Jesus is an artist, and he’s used the ugly raw material of the COVID-19 pandemic and re-fashioned it in ways we couldn’t conceive…
- We’ve all been dragged into a forced re-set—we’ve had to rely on Jesus, not our own ministry swagger or momentum, to feel our way forward. Remember how often you told yourself to embrace this imperative, but struggled to live it?
- Families are realizing that life is not about the next extracurricular, but something much more meaningful. Remember how often you’ve prayed (and complained) that their hearts would absorb this truth?
- Churches are thinking beyond their four walls to reach people stuck within walls. Remember how often you’ve “pounded the table” for this way of thinking with other leaders in your church?
In our ministry, we’ve reached more teenagers online than ever showed up in person. We’ve crossed international borders with our virtual feed (including a church in Peru that is translating what we’re doing into Spanish). Parents are watching our weekly online stream with their kids. Leaders are redefining what “shepherding” looks like—showing up with balloons and gifts for driveway birthday celebrations, for example.
And, of course, we’ve had to lean into some hard stuff—uncertainty and pain have leveraged our ministry and changed me…
1. This “marathon” sure demands a lot of “sprinting.”
Where is all that free time I hear people talking about? Our ministry teams are incredibly busy. And yet my/our pace may simply be propelled by assumptions about what we’re “supposed” to be doing, and who we think is “supposed” to answer that question.
The upside? I’m exploring new ways to pastor that transcend “programs.” because I actually care about my teenagers and what they’re going through, and I want to equip them in practical ways that will help them own and live their faith.
2. My definition of “necessity” has changed.
What’s worth spending time and money on during this season of bizarro-land ministry? Is the goal to match what other churches are doing? Or are we supposed to do what Jimmy Fallon and John Krasinki are pulling off in their homes? I once had a firm grasp on my ministry priorities and budget—now I feel stressed by uncertain options and financial uncertainty.
And yet I’m finding a fruitful action step each day called “faithfulness.” Without knowing for certain if/how people will continue to support the church financially, I’m leaning into the fact that I will. It’s shown me that there’s a unique joy in tithing versus hoarding, because instead of waiting for someone to tell me what’s needed, I’m calling it out myself by honoring God.
3. My bag of tricks has been emptied, revealing how tied to “predictability” I’ve been.
We canceled our summer trips—always a reliable “win” in furthering our ministry to teenagers. So now what do we do? What does matter? And what are the metrics we’re supposed to use, assuming the “normal” metrics will not be as relevant as they once were?
4. I have to hold long-term goals with an open hand.
Though we crave certainty and sometimes worship our strategic planning, there is great power in living in the moment—trusting Jesus to shine light just in front of our path, and no more. I wonder if this is what the disciples felt like following Jesus—he was always turning left when they expected him to turn right.
5. I’m concerned some of our core students are slipping into reactionary habits, and I want to save them from it.
Our teenagers, like yours, are trying to navigate profound discouragement, especially the seniors who are missing out on huge milestones. It’s getting old now, even though it’s only been a couple of months. And yet the novelty of not having to go to school has thrown everything off—from sleeping to “life rhythms” to emotional stability. Even our solid students have pulled back a bit, which tells me they’re worn out and maybe slipping into some bad habits.
I’m not complaining. I’m contemplating.
I’m committed to pursue Jesus in all of this, “knocking on his door” over and over, and asking that he morphs this misery into ministry. His methods are sometimes a mystery, but I know his heart is good and he’s intending to re-make us (and our ministries) into “trees” that bear even more fruit. It’s a re-set, whether or not we like it—now it’s up to us to decide how we’ll lean into it.
What about you? How is “The Season of COVID” changing you and your ministry?