Page 2 of 11

Let’s Usher In A New Era of Pastoral Care

I’ve been slowly reading through Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly. The book is subtitled The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Using Scripture and the writings of the Puritans, Ortlund very effectively shows how Jesus does not look at his people with a disappointed frown, but with gentle, pursuing love. You can find the book at Amazon or at Westminster Books, and here is a review by David McLemore over at For the Church. (You’ll get a better price at Westminster for the physical edition, but Amazon has the Kindle edition for $8.)

Summing up in his review, McLemore writes:

The everlasting, all-sufficient love of Jesus is where the power of this book lies. If you need a love you don’t warrant but can’t stop longing for. If you need a love bigger than your sin. If you need a love that sits with you in the ashes of your burned-out life. If you need a love too great to be limited to what you deserve, this book is for you. It’s for all who will come. It’s for all who sin and suffer and reach for a savior that understands their need. It’s for all who are weary and need rest. It’s for all who mourn and long for comfort. It’s for all who feel worthless—of which I never seem to stop feeling—and wonder if God cares. This book will help you see he does. Oh, he does!

Have you ever felt that you’ve let Jesus down? That you’ve failed him? And has that led you to think that – if you could be in his presence – he’d be looking at you with arms folded, a bit of a grimace on his face? Because of our experience with other people in our lives, this kind of response is probably default for many of us. It is a book that I would recommend to you and one that I’d suggest you recommend to your people.

However . . .

As I was reading and thinking through what Dane Ortland writes, I was struck with the implications it had for pastoral ministry. Consider these verses:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11 ESV)

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jeremiah 31:10 ESV)

As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. (Ezekiel 34:12 ESV)

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (1 Peter 5:2 ESV)

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; (Ezekiel 34:5 ESV)

I’ve quoted these passages to show three things: first, that God identifies himself as a tender shepherd; second, that pastors are called to be shepherds; third, that a failure to shepherd puts the flock at risk. There are many other places where these themes are found, but these will suffice.

If pastors are to shepherd God’s flock, then pastors are to emulate – and maybe more importantly – point to the tender nature of God.

I wonder how we are doing with that?

Over the last months of this pandemic I’ve read a good deal about pastors caring for their people. Numerous blog posts have shared ways in which this can be done and why it is so essential. But here’s my question – when we are able to gather again, will we gradually resume our programs and forget what we have learned about pastoral care?

Today I read this in an article by a Murray Campbell. I’d encourage you to read the whole article, not only because it’s really good, but to give the following quote some context:

By different, again I’m not arguing for anti-excellence, but rather I’m calling for simple faithfulness that is driven by core Gospel principles. These include making disciples, the centrality of reading and preaching the Word, preaching the whole counsel of God, permeating everything with prayer, and letting the congregation be heard when singing.

Shepherding needs to be personal, and while programs and events can be helpful, they cannot take the place of the pastor-to-individual-sheep connection. Shepherding also needs to be corporate, which means that sermons need to be more than religious Ted Talks. And when we preach, we must deal with sin but do so in a way that leads people to the Gentle Shepherd. He embraces his people. He does not hold them at arm’s length.

Maybe this pandemic will usher in a new season of pastoral care. Maybe when we are talking about what our congregations need, our thoughts and discussions will be more about people and less about programs. Maybe we will have learned to be better shepherds and put administration and programming back in their proper secondary place. Young pastor, if you are trying to find your way among the various “styles” of ministry out there, choose being a shepherd. Please, for the sake of the Gospel, and for the sake of your people. And older pastor – maybe it’s time to recalibrate.

What Comes Next? (Part 2)

I began a short series on Wednesday in which I shared thee answers to questions I asked some pastor friends. These are guys with a pastor’s heart. They are faithful men, having served in their church for a year to two to several decades.

I wanted to know their thoughts about how pastoral work during the pandemic might carry on after life is back to whatever life is going to be like. But I also asked about what they’ve been reading during this time.

One pastor said, “I’ve really been enjoying Tim Keller’s new trio of little books, On Birth, On Marriage, and On Death.”

Another said, “There are two Biblical Theology books I have been spending time reading. The first is one that my excellent friend purchased, The Story Retold by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. The second one is A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, edited by Michael J. Kruger. These are excellent for getting back to the basis of the author’s intent to help me understand why the particular book was written.”

