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Pastors Share How They Are Leading During Crisis

Curcuruto said that in his community, “The thing that I’m seeing that’s really been great for care is that people are having more time.” Because people have more time on their hands, their internal struggles are coming to the surface, and they actually want to talk about those struggles with someone. So the leadership at his church is getting on FaceTime and other video formats to talk to people about what they are going through. Said the pastor, “I’ve found more spiritual growth in the people in our community happening because of that intentionality out of necessity in the last week than maybe the last couple of years.”

There were several other ways the panel mentioned that Christian pastors could help their communities. One was creating a page on the church website where people can submit any needs they have as a result of the pandemic. Another idea was that one church board decided they would model a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity—so they doubled the amount of money they were giving away every week. 

What About Easter?

The panel had a number of ideas regarding how to make Easter 2020 special, but ultimately emphasized keeping the focus on the message. Sadlier said he has six kids and has been thrown into homeschooling them. “I know as a parent, I don’t want anything else added to me,” he said, so anything the church can offer that is prepackaged is helpful. With that in mind, his church has developed member resources that include a seven-day devotional for Holy Week, a pre-made Easter playlist on Spotify, and even pre-recorded recipes for Easter Sunday.

Pyle said his church has written a liturgy for Good Friday and is making it possible for families to hold a tenebrae service. They are also going to send people luminary bags so they can light candles and put them outside on Easter. 

Dooley said her church has always done Easter yard signs and will continue that this year, except they are going to have people face the signs inward so their neighbors can see the messages. Hardman said his church will be doing a Stations of the Cross podcast that people can listen to while walking outside. 

But whatever churches decide to do for Easter Sunday, Curcuruto emphasized the importance of Christian pastors keeping the main thing the main thing. “Not to be cheeky at all,” he said, “but my plan is to proclaim that Jesus is the Savior King [by] whatever means we have necessary.” That could mean that churches simply livestream on Easter Sunday, just as they have been doing the past few weeks. People are struggling and hurting, he said, and, “my job isn’t to fix that. It’s just to proclaim good news into that.” 

How Are You Practicing Self-Care?

A lot of Christian pastors and a lot of people, said Hardman, are starting to feel fatigued by the new environment the pandemic has created. It is easy for pastors to think, even while sheltering at home, that if they just work harder and get more information, they will be able to help people better. But the panel agreed that routines and rest are essential for living well in isolation, whether someone is a pastor or a layperson.

Pyle said his family’s routine is to do a half an hour of chores together starting at 8 a.m., after which he works and his wife helps the kids with their schoolwork. Then they all exercise together as a family. He also said it has been important for him to have an outlet not related to ministry, so he has started a garden with his 10-year-old son. 

Hardman said he tries to be intentional about having a start and end time to his day, instead of feeling as though he is perpetually on call. Except in cases of emergency, he will not respond to texts or emails after a certain time in the evening. He has to actively resist the lie that if he would just work harder, he could lessen the impact of Covid-19 on people—which is a type of savior complex. “I’ve just been speaking to that lie over and over and over again,” he said. “I need to pastor in love and care for my people, but there is nothing in me that is supposed to save everybody or rescue everybody in this moment.”

Dooley said that she is a very driven, schedule-oriented person and that she has been working to let go of that mindset. Normally, her husband travels and her daughters have full schedules, so it is unusual for all of them to be home together for dinner on a regular basis. Her goal now is simply to soak up that time with them. Instead of asking what she can get done every day, she asks, “Can I just achieve shalom with my family?”

But Also, Don’t Forget This

Despite the fact that there is a lot Christian pastors can do, it is crucial, said Sadlier, to remember that there is grace for when they fail—which will happen.

“There’s all these really good things…all these practices that are really good,” he said. “I think for me what’s been important is just to remind myself that this is crazy. And I am going to fail like crazy through this. And it is going to be messy, and my kids are probably not going to like me a lot of these first few days.” Changing your life rhythms, he noted, does not happen quickly, and our circumstances will likely get more difficult before they get easier. Many cities have not yet hit their first wave of deaths. But even so, “There is grace.”

“Listen, we’re going to screw this up big time,” he said, “and Jesus still loves us and is with us.”