A year ago I wrote a blog about the Unprecedented Opportunities that we have during the Covid-19 pandemic. I listed 6 Christian qualities that model Christ-like living and give us a special way to shine our light into a dark world troubled by Covid. If you missed that blog, you can read it here.
A year ago, most of us probably thought, a year later, the Covid problem would be largely under control. That life would be normal again. Sometimes in some places it may seem like normal, but the Delta variant is reviving the virus in new ways. Some places around the world are struggling more now than ever before. Now pandemic fatigue sets in and we’re sick of it all. Sometimes it affects our ministry.
So how are you doing? Are you managing the extra layer of stress Covid-19 adds to life in general? Are you weary of the divisive issues Covid brings to church, school, and friendships in general? Is the gloomy news about the Delta variant dominating your life?
My husband and I recently traveled from New Zealand to the USA to observe a memorial service for his mother who died in May. It was a special time to celebrate the heritage she left us by serving God faithfully for many decades. We were also able to spend time with much of our extended family. But Covid did set many obstacles in our path and add that extra layer of stress to our travels.
Covid made every aspect of travel more challenging, but God brought us through these obstacles.
- Finding someone from within New Zealand who could fill in for our ministry when replacements from other countries weren’t allowed in
- Getting airline tickets that matched managed isolation vouchers
- Getting both Covid vaccinations before we left
- Paying for extra expenses incurred because of Covid
- Booking a flight home to Invercargill after 2 weeks of managed isolation during a level 4 lockdown
We left an island country the size of Colorado that had experienced many months with zero community transmission. From there we went to the States where states of similar size presented about 500 new cases a day. Believe it or not, living in a country with very little Covid produces a special kind of challenge. From the beginning of Covid, New Zealand sealed off its borders and was able to catch incoming cases before they spread to the community. While we were in managed isolation for 14 days after our trip, however, Covid entered the community and spiked with, at some points, over 80 new cases a day. Suddenly Auckland was in level 4 lock down, and the rest of New Zealand was in level 3.
As I landed in New Zealand I had to reset my body clock from Central Daylight Time to New Zealand Standard Time. And my body calendar from hot summer to cool winter. And my almost-normal New Zealand life to very restricted New Zealand life. Now we’ve entered level 2 and can have church again, with less than 50 people, face masks recommended, and 2-meter social distancing.
Covid isn’t over yet. In fact with the Delta variant, it’s breathing new life … or death … depending on how you look at it.
Last year I talked about Unprecedented Opportunities Covid brings us in ministry. Now I want to talk about how to handle the complexities of pandemic fatigue. Since God has allowed Covid into our communities, how can we manage the issues it brings to our ministry?
Prepare to deal with Covid’s extra layer of stress.
You’ve all heard about the two shoe salesmen who heard about a country where people didn’t wear shoes. The pessimist says, “I don’t want to go there. If people don’t wear shoes, no one would buy any.” The optimist says, “I must go to that country. No one has shoes so the market’s wide open!”
Ministry during Covid is kind of like that. As New Zealanders say, “I’m so over Covid!” I’ve worn my mask, and social distanced, and scanned my QR code (something they’ve evidently not done in the States.) I’ve even had that nasty Covid swab stuck up my nose.
So if God has called you to a ministry in a country in which people are “so over” Covid, what can you do? Like the optimist you can say, “Wow. Everyone is discouraged, stressed, and impatient. What a great place to spread encouragement!”
My last trip to the supermarket was one of those days. It rained, hailed, blew. I had to figure out how to adjust my mask for a more comfortablefit. I had to wait in a short line to get in, and then do the “distance dance,” trying to get my cart without getting too close to anyone. I was trying to figure out how to work the QR code we’d just downloaded on my cell phone. When it didn’t work, I had to fill out a card for contact tracing. I sanitized my hands, pushed my cart into the store, and then realized I’d forgotten my bags. (In New Zealand you have to bring your own bags to the store or pay for theirs.)
You’ve been there before. We all have. I try to remind myself that everyone around me is facing similar struggles. For some of them, Covid has cost them their business. They’ve worried about sick family members or not been able to attend a funeral of a loved one. I’ve only been inconvenienced by it.
How can we encourage others during a stressful shopping trip or everyday life?
- When wearing a mask, make eye contact with people and smile with our eyes.
- Be extra patient with workers when it takes extra time and effort to do their jobs.
- Speak a few cheery words even when we don’t have to say anything.
Don’t allow Covid to dominate your life.
We need to have some idea of what’s going on with Covid, but some of us need to know the details more than others. Don’t let the news dominate your life or weigh you down. Here are some ways to keep that from happening:
- If Covid news upsets you, don’t listen to it.
- If you listen to it, don’t dwell on it all day.
- Allow extra time and energy to deal with the extra level of stress Covid brings.
- Make the necessary changes you need to make, but don’t let it dominate other areas of your life.
- Choose music, books or movies that edify. Pass over ones that depress you.
- Don’t let your viewpoint affect your disposition.
Don’t let Covid’s divisive issues divide your church.
Covid is a real threat vs Covid is a giant hoax. Mask vs no mask. Vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers. These issues are polarizing people today. Even Christians. Even churches. And that saddens me. Of course, my opinions make perfect sense to me. Except for eating and drinking, on my recent trip back to New Zealand, I wore a mask for 30 hours straight. And it didn’t hurt me. I could ask, “Even if people don’t see Covid as a serious threat, would it hurt them to wear a mask to make others more safe?” But some would even resent me for asking that question.
Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. People have their reasons and I have mine. But I don’t have to make it an issue. I can respect the feelings of others even if they differ from mine. I can scroll past Facebook posts that might upset me or hurt a friendship. I can simply listen to a conversation and not share my opinion. I’ve been in ministry for 43 years now and I’ve learned one thing: I don’t have to weigh in on every issue.
Though our viewpoints may seem important to us, let’s not let it divide our churches. These are not moral issues and shouldn’t become church issues.
As people in ministry, we don’t try to control every conversation we take part in, but that doesn’t tie our hands. What can we do when someone brings up a Covid issue that is moving in a negative direction to the point of discouraging others and maybe even causing division?
- Acknowledge that Covid has brought real hardship to some people.
- Recognize that these are sensitive issues with good people on both sides.
- Before the conversation becomes demoralizing, nudge the conversation in a more positive direction or even change the subject.
Can I do that? Just change the subject because I don’t want to talk about it? Isn’t that rude? I wondered that a few years ago, but I’m changing my viewpoint. Maybe you’ve been in a conversation that goes on and on past the time that everyone has expressed his or her sentiments and are beginning to repeat them. Maybe you’ve even had this exact conversation before and it never turns out well. Once in a while I just step into the conversation and change the subject, gracefully or not. I find that people generally don’t mind, even if they know what I’m doing, and some appreciate it.
As people in ministry, we can lead the church even in casual conversation. We can set the tone and help the church to be a positive place. People have problems and we need to come alongside to listen and encourage. Church meetings, however, should be a place of blessing, not constant complaint and discouragement. The pastor can preach an uplifting sermon, but any of us can work behind the scenes to encourage each other individually.
We are the church. We’re supposed the help each other and make our meetings a healthy place for our church family to meet, fellowship, and feel encouraged. Even during Covid. Especially during Covid.
Listen to the inspiring song, “We Are Your Church.”
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