor and I met earlier that week recognizing the events that were about to unfold and spent hours putting together the plan that would carry us into the new year praying we wasted our time and would never need this plan.
Our staff and board gave no issue to the plan to let our pastor take time to heal. We determined a balanced preaching schedule among some of our pastors to fill the pulpit, who was doing what responsiblities, and how business as usual was to be maintained. Adjustments were made, but that was okay, because our pastor needed us. As the Executive Ministries Pastor, a majority of responsibilities landed on my lap during this time.
Was it stressful? Absolutely!
Would I do it again? Without thought.
But why would I be okay stepping into a crisis like this again if I had to?
First, my pastor is also my friend, and I hurt for him. He needed this time and I was willing to do whatever it took for him to be taken care of.
Second, the lessons I learned as a leader in this six week time period have transformed who I am as a leader and pastor.
So what are the lessons I learned?
Remember that God uses the entire team!
One of the top things I’ve heard many leaders say in response to the COVID-19 outbreak is that this is the time leaders need to take charge and temporarily direct their team and leaders in what to do and how to do it. Growing through this season in 2019 has proved to me that this sentiment could not be more wrong. By bringing our team together, we were able to come up with creative ways to solve each challenge we were facing AND still were able to have our largest Christmas Eve yet. If the ball landed on one of us to entirely plan the next 6 weeks and tell everybody what to do, this not only would never have happened, but chances are some of us may not have stayed through into 2020.
I never had to work with our staff on this level before. We never lead through this crisis before. Yet together, we were able to bring our ideas together and let God move through them! Pastors, when you are facing a crisis, remember that God speaks to your staff pastors too!
God can move, even in a crisis.
I believe God honored our faithfulness to Him and the leadership He gave us in how we responded as a staff. None of us were out for personal gain but put in the extra work and sleepless nights because we knew it was what we needed to do during this season. This is a humbling reminder that this is GOD’s church, not any individual pastor’s, and when God plans to move it will happen regardless of anything else.
During this season we saw the largest growth in all of 2019, not just in attendance, but in new salvations! We were down several staff members including our lead pastor during this time. No amount of statistics would have spoke into this reality. But God…He still moved! If God can move during this first crisis as a church, He can certainly move in our current crisis. It may not be what you expect but it will always be what God has willed.
You can stay true to your Vision and Mission even as the world around you changes.
One thing was for certain during this time where we as a church were going to hold true to our vision and mission: to lead others into an overflowing life with Jesus. In the end, I believe we did just that. It’s evident in seeing how God will move in all times. A crisis may shake the moment but when our vision and mission are truly from Him then the crisis becomes a new hurdle resulting in the church to think creatively in how we can continue to fullfil his calling in our community.
Ending our season strong was critical.
We knew that as leaders we set the culture for our church. We let mourning occur as needed but we knew that a new year was right around the corner. 2020 had so much promise to us as we sat in a season of dispair. So we planned to end the year and decade off on the highest note possible. READY to take on a new year and new decade. Coming off of the Christmas season, I had the opportunity to share how “Christmas made victory a reality”. Why? Because Jesus was born our savior, died our savior, risen our savior, and is always our savior. You can find this message below.
2020 not only had promise. It still does. This year may not be playing out how anybody expected, but as we continue in this season I am holding to these lessons I learned in my teams first crisis. God is still God, He is forever good, and He has been doing this a lont longer than you and I have. This year caught us of guard but not for God. I am thankful for this season of growth no matter how trying it may be.