Our world is ever changing. A little over a month ago, and few of us had ever heard of the Coronavirus. Now, most of us have moved our offices and ministries into our homes and are hosting youth group gatherings through Zoom and YouTube.
With a changing world comes a change in the method and manner in which we do ministry. But the question is, “how do we do effective ministry and planning in times such as these?” Well, today I hope to give you some advice and tips for how to do this well going forward. This is not a catchall, but rather some tips that I hope help you to think creatively through where your ministry is at and where it is going.
This is hard to do when life is uncertain and events, outings, and gatherings are being cancelled farther out than we would have hoped. That means that for some of us, summer trips have already been cancelled or we are preparing for that to happen. Let me encourage you to at least begin to brainstorm about what this summer will look like if trips fall through.
Begin to come up with contingencies: think through what it would like for you to host a mission trip in your community, consider if there is a local camp you could host a retreat at, think about hosting a multi-church retreat in your town.
But planning ahead is more than just about trips, it is also about normal programming. Many of us have already changed how we do programming, but have you thought about the long term? Do you have a plan for if your group cannot gather through the summer? Planning ahead can add more to your plate and yes, in many ways it is hypothetical, but it is also prudent and necessary. Think through what programming could look like if our present state continues. Thinking through engagement, leader training, and ministering to families in light of our current circumstances is beneficial now and will help you build a stronger ministry going forward.
Set yourself and your ministry up well
Many ministries are trying to do all the things right now. They have started using all types of social media, they have started live streaming, they are hosting Zoom calls every day, they are constantly trying to be relevant, and honestly it is leading to exhaustion and burnout.
The reality is that right now you should scale your ministry carefully. You need to put together a plan that is sustainable and usable after you get back into “normal” programming. To scale up to a large level that isn’t something you can continue for the long haul is not productive. You can always scale up, but if you start big and have to reduce, people will lose trust in what you are doing. Start at a good rate and build off of that.
Remember your people
During this period and other times of uncertainty, just because our rhythms have changed or because our schedule allows for us to do more doesn’t mean everyone else can. Your volunteers are feeling overwhelmed and scared, some are working extra hours, others have lost jobs. Because of this, we cannot expect our people to do all the things. We cannot mandate that they do more than they were before or even the same amount as their lives and rhythms are drastically changing.
But this also means we should be intentional about connecting and communicating with our people. This will look different than it did when we all could gather together, but it could be as simple as calling someone instead of texting. Sending someone a personal card in the mail. Clearly explaining the plan and how you will get there. Remember to care well for them as they care well for your students.
Feeling more tired than normal? Working extra hours? Don’t have a safe place to call home because home is now your work space? That is the case for many of us. With our ministries going remote, we have seen an uptick in how much we have to do. For many of us, we are still trying to manage a normal schedule on top of learning new things, teaching in new ways, and equipping our volunteers and families.
All that means we are feeling tired and overwhelmed, and we need to make sure that we are not being set up to fail. In order to do that you must set appropriate boundaries. Some of these boundaries could include continuing to have normal working hours, hosting meetings and gatherings when you normally would have, taking time off when you normally would have, making sure to still invest in your family, and continuing to care for your own soul and health. You need to be holistically healthy to run a ministry and care for others; make sure you are doing that and setting healthy rhythms in our new normal.
Be willing to adapt
Have things changed for you? Are you doing ministry in a way you never thought you would? Are you challenging students to be more digitally connected when before you were calling for them to disconnect from media? Life comes at you fast, doesn’t it?
We must be willing to adapt, change, and overcome. Life has changed for us, which means our rhythm of doing ministry has changed as well. We are not changing our mission but simply the way we go about fulfilling it. We must be willing to adapt in order to further the mission. You may need to move to an online structure, you may not be able to meet together, you may need to care for your people in new ways. That doesn’t mean we throw in the towel, but instead find new ways to continue in the mission God has called us to.
Don’t take things personally
Have you had a conversation with an exhausted volunteer who is stepping back because you want too much? Has a parent emailed you demanding to know your plan for the future? Have you had a store clerk yell at you or a delivery driver give you a dirty look?
Welcome to where our world is at. People are fearful, tired, anxious, and isolated. That means that people will respond poorly and at times lash out, especially at those they are looking to for answers. It isn’t right or deserved, but we must remember the fragile state of so many in our world. Don’t take these moments as a personal assault, but be willing to still love and care for people in the midst of everything that is happening.
Care for your people
As was stated above, people are scared, alone, and unsure. It is in times like these that we must make every effort to care well for our people. Send texts, make calls, offer services like dropping off a meal or dessert, be willing to pick up items for others when you go shopping, write a letter, or simply let people know you are praying for them.
We are great at caring for people when we are physically with them, now we need to do it when we are apart. This is where our people will see that we love and care for them, and it provides us a real opportunity to show Jesus and His love during a difficult time.