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REBUILDING IN THE AGE OF SOCIALLY DISTANT COFFEE

Today Jaime Hlavin rejoins us for an entertaining, informative, and inspirational post on a subject every church leader cares about deeply and is struggling with at some level . . . rebuilding their teams. Enjoy! ~ John

We’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here in Michigan the past few days, so I met up with a friend, practicing what we here at Converge Coaching preach at a popular outdoor shopping mall. We had socially distant coffee.

A year ago, that concept didn’t exist: socially distant coffee. I think it goes without saying that 2020 has changed the way we do pretty much everything. School. Work. Shopping. Holidays.

Unfortunately, churches didn’t escape unscathed.

We’ve spoken with many leaders – specifically pastors – whose churches were poised to launch into incredible dreams in 2020. Now, most are left with a remnant of what was: attendance and volunteerism are down – and understandably so.

Many churchgoers still aren’t coming back to in-person church for safety and health reasons, especially in the midst of the predicted autumn surge of COVID numbers. Many have gotten accustomed to online church at their leisure. Many are displeased with the way their church has handled the crisis. Many may feel disconnected and forgotten. And at any given time, a “handful” of people and their families are quarantining due to exposure to the virus (Again, a sentence I never imagined becoming part of everyday conversation. In the science fiction genre that I adore? Yes. But a leadership blog? Nope).

And for those who have returned to in-person church, we’ve found that many have stopped serving altogether or only attend church on the weeks they are scheduled to serve. My friend and I talked extensively about that yesterday during our socially distant coffee date and postulated many reasons why this is case – none of which we have any actual proof of, just theories. Those theories included safety and health reasons (they may want to minimize their interaction with people); it’s too much to ask of people (our church is currently running multiple services to accommodate for a reduction in building capacity/social distancing and our teams serve at all services on their scheduled Sunday); people have taken this time to re-evaluate the things they were involved in and made specific choices to let some things go and many more.

The question is, where do we go from here?

In addition to partnering with my husband to pastor our church, I work outside the home in an administrative role at an inner city non-profit organization geared toward empowering children and families to promote emotional, physical, spiritual, and social well-being through weekly training and mentoring, in collaboration with parents, churches, community organizations, schools, and civic leaders. We’re experiencing the need to rebuild our teams as well. One of my colleagues, Work Aaron (I’m married to an Aaron, so to avoid confusion I refer to my colleague as Work Aaron – this is ridiculous, I know), has developed some steps that I believe can work well across the board as we endeavor to re-engage and rebuild what the pandemic has stolen.

Work Aaron contends that it can become easy to allow ministry to become more about “what we do” than who we are engaging and who is partnering with us to do that God-ordained work. His methods are just back to basics and maybe even “old school” by modern and/or “big church” standards. But I think they have proven to stand the test of time, as they were pretty much introduced by Jesus himself. (If this was a text, I’d insert a “winky-face Emoji” here in an effort to reduce the preachy tone of my sentence.) Work Aaron is also a pastor, so his steps all start with the same letter because alliteration is an important concept that is taught in seminary (just kidding . . . kind of). Here they are:

1. Mingle

Re-engage with your team members. A phone call. Socially distant coffee (apparently, this is my new favorite thing). Dig back in to find out what has been going on in their lives. The struggles. The victories.

2. Minister

After mingling, find ways to really meet their needs. Share your heart. Pray with them in what they are walking through. When we engage with our people on these levels and share our hearts as they share theirs, rapport and comradery is built. They become so much more than “people on our team.” Back in our youth ministry days, our motto was “they don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

3. Motivate

Only then, when people know that your heart is for them and your passion is to truly make a difference for Christ in the world (locally and globally) alongside of them, will they truly desire to serve alongside you.

4. Move

At this point, the desire to move back into reconnecting with church, ministry, and serving has likely been reignited.

This isn’t a magic 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . POOF! . . . everything that 2020 halted is restored! It takes time. Effort. And perhaps even deep heart reflection and change on our parts as leaders to really reflect on and reengage with what we do and who we do it for. This is the reason we were called to ministry in the first place. We can forget that sometimes in the wake of sleek, flashy new ways to “do church.” And sometimes it takes a crisis of pandemic proportions to remind us to “be Church.” Let’s do this together.

We’re rooting and praying for you!

Jaime

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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