A third said, “Things have been busier than before, so not a lot of time for extra reading, but my daily reading through the New Testament this year has seemed more meaningful and deeper. And looking at some sermons that I had preached in previous years has proved beneficial. That’s something I rarely have had time to do before!”

Just commenting on the latter response, it’s helpful to review your sermons for several reasons. Regardless of how long you’ve been preaching you can see progress or pick out ways in which you need to improve.

The final question I asked was “What have you learned from this time that you’d like to share with other pastors?” Here are the responses:

One pastor wrote, “It has been meaningful to me to be home 4-5 nights a week. I’d love to figure out how to accomplish this once life gets back to “normal.” In this regard, I don’t want to go back to normal if that means being out 15 nights a month.”

(Me – Amen, brother!!)

He continues:

“Our people have a greater capacity for handling change than we thought- especially if the change is seen as necessary. We’ve seen a lot of people transition to on-line giving- something that we would not have expected prior to these events. We’ve had people share that they didn’t think that they would like having worship services online, but are appreciating them greatly.”

“Now that most of us are becoming “televangelists,” please LOOK AT THE CAMERA when you preach. Don’t be creepy about it by staring it down. But please stop relying on your notes. You don’t need them. They are a crutch. Go back and watch your last sermon. Count how many seconds you are looking up and how many you are looking down. Better, let someone else count. If you are looking down more than 10 seconds out of 60, you are missing a huge chance to connect. Know the medium. This is not radio. People see you- and only you. Let them know that you care enough about them to look at them. You may think that you are fooling people, but we know when you aren’t looking at us. By the way, this is advice that applies just as much when people are in the room. The difference is that now you can see for yourself what everyone else has been seeing for years.”

Good words! Another pastor shared the following: “The level of our importance must be wrapped around the words of encouragement and support. It is not so much of sharing how much we know of the Scriptures but instead sharing our love as we guide them into the Scriptures.”

A third pastor wrote this: “I am praying that God uses this virus to bring an awakening to our churches and our nation, but so far, it seems to me that most Christians have not been impacted, spiritually, by the new norm. For example, I thought believers would be hungry for fellowship and worship, via zoom, but that’s not been the case. I fear that too many church folks are just waiting out the storm instead of seizing the opportunities before them. I also would love to see local churches and especially pastors supporting one another, but everyone seems busy with their own congregations. So once again I am learning to be faithful; love the flock; draw close to the Lord; keep up my exercises and reaching out to others; and trust Him!”

One other pastor put it quite simply: “Never take the gathered church for granted!”

I appreciate each of the responses I received. I hope you can see the pastor’s heart I referred to in what they have said, and I hope that you will find some encouragement and challenge in their words.

What Comes Next?

Some places around the world are starting to open up. Hopefully it won’t be too long before pastoral life returns to normal. But what will that normal look like?

I asked several pastor friends to answer three questions about re-opening, what they’ve learned, etc. Here is the first one:

  1. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way pastors minister in some significant ways. Is there something you have started doing, or something you have started doing differently, that you plan to continue when things get back to normal?

One pastor shared this:

We started a weekly “Pastors Chat” where two of us do a 10 minute video just talking about what is happening at church. We also try to include a little bit of our lives in the conversation so people can connect with us better. We have been asked by multiple people to continue this mid-week video even after the crises ends.

Maybe the obvious answer for many congregations, including us, is that we finally got our worship service online. We’ve had great response from shut-ins asking that this continue. For that matter, others are excited that they will be able to stay connected with the church even when they are out of the area or sick. I already hoped to have this option for guests so that they can know what to expect before setting foot on our church property.

Another pastor wrote:

The pandemic has caused me to be more mindful of checking in on all our people more regularly than before. That feels like something I should have been better at before the crisis, but certainly ought to continue beyond.

A third pastor shared these thoughts:

I started several Zoom meetings, but the one, in particular, I am going to stay in is the Wednesday night Bible Study. Even when we return, while we are in the room together, I am going to have my laptop and log onto Zoom, so those unable to attend physically will be able to join. I also started Facebook live with my wife, and we will continue to do Bible studies each week. We started YouTube live-streaming on Sunday and will continue with that. We have simplified our ministry of which, I am pushing toward keeping it simple and take out the need for being out each night. We are looking at doing Zoom meetings with the Elders and deacons more frequently.

