Today, a brilliant and encouraging post from our teammate Jaime Hlavin, written to encourage pandemic-weary pastors and ministry leaders. Enjoy ~ John
One beautiful sunny day in March, I received a text from a friend who hadn’t yet been back to church in person. She invited me over for coffee on her lovely, sunny back porch. I was so excited to see her and to spend the morning catching up.
As she poured me a cup of French pressed coffee and passed a plate of freshly baked banana bread, we unpacked our woes from the previous twelve months and expressed our excitement and hope for better days. A sense of normalcy seemed on the horizon.
March was a lovely month. It felt like healing was taking place as people began to process the “anniversary” of the pandemic. Calendars were filling up again. Offices were calling employees back in. There was a sense of joy and excitement.
But, alas, I live in Michigan—specifically the metropolitan Detroit area. That interlude was short-lived as our state was hit with another surge of the virus. Cases soared and close contact tracing forced quarantines. The week before Spring Break, my daughters were reporting that their in-person numbers were dwindling to single digits in some of their classes as students were either sick or exposed to sick people. Our teams at church were ravaged. Vacations were cancelled. And personally, my family missed Easter Sunday because my husband fell ill with COVID on Maundy Thursday.
Every day the news declared more tragedy and unrest in addition to the pandemic and political gloom. As the situation escalated, so did the strong feelings—I found myself longing for the early days of the pandemic when “we were all in this together.”
During a Facetime call with my husband while he was isolated in quarantine, I said, “I know this is kind of science fiction-y, but do you think we are stuck in a loop, doomed to repeat the same year over and over until we get it right?” We laughed awkwardly, and then got uncomfortably quiet.
While I don’t really think we’re stuck in a loop that only Doctor Strange can get us out of, I can’t help but wonder how we move forward without being derailed by disappointment at every halt in our momentum. It’s like an old car whose engine struggles to turn over and then suddenly roars to life only to stall moments later.
My husband often says, “If we refocus on what’s right with the world, we might have the energy to fix what’s wrong.” At first glance, this statement may seem daunting or even disingenuous. Keep in mind the implication in this statement isn’t broad scope but actually a type of precise specificity. It isn’t a suggestion to ignore real problems, hurts and issues, and just use magic clichés to fix everything. However, if we approach things from a positive perspective, we may find ourselves energized and encouraged to take on what needs fixing
Here are some ideas I hope you’ll find helpful:
Address one issue at a time
Trying to do all things at once can be overwhelming and frustrating. If everything is falling apart at your church or organization or school or home (or all of those), step back and address one area at a time. For example: It is a constant struggle to keep the worship team robustly staffed each week. Deal with this first instead of allowing the magnitude of all of the issues to consume you at once.
Focus on what is working well in that area
Literally make a list of the good things happening in that area even if the items on the list seem insignificant. Joe kills it on the bass guitar. Frank is an outstanding singer. Beth is a fabulous sound tech. Your video screen is amazing.
Actively engage with the things that are going well
Take that list you made and really get in touch with the things you listed. Reach out to people and let them know how much you appreciate them. And when you are feeling overwhelmed by the negative, specifically reminisce about times when those things were particularly meaningful to you or blessed you in a special way.
Then, enact the change you can
Are there things within your power to fix? Are there things that you can engage the help of others to effect change? For example, are there young musicians in your church who may appreciate the opportunity to be paired with more seasoned players? Are there things only within God’s power to change? Then release those things to Him and pray for solutions.
Reconstructing everything that was damaged during this past year, can seem like an insurmountable task. But take heart, and know that nearly everyone is rebuilding something at some level. It’s going to take some concerted time and effort.
Yesterday, I received another text from my friend inviting me over again for more coffee and banana bread. It feels like momentum again. I’m choosing to focus on what’s right with the world – my friend. And praying that focus gives me some energy to fix the difficult parts.
Know that we are rooting and praying for you to be able to do the same.