How are you feeling?
You are six weeks into a stay at home order and you have done well at adjusting to this pandemic. You are learning to use social media for preaching and teaching, and you have been intentional in connecting with church members. You have even discovered new ways to connect with the community.
So, how are you feeling?
You might be feeling disappointed if you were expecting to be back to worship in the sanctuary by the first of May or feeling angry if you have been thinking that this stay at home order and no public worship is not fair. Then again, you might be feeling relieved because you have been fearful for your health and the health of your family. So, how are you feeling?
I admit that I have conflicting feelings. I have been grieving not being able to meet with you, who have been entrusted to my care, and with family and friends for whom I care. I am missing in-person smiles and facial expressions, as well as personal contact. On the other hand, I am adapting to the situation and circumstances in which we are living, with the hope that each of you will use your best feeling and thinking in navigating the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Our Current Reality
Here is what I know: The pandemic is with us for the next 12-18 months. The end will come only when there is a vaccine.
There are no easy 3 steps here or 5 steps there through this pandemic. For the moment, there is a protocol for living into the next days, weeks, and months ahead. It will include phases with each phase having its own set of rules and patterns to follow. There are no experts to call or conferences to be attended that will make this pandemic go away. We must trust those who are working, not only to develop a vaccine, but who are leading us in flattening the curve. We are all learning as we do. Pay attention to what comes next. There are not easy formulas or steps to end this pandemic.
Leading Through the Pandemic
As a leader, you must lead people through this pandemic. Even though you have never been here before, God has gifted you for this moment to lead through these days.
There is no strategic plan through this pandemic. That doesn’t mean you don’t plan or strategize how to navigate through what is coming. It does mean that the people you must be listening to are the people, (the public health officials, doctors, scientists, your bishop), who are discovering what is next as they go.
There will be other voices, each one important, but, as you know, we are living in the midst of great complexity. So as a leader, keep centered upon who you are, why you are doing what you are doing, and the people entrusted to your care.
Even though it may not seem this way, you have never had an opportunity like this before. So, here is what you do:
Know and Name Current Reality
Be realistic about the challenges and obstacles you face. The people who are following your lead need to know that you can be trusted because you are self-aware, competent, and honest.
You know what you are facing and the resources you have. Be transparent and caring. The temptation is to downplay the severity of the situation in hopes of keeping everyone together. You will have more respect as a leader if you care for the truth as you care for the people.
Know Yourself and Your Strengths and Gifts
Know when to be vulnerable and when to empathize. As the leader you are helping people navigate the challenges. Be emotional healthy. Sometimes during times of crisis and decision-making, leaders become the problem because they are focused more upon themselves than they are upon the challenges they are facing. Leadership is not about being liked or pleasing people. Leadership is about assisting people to become who God created them to be.
Stay Focused Upon Why You Are Doing What You Are Doing
There has never been a greater time in your lifetime to help people love God and to love neighbor. You have been working to discover, learn, and develop new ways of connecting with people regarding their love for God. How will you model for your community and the world how to love your neighbor?
Paying attention and helping your congregation pay attention to the protocols of health and safety will go a long way in saying to people that you take them seriously. I am sure you have already begun to think of other ways to keep people safe and at the same time tell them they are important to and loved by God.
Strengthen Present Relationships and Develop New Ones
Relationships are key in developing trust. Who are the people you are presently related to within the church and community? How are you feeding and strengthening those relationships?
Who are the people in the community (teachers, principals, political leaders, first responders, etc.) you can reach out to and develop relationships? You will never have this time again. Take advantage of the opportunity, think outside the box, and step out in courage to lead like you have never led before.
Equip People To Take the Lead
As the leader, your job is to name current reality, model calm and compassionate behavior, assist people in the direction of hope, and identify and provide what is needed for people to succeed.
Your leadership will determine whether the church you lead is stronger or weaker on the other side of this pandemic. You have never had an opportunity like this before in your ministry.
To help you determine how you will lead people through this crisis, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are offering a one hour Zoom call for you and your leadership team. To participate, go to
https://Transformingmission.org/trust. This resource will help you and your leadership team position yourselves for navigating through this pandemic and to becoming a stronger congregation on the other side.