Finally, a fourth pastor answered this way:

Recording my sermons on You Tube has proved very helpful in people sharing it with others, including the unchurched, so that is worth looking into. I think zoom small group meetings could prove helpful is for some reason we couldn’t meet in person, like because of weather.

It seems pretty clear that the technology adopted during this time has some significant uses going forward. Whereas broadcasting live used to be quite an effort, options exist for it to be done much more simply, and as the fourth pastor said above, having services online – whether live or archived on YouTube or the church website – makes it possible for people to point friends to their church.

In addition, it appears that the ability to conduct meetings online will allow church leaders to spend more time at home and less time traveling to meetings. In order to fully participate all committee or board members will need to be technologically savvy enough to use these tools. But anything pastors can do to make their leaders lives a bit easier, considering they are already busy people, is worthwhile.

I also like the idea of allowing people who can’t come to a small group meeting to attend via Zoom or some other service.

On Friday I’ll share the responses of these good men to my second question, which is:

Is there anything you’ve read during this period where things might be a bit slower that has been meaningful to you?

If you’re a pastor, how would you answer these first two questions? Share your answers in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by.

8 Questions Worth Asking as the End (of the Pandemic) is in Sight

On Wednesday I wrote about the possibility that pastors and other Christian leaders/organizations have been scratching where few people are itching. It was not my intent to be critical, but I do feel it would be sad for pastors to emerge from this time being physically and emotionally spent because of unwise choices stemming from unwise expectations they placed on themselves. Every church situation is different. So if the shoe fit, fine. If not, that’s ok too.

One of the opportunities the pandemic has provided is time to think. With that in mind here are some questions that would be worth pastors taking time to ponder:

  1. What have I been doing differently during this period that needs to be continued when life returns to normal?
  2. Will there be events beyond my normal schedule that I need to prepare for how? (For example, it is possible that you may have several funerals or memorial services.)
  3. While this pandemic continues, are there ways I can better utilize the other leaders in my church to shepherd the flock? How might this continue after the pandemic is over?
  4. Are they’re activities or programs that this period of time has shown to be superfluous? Would it be worthwhile to streamline our ministries and the number of meetings we have for leaders so that busy people are not out at church activities quite so often?
  5. What have I learned during these weeks when life was so different that will help me pastor more effectively in the days ahead?
  6. Has this period brought to light any deficiencies in the content of what our people have been taught? Were they prepared to carry on with their own spiritual growth?
  7. Has this pandemic revealed that our people are equipped to minister to each other? How might we encourage forging relationships outside of public meetings so that people are better able to minister through the numerous “one another” commands in Scripture. (Here’s a list:
  8. Were any specific groups of people (older, younger, single, students, etc.) overlooked in our efforts to care for our church during this time?

Answering these questions may be helpful not only in assessing your own ministry, but planning what your church needs as you look to the future.

Have a great weekend!

Did Some of Us Miss the Sign?

Unless you’re on a desert island, you’re well aware of the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic. Depending on where you live and whether you’re working from home, you may be spending a whole lot of time inside your home with little to do.

Obviously we need to take this seriously. In the US, over forty thousand people have died. People are out of work, many others have had their hours scaled back. Several states are in stay-at-home mode (and in some of them the natives are getting restless). The impact on our day-to-day lives is enormous, and some of the “mitigations” may go on way past the return to whatever becomes normal.

When it comes to this pandemic, our seniors are the most vulnerable segment of society. I’m quite familiar with that group. Whether I like it or not (and I don’t), my having lived 66 years puts me in that category. And four days each week I work in senior citizens community. Our facilities are home to three kinds of seniors – people who live independently in their own apartments, people who need a bit of help with their daily lives, and people who are in skilled nursing. I interact with those who go out for doctor appointments, and often stop to talk with those who are out walking for exercise. While they’re concerned and cautious, I haven’t heard any of them express panic or fear. I’m sure there are some who are genuinely afraid, but from what I can tell they are in the minority.

