As a pastor, I am working hard to lead my church through this very anxious time. We are in uncharted waters. We don’t know what the future holds or what the “Post-COVID-19” world will look like.
I’ll admit that, even as the pastor, I am anxious. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So, how do we lead an anxious congregation through this time when we are equally as anxious?
Reframe the conversation
First, what if we reframe the conversation ever so slightly? Instead of feigning confidence, what if we talk about walking alongside our people as we go together into the unknown?
In a recent sermon, I shared with my congregation that I am stressed about the future. I am grieving with my kids who will not be able to return to school for the remainder of their school year. I am grappling with anxiety as I think about my loved ones who are elderly or immunocompromised. I told them, “We’re in this together. I am walking with you in this.”
The response to my honesty was revealing: people were relieved. They didn’t want another platitude or cliché’. They are tired of promises being made from politicians and community leaders with no substance behind them. Expressing my anxiety and being honest actually brought calmness and reassurance.
To feel anxious is one thing; to feel anxious and alone is another thing altogether. Your people want to know that they are not alone in their anxiety and that you are walking with them.
Remind ourselves of the power of Scripture
Secondly, let’s remind ourselves and our congregations about the power and authority of Scripture.
I am struck by the simplicity of Psalm 119:105, where it says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” I have never so desperately needed a lamp and light for the path ahead!
Relying on the scriptures and the promises of God keeps me from spiraling too far into the anxiety abyss.
God is still our provider in the midst of an unstable economy. God is still an ever present help in times of trouble, even if the trouble brings immeasurable grief. His word is true. His word holds power. His word will sustain us if we let it.
Commit to being a non-anxious presence
Finally, commit to being a non-anxious presence in the midst of it all. This is not a contradictory statement! We can experience anxiety and have a non-anxious presence at the same time.
Like a virus, anxiety is contagious. A calming presence is the needed inoculation in the midst of anxiety.
My desire is to bring the peace of Jesus to every situation. I am committed to keeping a level head and my emotions in check. I refuse to panic and I will have no part in creating drama or spreading unfounded information.
Pastors have plenty of opportunities to lead the way by forging the path before us. But, in this time of great uncertainty and high anxiety, let’s position ourselves beside our people. From this place, may we walk with our congregations honestly, calmly, and with the assuredness of Scripture.
Above all, may the peace of Jesus reign in our lives and in our churches.
About the Author
Vicki Esh is the Associate Pastor of Vineyard Church of Marysville, Marysville, Ohio. Prior to this position, she planted in the small town of Urbana, Ohio as well as in the inner city of Reading, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Conrad, are raising their 3 teenage daughters in their adopted home town of Marysville. Vicki enjoys strong coffee, dark chocolate, and long conversations. When no one is looking, she kisses her Goldendoodle, Junia.
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