Regardless of how you are feeling, know there are people who love you and who ready to walk with you through these days. Go to https://Transformingmission.org/trust. Your best days are ahead.
Will the local church you lead emerge stronger or weaker on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic?
That’s a big question!
Here’s the currency – and no we’re not talking money – that is going to determine the answer to that question: trust.
Trust is the foundation of all healthy teams and organizations, including the church. Before we explore the components of trust, consider for a minute, the relationship between a pastor and the church leadership. What stage is your leadership team at in building trust?
- Ground Zero – You’re just beginning to build trust
- Emerging Trust – You have some trust, but it needs to improve.
- Expanding Trust – You’ve tested your trust and are looking to grow deeper
Here’s your first reminder: don’t over-react or discount where you find yourself.
Are you doing the best you can? Great! Keep going.
Building Trust in Small Moments
Wherever you find yourself, building trust is not a “one and done” adventure. Trust is built in small moments. Think of trust being built over time as a series of experiences – small, seemingly mundane moments.
Yes, momentous occasions can build trust.
The challenge is, even during an extended crisis, those “big moments” are not frequent. Small moments, like making a phone call, sending a note, asking how someone is doing…and stopped to listen to their answer, etc. are the fabric of daily relationships. These are seemingly small moments AND these are the moments that build trust. As you consider all that is happening right now, take a minute to celebrate the small moments that are deepening your relationships with others. Why? Because you’re building trust!
Defining Trust and Identifying Stakeholders
Additionally, trust is multi-faceted.
Before you consider the groups entrusted to your care, here’s the definition of trust we’re working with:
- Trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. Vulnerability is “the emotion you experience during times of uncertainty risk, and emotional exposure.”
- Distrust is the choice not to make self vulnerable to another person’s actions.
With these definitions in mind, now consider the church you lead and/or attend. Across an organization, leaders need to build trust with multiple groups, or stakeholders.
The starting point of trust in the local church are our relationships with Jesus. If I may ask you another question, how are you doing trusting Jesus in this season of ministry? As a person of faith, it could go without saying, your relationship with Jesus sets the direction for trust across other relationships. But, I’ve made this assumption before only to be surprised when it wasn’t the case.
With your trust in Jesus firmly in place, now consider these six unique groups that necessitate trust in local congregations.
Each one is important. Each one takes effort to nurture and care. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s a macro list to help you begin considering your relationships. Some of the relationships on this list likely need to be nurtured. Other relationships, I hope, are reasons to celebrate how you’ve nurtured trust over time.
Consider these groups and add to the list to make it your own.
- Church leaders
- District and conference leadership
- Staff (where applicable)
Pause and watch a conversation Tim and I had about this topic.
Why trust is important during this pandemic
Why do we say trust is what will determine whether the church you lead is stronger or weaker on the other side of this pandemic? Because, if you watched the video, you heard us identify the thoughts, feelings, and actions associated with trust. These are the things that keep you nimble, open to God’s presence, and to the changing circumstances around you.
Here’s the good news: You get to determine how you’ll lead people through this crisis. You have the agency to lead people to build trust and be a community that develops trust. What might happen if you focused on the foundational element of all teams?
We’re here to help you find out.
Trust is the foundation upon which every team is built. The challenge is, most teams don’t intentionally focus on building trust.
During seasons of rapid change and uncertainty, trust is absolutely essential. We’re prepared to help you build trust with simple, yet effective, 45 to 60-minute conversations.
Here’s how it works:
- Click the button below to complete a simple form.
- You’ll get an email with information about three stages of trust.
- Reply to the email as instructed.
- We’ll contact you to schedule your next steps.
How are you doing today? Seriously. How are you feeling? Since you are asked that question, in one form or another, several times a day, it should be an easy question to answer. Yet, it is difficult when you attempt to answer the question honestly.
Even when you ask the question, you don’t always wait for an answer. If you are honest, you either don’t wait for an answer or you receive a perfunctory answer. Neither your question nor the answer is offered seriously. So, let me ask again, “How are you feeling today?”
How are you feeling?
You might deflect your feelings and hide behind figures of speech. When you are asked, “How are you doing?” Or “How are you feeling?” you might say, “On top of the world,” or “If I were any better, there would be two of me,” or “About half,” or “I’m down in the dumps,” or “I’m blue,” the list goes on.