In my email this morning I found a promotional for yet another resource on coping with anxiety due to this pandemic. And to be honest, I’m wondering why pastors, publishers, and various ministries are still beating that drum? No doubt there are people in our churches who are having a hard time. But to be honest, I’m not sure that there are many believers acting like the sky is falling. But you’d almost get that impression from the number of “How to Deal With It” resources out there.

Here’s a text between me and a fellow pastor from earlier this week:

Me: “I am reading a lot of bloggers who are writing from the perspective of trying to bring assurance to people who are afraid because of the coronavirus. I know people are concerned, cautious, aggravated, but I haven’t encountered anyone who feels afraid. Have you?”

Him: “No and at times I grow weary of pastors who keep stressing not to get stressed.“

Bingo. My sentiments exactly.

So what gives? Why are so many of us caught up in trying to put out a fire that might actually not be burning – at least to the degree we think?

Is it possible that our people are stronger than we think they are? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit has actually used the preaching and teaching they’ve heard to help them think through this in a biblical way? Is it possible that pastors, meaning nothing but the best, are ministering under the mistaken notion that their people are frightened and require lots of comfort at this time?

Please understand that I am not trying to start a fight. I have nothing but the highest regard for faithful pastors. But I’m going to probe just a touch because I’m also concerned about pastors. So here’s my $64,000 question1: Are we trying too hard to be good pastors during this pandemic? And if so why, and at what cost?

When we first went into shut-down mode, I wrote about the opportunity this pandemic presented for pastors to slow down. Some of the pastors I’ve talked to do have a lighter work load. But around the web I some who seem to be in overdrive. What about you? If you’ve been running your engine at full blast for the last month or so, how are you going to hold up when the normal demands of pastoral work resume?

The other day I came across this article which should be required reading while there’s still some time. Our work is important, brother pastor. There’s no question about that. People’s needs are great. There’s no disputing that either. But you have to put this period of time in the greater context of when life gets to the new normal.

I realize that each church situation is different, and I also realize that some people need extraordinary care in times of crisis. If you are not tending to your flock during this time, shame on you. If you’re tending it faithfully, great. But if you’re busier than you were before this time, please take a step back and ask yourself why.

This is going to end, and when it does you can’t afford to be running on empty.

Separating Who You Are from What You Do

It is commonly believed that men so closely identify with their vocation that if we ask them to tell something about themselves, they are likely to respond what a description of what they do. I’m not sure this is just a male characteristic, but I have noticed that this is characteristic of a lot of guys.

I think this is especially true of pastors. Ministry is not the only vocation that requires long hours, nor are we alone in being tuned in 24/7. But I do believe that pastoral work is unique and that pastors are especially prone to blur the line between who they are and what they do.

I suppose that, given the nature of ministry, such blurring of the lines is inevitable. But there are ways in which it can be unhealthy, especially when it comes to our relationship with God and our relationships with people.

Because we deal with spiritual things, it is easy to become “professional” in our relationship with God. We’re reading the Bible, we’re praying, we’re caring for other people. As a result, what we do can be a substitute for our own relationship with God. We can think that because we’re busy we’re doing well. Yet looking at our relationship with God through the lens of what we do ignores issues of the heart.

In the same way, we can be so professional in our relationships with people that we take on characteristics that are unhealthy. We can become distant because we are afraid of being hurt. We can avoid close friendships because we think that if people really know us they’ll be disappointed. We can be clinical with others because we view people as projects and work tasks rather than as, well, people.

There are some remedies for this, and younger pastors (and older pastors) need to be sure that they guard against this tendency to mix being and doing. A couple of things come to mind, now that I am on the other side of ministry. They are pretty much self-explanatory:

  1. Have friends with whom you can be honest, and be honest with them.
  2. Cultivate interest outside of ministry and ministry-related areas so that when you have down time (or when your ministry comes to temporary or permanent halt) you don’t feel that life has lost meaning.
  3. Make sure your relationship with God is personal. Don’t just study for what you can give to others. What are you learning from what you’re preaching or teaching? Don’t just pray for others, pray for yourself. Don’t merely urge others toward godliness, pursue it yourself. Keep learning and growing because you’re a Christian, not because you’re a pastor.

