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Emerging from the Pandemic

Here is what Sonya Renee Taylor, author of The Body is Not an Apology, says about the pandemic: “We will not go back to normal.  Normal never was.  Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack.  We should not long to return, my friends.  We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.  One that fits all of humanity and nature.” [1]

You don’t really want things to return to normal.  Really, you don’t.  You want things to be better than what was normal before the pandemic.  You can squander this time and just try to keep systems, processes and structures as they were before (a useless task), or you can use the time and tools you’ve been given to improve your systems, processes and structures to lead with the notion of coming out of this more Christ-like, that is more holy, than you were and that will, perforce, make you “stronger” in who you are and your commitment to the mission.

Crises also provide opportunities and this one is no different.  With programs and gatherings, feasts and festivals on hold, this crisis gives parish staffs an opportunity to focus on themselves as followers of Jesus, as servants to the Body of Christ, as living liturgy, as the very embodiment of Jesus Christ.   Lencioni says right now, this week, is the time to focus on this because the window of opportunity will collapse as re-opening begins.  Right now, is the time for a pastor and his staff to become a more intentional expression of Christianity than ever before.

Two weeks ago (4/20/20) in our blog, we posted a report from a Pat Lencioni webinar that gave us 3 things to be doing to strengthen the parish during the pandemic.  They were:

  • Build a culture of prayer in the office.
  • Build a culture of teamwork. Break down silos to get to one unified group.
  • Create a culture of fellowship.

This is part 2 of his webinar that tells us what to be doing now to prepare for emerging from the quarantine.

Have a series of Virtual meetings (several days apart) where you will do the following things:

  1. Virtual Meeting 1. As the pastor of their souls, you invite all of the leadership and office staff to this meeting, even those furloughed and laid off; day or evening (depending on everyone’s availability).  It’s important that everyone attend.  This is not a contractual/employment request but a spiritual one.  Ask your people to share where they are in all of this.  How are they doing/coping?  How are their families?  Share stories and updates.  Note what’s surfacing as this goes on so that you can ask them to pray for something or someone specific.  It’s important that you share your own story.  If you haven’t already done this, you, their pastor, start off by asking them to pray for you and the needs you express.  Ask the staff to share their own prayer requests.  When all have shared, pray, out loud, for the group’s needs.  A communal prayer life is critical in the office and builds trust.
  2. Virtual meeting 2.  (Just two days later) Again, work on the culture of fellowship within the group.  After checking in with everyone and seeing how they are doing, share your faith journey with the group and ask each person to do the same.  Allow about 10” each for this exercise.  This will build more trust.  Staff will want to share their faith journeys in further detail with others, building relationships.
  3. Virtual meeting 3.  (About 5 days after the first meeting.)  Everyone who works in and for the parish shares in its ministry to others.  Everyone is called to reveal Christ (priest), to speak Christ (prophet) and to set up ways of working that follow Christ’s methods and priorities (king).  They may not even be aware that they are ministers of the Lord.  Have a staff-wide conversation about how each person in each role, from janitor to business manager, DRE and ordained, bring Jesus to others in that role.  Help each person see themselves as engaged in ministry.

As the pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted, and things begin ramping up again, you will want to practice these exercises more frequently in this window of time so that you emerge even more conformed to Christ.  THIS is the time to move your church.  THIS is the window of opportunity that has been given to you.  THIS is the time to be embed these practices with the staff.   Let your staff become the beacon of light for your parish so that your parishioners can, themselves, be beacons of light to the world.

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