Each statement allows you to evade having to confront, plainly and exactly, what you are feeling. Even though they are creative and descriptive, they often create a distance between your feelings and your words. Thus, creating a false perception of a relationship.
Over the past several weeks I have begun to be more aware of my emotions. I am learning that my feelings direct my thinking and if I am not honest with my feelings, I may not be making the best decisions for myself, my family, or for the people entrusted to my care.
Emotions in Scripture
Feelings are not foreign in the scripture. You do not have to look far in the Bible to see examples of people letting emotions lead them down certain paths. For example, Adam and Eve and their desire to be like God. Cain’s jealousy over God’s favor toward Abel’s sacrifice. Jesus’ anger when he overturned the tables in the temple.
What about King David and his lust for Bathsheba? His emotional needs led to the death of Uriah and ultimately to the death of this first child. It was only after David dealt with his selfish actions that he became “a man after God’s own heart.”
There are stories of strong emotions that led to life-changing decisions for the better. Mordecai’s public display of grief over the plight of his people and Esther’s courage to tell the king of a murderous plot. There were emotions like passion and anger to do good for others.
Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, is an example of how negative emotions of anger and hatred can be transformed into positive emotions of love and leadership. He encouraged early followers of Jesus to live with positive emotions like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as opposed to negative emotions of jealousy, vengeance, and anger. He encouraged them to be forgiving and to deal with others with the love that Jesus had dealt with them.
Identify, Understand, and Express Emotions
We could go on. The scriptures are filled with stories of how feelings become thoughts which become actions expressed in both negative and positive ways.
With that in mind, during this stay at home order, you have time to identify and understand your feelings and to express them in positive and appropriate ways. You also have time to listen to the people with whom you are related, whether they be family or people in the church. As a leader, identifying, understanding, and expressing your feelings are important in developing trust and confidence in your leadership.
I’m not trying to add anything to your “to do” list, but I am suggesting that you look at your emotional condition. While you are at home these next few days, take time to reflect upon the following:
Recognize your feelings.
- Take a moment to stop and to discern your emotional current reality. When you are willing and able to recognize your own feelings, you will be able to recognize, more accurately, the feelings of others. This provides an opportunity to be curious and to listen more honestly.
- Your world has been turned upside down. You are stepping into a new normal. You might have feelings of sadness or loss. Even anger or disappointment. Once you have recognized these feelings within yourself, you will be more able to recognize the emotions in the people entrusted to your care. Your self-awareness will make you a better leader.
Understand your feelings.
- Why do you feel the way you feel? Understanding your emotions is an adventure. As you begin to understand “why” you feel the way you do, you also learn to understand “why” you react or respond to the feelings of others. This provides the opportunity to become vulnerable and to build trust in your relationships.
- Once you begin to understand “why,” you will be able to empathize with the people around you. Through understanding and empathy, you will become a better leader, as well as a better spouse, parent, friend, student, and colleague.
Express your feelings.
- This is where you not only have the courage to be honest, but you begin to express your feelings in healthy and productive ways. It is in the “give and take” of expressing your feelings that relationships are potentially strengthened.
- Again, it is important to know yourself. As you express your feelings you understand that you are stirring up feelings in someone else and vice versa. But the potential of understanding one another is there. This provides you, as a leader, the opportunity to be sensitive as you listen, share, receive, and respond.
Choose one emotion to work on this week.
- Write it down and intentionally focus on it. Give yourself permission to name it and to feel it. Ask a friend to partner with you. Then, ask for feedback on your growth.
You are more the leader God intends for you to be when you are emotionally healthy.
I once heard Mike Tyson say, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” What is true in the boxing ring is true in leadership. So, along with permission to feel, give yourself permission to fail. When you start recognizing, understanding and expressing your feelings, there will be moments of joy as well as anguish. When you lash out in anger, take a deep breath, and start again.
For you to become who God created you to be, you will need to be vulnerable and courageous. You will need to be kind to yourself and apologize when you fall short. The payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, and a better you.
So, let me ask again, seriously, “How are you feeling?” I’ll be looking for an answer next time.