Blending who we are and what we do in the wrong way can lead to us being unauthentic, and we don’t want that. It will end up putting people off and coming back to bite us in the end.

Thank God for the privilege of ministry, but remember that you’re more than your ministry.

Have a great weekend!

Little Things That Make A Difference

When we think about effective pastoral ministry, we tend to gravitate toward the major functions of what we do. Giving attention to preaching, how we conduct our worship services, counseling, and church administration are obviously important, and failing in one of those areas can substantially impact one’s ministry. But there are little things that make a different too, and I thought I’d share some random lessons I learned through the years.

Be ignorant about your people’s giving.

I think it is best for pastors not to know who gives what to the church. The IRS does require that churches keep records, and our church photocopied checks each week as part of that record keeping. But I went out of my way to avoid looking. There’s a temptation to treat people differently if we know that they give a little, or if they give a lot, and we can’t do that.

Remind your leaders of the need for confidentiality.

Church leaders discuss many topics, most of which are not even remotely confidential. But confidential discussions do take place, and leaders need to be trustworthy in this area. Board minutes are not intended to be read by the wives of those in leadership. In some cases, people’s privacy and reputation are at stake. Remind your leaders that what happens in leadership meetings stays in leadership meetings, and that they need to make sure documents are not left laying around at home or at church.

Ensure that church finances are a group activity.

If they do not exist, you should lead your church to adopt policies that protect both the church and the financial team from mismanagement and breaches of integrity. There should always be at least two people counting the money, and it would be best to have teams that rotate. While you will likely have one person act as treasurer, that person should not have power to control the church finances. I could tell stories.

Don’t Assume Your People Know How to Read the Bible

Pastors want their people to know the Bible. But statistics show that many believers don’t read their Bible at all. We might blame the lack of Bible reading on laziness, and certainly that can be a factor. But I wonder if part of the reason our adults don’t read the Bible is that we haven’t ever taught them how to do it.

I’m not suggesting that every believer needs a college-level class in hermeneutics. What I am suggesting is that we need to describe what it means to read the Bible for personal profit, and we need to do it often. It can be done as an aside in a sermon, in a bulletin insert, or on your church website. You may be surprised at how many of your people struggle with Bible reading because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be looking for. Help them!

That’s a pretty random set of topics, isn’t it? But they came up in conversations or in my own thinking and might be of help to you. Have a great day!

What Other Pastors Are Doing During the Pandemic, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my asking several pastor friends to answer questions relating to how the current coronavirus situation has affected their ministries. In that post I shared the responses of three pastors, and below you will find the responses of three others.

From the standpoint of demographics, all but one of the responses came from pastors in the general Southeastern Pennsylvania area. One comes from a more rural area of western Wisconsin. In terms of church size, one respondent is retired, two pastor churches of 150 or less, and the other three are in churches of 150 or more.

My friend from Wisconsin writes:

1) Ministry has changed drastically. Our state just issued the “safer at home” mandate or whatever (like many other states). Not only is the corporate body not able to gather for Sunday service, but now even our smaller groups or one-on-one meetings are permitted. Just the sheer reality of avoiding actual in-person interactions has a tremendous effect on ministry. We offered our first online-only worship service this past Sunday. It was weird and unfortunate, to say the least. Not ideal at all. Yet, we are certainly thankful for the unique opportunities our modern technological era can afford us. I suppose I’m glad the social distancing effort is happening now, and not say 15 years ago.

2) As of today we’re really ramping up our efforts to stay connected relationally through various digital avenues. The three of us pastors are putting out a daily “chat with a pastor” video, just a few minutes to share hope and encouragement with our church family. We’re utilizing services like Zoom and Marco Polo to stay in touch with various church members and each other. Our next elder meeting will be a Zoom video chat. We’re also trying to be consistent with calling our people to check in.

3) I suppose the creative ways we’re trying to minister could be our daily “pastor chats” and a twice-per-week podcast we’ve begun to publish. As are all of us I’m sure, we’re very open to ideas as we enter into this weird chapter.

My own pastor writes:

1) Two significant changes: A). We’ve suspended all in-person gatherings. All small groups, leadership meetings and worship services have moved to online or virtual spaces. B). Planning is more difficult. There is so much uncertainty and the situation changing so rapidly that almost all planning has become short-term. What are we gonna do Sunday? What are we doing next week to minister to people?

