COVID has divided us in myriad ways.
One of the ways we are divided right now is in how we view the threat of the pandemic versus our sense that we’re making the cure worse than the illness. Where we land on that spectrum will affect what steps we believe are needed as precautions.
As the nation experiences its largest spike in COVID cases to date, we are seeing it further polarize our church families.
Just today I spoke with a pastor who had an elder and several small group members leave the church because the church is only meeting virtually and these families deeply desire to be in corporate worship together with other believers.
That’s painful to go through.
I get it.
Personal confession: Once a month I’m driving nearly an hour to attend a church that I coach at.
While we would visit several times a year anyway, I’m doing this once a month primarily for the mental and emotional health I feel when I’m congregating and physically present.
Church leaders are certainly caught between a rock and a hard place.
It seems like there is no right way to lead in 2020.
Here are a few ways you can adjust to avoid division in your church and the churches in your region:
1. Realize that whatever you do, and even what you don’t do, will be criticized
The more you’re willing to accept being criticized, the more you can lead with clarity and confidence, knowing it will certainly not make everyone happy. You’re the one in the arena, fighting the fight!
This is a great time to quote Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
I know churches that say they’ll never shut their doors again.
I know churches that will only shut their doors if hospital beds are full, and then only for 1-2 weeks.
I know churches that don’t intend to open until 4-6 months after there is a vaccine (or longer).
Pray through it all.
Bring in your staff leadership team and elders and solicit discernment everywhere you can.
Then decide, and find peace that you have an identified path forward.
The arrows will come, but you’ll be okay.
2. Cover the threshold of your front door AND back door with grace
If you’re open physically, you’ll get people from churches that are only virtual.
If you’re only virtual, you’ll get people who are mad that their church is opening despite the spike in cases.
Accept those who come to your church now, knowing that when this is all over, the reasons they came will change and it might be right for them to return to their home churches.
Love ’em while you can! Invest in them fully. They are God’s family and soldiers who need equipping to fight the fit. Gracefully send them back when the time is right.
3. Point no fingers
Some in your church will come back any day the doors are open. Some will come back as COVID declines and momentum builds. Others may not come back until this pandemic is a distant memory. Still others may not come back at all.
Trust God. He is in complete control.
Whatever their situation, it is safe to assume you don’t know 100% of their reasoning to stay away, and you don’t need to.
Don’t look for an answer. Just fill the gap with grace and peace.
Until next week, Grace & Peace.