Keep going – a message to the leaders of small churches.
I don’t know how you feel after the two weeks we’ve just had. It’s a time when things are uncertain and who knows what will happen over the coming weeks and months. The latest predictions suggest that the health service will be able to cope with the virus, but we give thanks that we know we are in the hands of our Father.
This article has been written out of a burden for men who are minestering in smaller churches and with elderly congregations. Whilst many larger churches with younger congregations have found it much easier to adapt, there are some real challenges of ministering with little resources and with people who can't access the internet.
To try and help I have collected a few points by speaking to some ministers who are working in other small settings. My aim is to encourage and let these humble warriors know that they are not alone.
Please, don’t compare yourself to others.
This, perhaps, is the greatest danger and why many ministers in small churches feel so much pressure, especially as so many larger churches are now online for all to see. Not everyone has the means or the members to be present online, and some situations mean that there is no point trying to do this. Please don't feel bad about this and remember God has placed you where you are, and he clearly wants you to work in a way which suits your situation. The Spirit can work just as effectively during this time through your prayers or a chat on the phone as he can through a podcast or an online sermon.
We need to remind ourselves that this virus won’t last forever, and although some people feel afraid, it’s very likely that many won’t suffer from the illness. In one way, we don’t need to do more than that which we are already doing from day to day, which is caring for our people both spiritually and materially. Please be realistic about what your people can receive, and don’t feel bad if that is different to other churches.
Use the resources of other people.
God has provided many resources during the past few weeks. While it is important to keep in touch personally with all whom that God has put in our care, this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with watching a service or listening to a sermon from another church. It may be that somebody ministering in a smaller church with more elderly people may need to spend more time chatting on the phone, and therefore may have less time to prepare a sermon. Please don’t feel guilty about this – a pastors' work is to help people spiritually, and this may mean using other people and resources to help.
What works well?
Others have suggested the following:
Phone people to speak and minister to them.
Produce something in writing that you can distribute by email, or to give on paper to someone who lives alone as you take them their shopping or care for them.
Get in touch with a bigger church and request to become a part of their service. The minister could then make a special point of welcoming your church as he welcomes people to the service.
Use other resources, such as old sermons, and maybe prepare a few questions discussing the application of the sermon to your situation. It is possible to burn CDs and distribute them.
There is a way of listening to a sermon using a telephone (get in touch with us for more info).
Ask for help.
It’s important that you don’t struggle on your own in this situation. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help and support. The important thing to remember is that we have a heavenly Father, and Jesus is the head shepherd. We can trust our people, the situation and ourselves entirely unto Him.
I pray that this article will help some of our dear brothers and sisters who are ministering in difficult situations. May we all pray for them and the quiet, and humble work they do.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.