How wise is it to make summer plans (and investments) when we have no idea what the world is going to look like two months from now?

2) We invested in a Zoom Pro account. We’ve hosted an elders meeting, small groups, prayer meetings, and leadership team meetings. I’ve hosted Zoom meetings 6 out of the last 7 days, allowing me to connect with, encourage and communicate with dozens of our people face-to-face, virtually.

3) We’ve added two, weekly virtual prayer gatherings through Zoom to our church calendar: Wed evening and Fri mornings. I’ll take a passage of Scripture, we read it together and use the Word of God to fuel our time of worship-based prayer. Just another to interact with and encourage our people.

Broadcasting our worship services is no longer a luxury. Not being able to gather in-person has forced us to consider how to improve the recording and dissemination of our worship services. Do we emphasize intimacy and community among worshippers (via live streaming through Facebook), or lean towards production quality by pre-recording the service and posting on a more professional platform? We’re making some minor investments with gear and trying new techniques each week based on what’s working, or not.

Finally, another local pastor shares the following:

The first way that ministry changed was that everything migrated online. We immediately went to an on-line only worship service. We had a staff member and an elder who put a lot of time into making that service happen. We’ve continued to work on the technology side since then to get a better livestream. The service wasn’t very different than usual, except for the congregation being in their homes instead of in the same room. As time went on, we helped our small groups begin meeting online as well. Our deacons and small group leaders have been asked to help us check on people who might otherwise receive visits.

We’ve also moved our meetings online. One of the biggest changes for me has been that I’m home more evenings than previously. In order to communicate, our team has put together a weekly schedule for releasing various types of information. We are communicating with the congregation now more than ever. And we are utilizing video now far more than previously. The new video includes a mid-week “Pastors Chat” where two of us sit (at a proper distance apart) and talk about what is going on in the church and in our lives.

Here’s what I am taking away from these six responses:

Pastors were caught off-guard by the pandemic but have acted quickly to provide ministry to their congregation. It may not be perfect, it may have required investing in new equipment, and it may be a bit trial and error, but ministry is taking place.

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’ve already done most of what these other men are doing. Good. But perhaps you can pick up an idea or two from these men and enhance your ministry.

Thanks again to those men who responded to my request and provided information about how their ministry has been affected. If you’d like to share some ideas, please use the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

If you did not read my own post from about two weeks ago, I wrote about Pastoral Work During A Pandemic. You may find some help there too.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Is that line from Monty Python? I don’t remember.

Yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of the 2020 baseball season. If you are, like me, a fan, you no doubt miss the game. Strat-O-Matic, a company that makes both dice-and-cards and computer simulations of the major sports, began “preplaying” the 2020 season based on projected player stats. They are posting the boxscores from their games after 2:00pm each day. So if you want a little baseball, here’s where you can go.

What Other Pastors Are Doing During the Pandemic

Over this past weekend I sent an email to some pastor friends. I asked them if they would be willing to answer the following questions:

  1. How has your ministry changed over the last few weeks because of the Covid-19 virus and any restrictions that your state has in place?
  2. How are you staying in touch with your congregation, youth group, etc.?
  3. Have you developed any creative ways to minister to your people during this time.

I appreciated the responses I received. Some responded to all three in a paragraph and others responded individually. With minor editing, here are their answers. Perhaps you will be encouraged by what they are doing, and you may pick up an idea along the way.

First, a retired pastor friend in New York State wrote this:

First I pray about all the smaller things I use to overlook when I was the lead pastor (my bad). Then I call several hurting people each week. I text several folks each day. I do daily blog to my kids at 8am by text. I do a short weekly blog to folks with the goal of giving encouragement.

I have 75+ people who read the blog, and some of them forward it to others. I also decide daily to go on purpose to meet people I do not know. I hope to do 5 a week. I use a unique approach, “Hi! I’m (name). I saw you doing…” What ever I thought may help. I start a short conversation and hope it works. In addition I try hard to give big tips at restaurants and friendly words. Several of those now get my weekly blog. That is my old guys ministry to all ages.

