The church I grew up in did not have a phone, administrative office, or a full-time employee. My father worked another full-time job and pastored our church, receiving a modest part-time salary. Everyone else volunteered. My faith was developed just fine.
To be honest, in many ways, the church of my childhood had more in common with the first-century church than the large church I now pastor.
Yet my heart grows heavy for pastors who have been called by God to shepherd smaller congregations during times like we are facing now. My team turned on a dime last week and mobilized to produce a wonderful online worship experience. The average size church simply cannot do this. This alone can cause pastors of smaller congregations to feel the sting of their limitations. If this could be you or your pastor, remember these three points of encouragement and guidance.
1. Your church needs you to be you
They’ve been following your leadership for a reason. God has placed them under your care. Spending time dwelling on the services you cannot offer doesn’t help anyone. The pastors they can watch online did not bury their grandmothers or counsel their family members with addiction; you did. Any person you lovingly pastor during this uncertain time will remember your call, prayer, card, or kind word long after they forget how awesome the other church’s online service looked.
2. Leverage your outpost
Social distancing creates a challenge for larger churches that smaller ones do not face. Virtually every gathering in and around my church is more than 50 people. I thank God for his many blessings on our church almost every day. If you have a smaller congregation, you have an opportunity I do not have. You can minister to all of your people in effective ways.
Within an hour on the phone, you can make sure every senior adult has groceries delivered; if they have chosen to stay at home. Likewise, you and your children’s volunteers can identify all of the kids associated with your church who need a sack lunch every day until the schools reopen. These are just a few examples of what you can do because of the uniqueness of the place God has given you.
3. Do not be afraid to use what technology you do have to the best of your ability
Your people are not expecting cinematic quality. To be frank, if they were to expect cutting edge lighting and sound just to connect with Jesus, they would not be in your church. Call around, ask for some advice on what to do and what not to do (I’ve actually made several calls today), and then get a sermon recorded. You can even stream it after you record it, which gives a little grace should there be a glitch.
I know we are all aware that our weekly offerings will take a hit. But remember, should you need to spend a little money on some technology you don’t have, it could be offset by the money you are not spending on the weekly ministries which are currently suspended.
Ask a few friends or family to come and pray over you. Seat them near the camera and preach authentically. Your people will connect.
I know music during worship is vital, but if you don’t normally stream anything, I would not attempt to stream music. That involves a whole different level of mixing technology for it to sound right on the viewer’s device.
The enemy and our own flesh seem to always work together to remind us of what we do not have or cannot do. This must be resisted. Focus on your calling to shepherd your people to the best of your ability. Separation from our people is not a new struggle. The Apostle Paul wanted to be with his people too, but Nero, in effect, quarantined him. So, he wrote letters. I’m glad he did. God could have called any pastor He wanted to lead your people. But He did not. He called you. Lead them like you believe this.