I love this definition of the word "panic":
noun - a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.
Most church leaders have not reached a state of full-blown panic yet. But many are starting to show real signs of fatigue and apprehension about the future.
And that's totally understandable.
I've sensed a noticeable shift in perspective over the past month as we enter summertime and month #5 of a very stressful time for church leaders.
Here's what I'm hearing from many leaders:
- We recently started back with in-person services and are seeing just 20-40% of pre-COVID attendance.
- Our online viewership is declining week-to-week, and down dramatically month-to-month since April.
- Our offerings have been consistently good, but we worry those numbers will start to decrease as well.
- We are having a hard time determining who from our church is engaged and who is not.
- We know 'online' will play a big part in our future, but we don't know what that looks like. Nor do we have the budget or staff to pull that off right now.
- Our team is split between those who have 'leaned in' and those that have 'zoned out.' And honestly, we can't commit to continuing paying those that haven't pivoted well during this season. We’re going to have to have some really hard conversations very soon.
- We have to start making tough decisions on priorities and direction, budgets, and staff in the next 30 to 60 days.
- We. Are. Exhausted.
In the discussions I've had with church leaders over the past two weeks, I've shared two things that have instantly brought relief and lessened anxiety.
I want to share them with you today in case they also help relieve any anxiety or panic that may be starting to set in.
Honestly, they are not rocket science. But they are helpful.
Here they are.
Everyone is exhausted, and no one has all the answers.
(Told you they weren’t rocket science).
But let me explain.
EVERYONE IS EXHAUSTED!
The first thing I tell senior church leaders is that it's ok to be exhausted. I've not talked with one church leader who didn't say they were drained right now.
Many haven't felt this level of anxiety, pressure, and exhaustion at any other time in their ministry. If unchecked, it will turn into full-fledged panic.
This may seem simplistic, but just knowing that you're not crazy does take the edge off.
So hear this.
You. Are. Not Crazy.
And you are not the only one.
This is a very stressful time to serve. We talked a couple of weeks ago about taking time to refresh. If you haven't already done that, please do.
But let me set your mind at ease: You are not the only one that's exhausted right now. So don't think you are.
Just knowing that this is normal will help you clear up some headspace that you'll need in the next few weeks.
NO ONE HAS ALL THE ANSWERS
Most of us DON’T know more than we DO know.
The biggest question I get is: who is doing this right? Who has figured this out?
My answer: No one.
No one has the church's future figured out because no one has any idea what will happen tomorrow, let alone next month. (And if they tell you they do, they’re probably trying to sell you something).
For example, there are very few successful digital engagement models to share because everyone is trying to figure it all out.
When I share with leaders that, really, no one has cracked this nut yet, I hear a (sometimes physical) sigh of relief.
Stop pressuring yourself to have all the answers right now because nobody does.
The fact that everyone is exhausted and nobody has all the answers should be freeing to you as a leader.
It doesn't change the eight problems that I mentioned earlier, but it does give you some space.
One of the best ways I know to eliminate the stress and pressure of these times is to walk with others through it. Find a group of like-minded pastors and leaders that you can learn with and lead through this time.
At Chemistry, we are putting together a group of such like-minded leaders in our Building a New Church Online Strategy Lab. You'll join with 6-8 other church teams to help determine your plan for the future.
Here’s the beauty of a group like this. No one has the answer and is exhausted trying to figure this all out. But as a group, you hear different perspectives and different ideas. It stretches your horizon to what could be and what makes sense for your own church.
You'll have the ability to bounce your ideas off of other leaders. You'll determine your church's path forward in community. And you will leave with a written plan to move you forward. Best of all, you'll be encouraged (and commiserate with) other leaders that are in the same boat as you are.
If this sounds like something you might be interested in, schedule some time to chat with Tim Nations on our team. Tim can give you some helpful tips on online strategy and also tell you more about how you can be a part.
This group isn't for everyone. And we only have a couple of spots remaining. Contact Tim today if you are at all interested.
And in the meantime, please don't panic. Do whatever you can to get and stay in a healthy spot. This is a time God has uniquely equipped you for. Step into it with confidence.
I'm cheering you on!