Pastors pursue a ministerial calling built on presence. In these pandemic times, household isolation presents the challenging new reality of long-distance shepherding.
But pastors talk to each other, and they are finding ways to muddle through a challenge that seems to be affecting every church in every place. The tips they share on caring for others work just as well for the rest of us.
Pray, protect the vulnerable, nurture peace, don’t panic.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Be up to date on developments in the world, but limit news consumption. The high frequency of developments can be overwhelming. Stay connected, but not too connected.
Dawn Ranck-Hower, pastor of New Holland (Pa.) Mennonite Church, suggests continuing to do things you enjoy and writing gratitude lists. Keep an activity schedule. Go for a walk or exercise, and witness spring bursting forth — being careful to do so within reason and in compliance with local restrictions.
“I’m as concerned about people’s mental health while they are socially isolating as I am about them getting sick from the virus,” she said.
Remember a congregation is bound by faith and the Holy Spirit. It is so much more than a physical gathering in a physical building.
Social distancing doesn’t mean cutting off all contact. Keep interacting with neighbors.
Be aware these are stressful times and family tension can increase when restricted at home. Financial needs may be wildly divergent among households in a congregation.
Ask for prayer requests publicly, but respond privately. Maintaining appropriate guidelines for relationships is just as important on social media as it is in “real life.”
Automatic electronic bank drafts work for collecting offerings even when a pandemic isn’t happening. In short, everything we learn now will be just as true when COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror.