The last six weeks have brought a lot of new words into our vocabulary... words and phrases like social distancing, community spread, flattening the curve, and personal protective equipment. And I doubt that most of us knew what an N95 respirator was or what the difference between an endemic, epidemic, or pandemic was in February. (To be honest, I'm still not sure on that last one).
Also new are some phrases that everyone is using to describe our current situation... things like 'new normal', 'unprecedented', and 'we're all in this together'.
One phrase I'm hearing all the time is 'we're all in the same boat'.
Problem is, I don't think we are.
While as church leaders, it's comforting to know that every church in America is affected in some way, shape, or form by COVID-19, your church is probably experiencing things that only your church is experiencing.
And that's ok. In fact, that's the way it should be.
I talk with dozens of church leaders every week. Here's some of what I'm hearing:
- Our attendance is increasing each week.
- Our attendance is decreasing each week.
- Our giving is increasing each week.
- Our giving is decreasing each week.
- Our attendance and giving is really about the same.
- Our staff is awesome. They've pivoted and engaged well.
- Our staff is struggling. They aren't able to be flexible in adjusting their job descriptions at this time.
When it comes to the future, I'm also hearing a lot of different things:
- We think we'll be back meeting together by May or June.
- We think it may be Fall or first of the year before we gather physically again.
- Some are thinking the timeline may be more like a year from now.
And in my area of interest (staffing and church personnel), I am hearing feelings ranging from 'we're gonna be great', to 'this is really going to hurt and change things for years to come'.
For example, all the buzz recently has been the Payroll Protection Plan (affectionately known as the 'PPP'). Everyone seems to be having a different experience so far:
- Some churches have applied for the PPP, have been accepted.
- Some churches have applied for the PPP, and have been declined.
- Some churches have not been able to apply yet because the funds have run out or because their bank was slow to accept applications.
- Some feel the PPP will replace (or even exceed) the financial resources need during this crisis. Others feel like it won't be nearly enough.
- Some churches want nothing to do with the PPP because of government/church separation.
Other cases in point:
Some pastors and executive pastors are sure they will be just fine financially and will be able to keep all of their current staff. Some are concerned that significant staff cuts may be on the horizon. And some are already making major financial cutbacks, including laying off long-term and well-loved staff.
Some pastors I've talked to think that when the permission to gather is given, that people will flock to church services, and pews will be packed. Others worry that many regular attenders will have fallen out of the habit of attending in person, actually love online services, or will be leary (at least for some time) in gathering in large groups.
Some think we're on the backend of this crisis. Others think this is just the beginning.
So, in some ways, we ARE all in the same boat. This crisis is, at the very least, a disruption.
But in many ways, we are NOT in the same boat. What the church down the street is experiencing is likely not what you are experiencing.
(And, I feel like I have to say it... what North Point or Life.Church is experiencing may not be at all relevant to what you are feeling or seeing.)
So... what is the point?
Todd, are you saying that things are either great, horrible, or meh?
Your mileage may vary, as they say.
Here's my moral to the story today.
In many ways, it's too early to say where this whole thing is going.
But leading and planning is absolutely vital.
As a leader, this is your time to lead. Plain and simple.
Whether you think your church will gather in May of 2020 or May of 2021. Lead.
If your offering is down. Lead. If it's up. Lead.
Attendance is up? Lead. Down? You guessed it. Lead.
Leading is tough. But right now it's more needed than ever.
The boat you find yourself in may be a rowboat or a yacht. You may sailing in calm waters right now or trying to navigate a stormy sea.
But it's your boat. Be the best Skipper you can be to your people, your staff, your board, and your family.
Plan. Prepare. Connect.
And if there's any way that I can help, or you just want someone to talk through your current leadership situation, I'd love to grab some 'virtual coffee' with you.
Have a great week,