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Post-Pandemic Pastoral Preservation

Pastoring during the pandemic was hard, wasn’t it?

As leaders, we found ourselves isolated and unable to connect with our communities. For some, the pandemic has also left a sting in the tail, a nasty barbed spike. The absence of face-to-face contact has served to aggravate minor pastoral issues that were smouldering away in the background. It’s like someone poured petrol on the fire, making it burn more fiercely.

Personally, I’ve found myself getting scorched.

And I’m not the only one.

My wife, Katie, and I have been greatly saddened to hear of other “pandemic-related church blow-ups” among our friends and those further afield. Many in ministry are still feeling the effects. It takes time to move beyond the scars.

As we’ve reflected on this season, and the length of time it takes to heal, we’ve considered some of the things we’ve learned. At times, could we have shown greater godliness? Almost certainly. Greater wisdom? Without doubt. We are a work in progress and we have much to learn.

So, here are a few thoughts on what we’ve learned, in the hopes that some of these might speak to others who’ve gone through similar challenges. We’ve written from the perspective of a married couple, but most of what follows is relevant for a single person too.

  • Remind yourself of God's sovereignty and grace, and his faithfulness to you. Take time to be thankful even if you don't feel like it. We’ve been finding Psalm 25 especially helpful recently.

  • Pray for the faith to believe that God can still use you in the midst of your circumstances, no matter how you’re feeling or how hard it seems. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3.20), and delights to make His strength known through our weakness (1 Cor 1.17-31).

  • Remind yourself that the critical views are held by a minority in the church.

  • Pray for those that persecute you—even if it's hard (Matt 5.44). Be gracious towards people who have reacted in extreme ways. Some have found the pandemic very challenging—sometimes due to issues we know nothing about.

  • Deliberately hang out with positive people who are “for you.” Drink in encouragement from those who build you up.

  • Find someone outside your community whom you can trust. Don’t be afraid to share your challenges with them. If you don’t know a suitable person, a Living Leadership Associate can help.

  • Be careful how you talk about church issues with your children (if you have any). Teenage children, in particular, do not need to know about your struggles with “those difficult people.” It’s not their burden.

  • Protect your times of intimacy with the Lord. Even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t heap up strict requirements, like long prayer lists. Keep it simple. Enjoy God’s presence. Receive his love. Go for a walk somewhere beautiful—whatever helps you enjoy God’s grace. Remember that He will never let you down, will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb.13.5-6).

  • Protect your time off away from church. Ensure you make time to do things that bring you joy—sport, hobbies, time with family, whatever helps you de-stress and enjoy life. Chill. Laugh. It’s restorative. So do that. A lot.

  • Don't allow “church issues” to dominate every conversation with your spouse. Or even those with other friends and colleagues. Consider setting one specific time aside each week to chat and pray. Then, as far as you’re able, try not to drag your worries through the week. Leave them before the Lord, who cares for you.

  • Make a fuss of your spouse, (if you have one.) Ensure you protect those times of physical intimacy that are so important in marriage.

  • Listen to the 'You're Not Crazy' podcast by Sam Alberry and Ray Ortland on TCG, especially the most recent season: You're Not Crazy. We found it very helpful.

And finally . . .

Pray boldly about possible next steps for the future. Perhaps the Lord is shaking you up, unsettling you for a change in direction. Or not. Seek his wisdom. Listen to advice from godly friends on this too.

One thing is certain—whatever He has in store, it's going to be for your growth. It’s going to lead you to rely on Him more. This season may have hurt—it may have hurt a lot—but the Lord has not forsaken you.

He has good plans for you, as you seek to serve him each day.


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