The following comes from a pastor serving a smaller church over the long haul:

Glad to share a few thoughts. Like other churches, we are not meeting physically, so I have posted my sermons on You Tube (a first for me), and the advantage is that more people are seeing them than would normally hear my sermon in church! Church people and others are sharing the sermon with friends, so my ministry of the Word has greatly increased!

We are using zoom to have prayer meetings and hopefully our small groups. (My wife and I will also be teaching ESL on Zoom)

We are doing a lot of calling of church people and others, and people are appreciating it. I send out 1-2 e-mails to the whole church each week, and invite them to share their joys, needs, and prayer requests. A number are doing that.

My challenge as the solo pastor of a small church is that most of the changes are falling on me, so I have had to learn a lot of new technology in a short time. I have been on my laptop and phone a lot, so much so that my wife has had to remind me to take some time off.

All in all I would say that so far this has been a good time of the church coming together, and of God giving new opportunities to spread the gospel!

This next section was written by a youth pastor who, along with the Senior Pastor, is also working to meet the needs of their church body.

COVID-19 has drastically impacted our ministry, in addition to all ministries within our local community, state, country, and globe. Initially, our private school closed for two weeks but, as COVID-19 is spreading, we have been issued an additional two-week closure. Our church ministries further followed suit as we suspended all services, programs, events, and activities. This decision is currently in place for a couple more weeks, yet we remain in waiting. The uncertainty can drive one to insanity or it can drive one to Jesus…the Author, not of confusion, but of love, joy, peace, contentment, and most certainly great gain.

We have gone completely virtual when it comes to ministering to our local body. Our Pastor has been preaching live on YouTube each Sunday morning. He and I have gone live on Facebook during the week, and I have recorded and posted brief devotionals.

Additionally, I have been gathering with my students via Zoom. At our last gathering we had fun catching up on the latest stay-home details, a devotional from James 1, trivia, and even an indoor scavenger hunt. These are definitely strange times but our Sovereign Lord rules and reigns over all.

Prior to the stay-home order from Pennsylvania’s Governor, we put together “Operation Fill-a-Basket”. This was an opportunity for us to drop off non-perishable food items to our facility (in a safe, healthy, and distant manner), followed by deliveries to those in need. This proved to be an effective way of ministering to many in need.

All-in-all, technology (YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram alike) has proven incredibly effective throughout this time and cell phones may not have ever been enjoyed as much as they are now. Phone calls, emails, and personal text messages remain as key avenues of ministry for us.

I have two other responses, but will put them out tomorrow in an EXCLUSIVE weekend edition. 🙂

I appreciate the contributions of each of these brothers. Maybe they affirm that you’re doing what you can, and maybe you get a new idea or two. God bless you as you serve the Lord and his people!

The New Normal?

We’re all getting used to a different way of life. One of the man topics of conversation around the dinner table and when I take people to doctor appointments (many of which have been cancelled) is how life is different. You hear stories on the news of people sharing, and then there are accounts of people doing really dumb things. But for the next several months this is going to be the way life is.

There are nearly 80 people regularly following this blog. Others may drop by from time to time. I appreciate everyone who stops in. Thank you.

On Monday, instead of providing the normal links to articles that I have found of value on other blogs, I wrote about the opportunity that pastors have to scale back a bit. While our work goes on, there are many things that we can’t do. I hope you are finding your way through what pastoral work looks like for these next weeks and months.

On Wednesday I shared some ideas about how pastors can continue to minister when we can’t be gathering. It occurred to me that Paul, who had a pastoral relationship with many churches, was able to continue to minister through his correspondence. I am sure he would have preferred to talk to his people in person, but his letters certainly had an impact. Don’t be afraid to adopt that style.

One additional thought that I should have included on Wednesday pertains to your missionaries. Be sure you are in communication with them during this time. Keep them informed about what’s happening where you live, but find out what life is like for them too and pass that on to your church.

This coming Monday I’ll share some links as usual. I’m not going to put up a normal column today. However, I would like to point I you to Ligonier Ministries’ website. I received an email yesterday that said that all of their teaching series are now available to stream for free. You can download the Ligonier app at the Apple App Store. I assume there is something similar available for Android phones. This is a great resource for you and your people, with over 2500 messages available.

Have a great weekend. I trust that God will continue his work through you as we go through this period of uncertainty.