This fall many congregations are trying to assess their level of health and vitality. Leaders wonder why some people have returned and re-engaged, and others have not. Some congregations did well in the pandemic, while others seemed to lose all of the air out of their balloons. One large-church pastor said, “I feel like I am leading a very different congregation than the one I was serving back in 2019.” While Covid still spreads, folks have moved on with their lives. Church is back in business, but it is still a perplexing time.
In several parts of my life, I feel a sense of letting go—as I transition into a new professional role, let go of some things in my personal life and identity, and shake off this reluctant Minnesota winter that won’t quite let me go. As a clergyperson in the United Methodist Church, I sense that we have now entered a season of letting go, as our time of denominational separation has arrived.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, we all learned a new term: the frontline worker. Since the spring of 2020, frontline workers have put their health and lives on the line working in industries critical to keeping our economy running. Healthcare workers, firefighters, and grocery store employees, among others, have to work outside their homes, at continual risk of exposure. While I had the luxury of staying safely at home in front of my computer, my spouse, who is a manager in the transportation industry, went in to work every day. Thankfully so far, none of his co-workers have contracted Covid on the job.
As more folks get vaccinated and COVID restrictions end, we all long for a return to normalcy. Still, leading congregations is hard work and may get harder as we pivot once again in response to changing circumstances. Some people and some congregations struggle even as good news comes. Part of our ministry will be to help each other move from languishing to flourishing.
Are you tired, exhausted, experiencing grief or even moments of hopelessness and despair? If so you are not alone. You may have hit the six-month wall and are experiencing crisis fatigue. I feel it, too. My intent is not to write another article about how to care for yourself in this time. The internet is full of these types of articles right now. Instead, I want to offer a simple way to give yourself a break through a simple practice using metaphors.
New information technologies pose new challenges and opportunities for congregations and all other institutions. While many congregations have fallen behind the times, others have found effective ways to tell their stories, reach new people and live out their mission using social media, apps, the internet, news media, music platforms, and websites.
I set a goal for myself this summer that is quite atypical for me. I decided to read every page of the Mueller Report.