I was in a discussion earlier with many pastors from around our state. The topic of discussion was how our churches are doing through the pandemic. We have all suffered, learned and seen some good things through these difficult times.
For Radiant Fellowship, we have been offering virtual church since 2010. During this pandemic however, we have exponentially ramped up our game. We went from a strategically placed webcam to a full on mixing console with direct sound from the sound board. The video is better as well. I am excited for the prospect of continuing on with our online presence. For a smaller church, we are doing what we can with what we have without having to go into debt over it.
What has discouraged me however (and other pastors I have chatted with) are the well meaning parishioners that either watch from home or attend in person and critique the church while not pitching in. I can speak for the church that I pastor that a total of 6 people have kept this thing afloat during these difficult times. When we first had to shut down to when we were doing church in the parking lot with our FM broadcaster, we have done a lot. I am thankful that we did not have to shut down for one week during all of this. I attribute this to the amount of tech and teamwork it took to stay a float.
I recall not long into having to do church differently and amidst my moments of panic, I received a text message saying our worship is doing the same songs. There was even one that rolled in stating we should start our kids ministry as well. These well meaning comments are fine really. My only gripe is that they were coming from people that were not willing to step in or attend in person so that they could help. Trust me when I say a pastor knows what is missing or could be ramped up during these times…at least they should. The last thing they need to hear from a person is what’s missing or what could change without offering some degree of help.
Many pastors have left the ministry during this pandemic. Many MANY more are really tired but looking on the bright side of life. This according to an article/video by Barna,
“When it comes to emotional well-being, there are both positive and negative trends. Despite disruptions, over half of pastors (55%) have primarily felt happy in the last week, and other favorable emotions surface too (36% grateful, 26% optimistic, 16% content). Yet another half (51%) admits they were tired. Two in five say they primarily felt exhausted (41%), sad (41%) or panicked (39%) last week. Other concerning emotions less commonly felt include a sense of being powerless (17%), angry (16%) or indifferent (5%). There are some signs that leaders could be receiving support, however; over one-third felt helped (37%) or strong (35%).”
I say all of that to say this, when you offer a suggestion to a pastor…rethink it. If you are not willing to step in and help then it might not be so wise to offer your constructive criticism. We will get back to normal at some point but many churches (the one I pastor included) run and rely on volunteers. I am so thankful for all that they do and will not even consider asking them to do more. We’ve come this far and we will make it to the end.