On Friday, May 1 Tim and Sara hosted a Facebook Live question and answer period to respond to questions submitted. You can find the list of questions and approximate time stamps below.

You can also find the original Facebook post here.

Approximate Time Stamps, Notes, and Questions Covered 

[00:00:00] Welcome and greeting one another
[00:02:45] Defining the purpose/boundaries of this video
[00:04:39] How do we best love one another in a way that shows a witness to the rest of the world?
[00:06:17] You are loved.
[00:07:07] Timeframe of Phase 1-3: The Virus Doesn’t Know a Calendar
[00:11:30] What will stage one, stage two, stage three, what is going to look like, and what is expected of us come May 24
[00:14:23] How long will Phase 1 -3 last? What does the calendar look like?
[00:18:19] Story of one Freshman in High School – Expectation Setting
[00:19:42] What about VBS, summer activities, and outside groups using the church building?
[00:21:05] Are there recommendations somewhere for proper cleaning?
Here are two documents from the CDC:
[00:22:50] Explain what 10 people in the building means? Per space or total?
[00:24:17] Are the phases set by each individual church or do we follow the guidelines given by government officials?
[00:25:24] What is, what’s the age for, what is the age at which we’re talking about folks being at risk? What about at-risk groups?
[00:29:50] What is the significance of May 24?
[00:33:19] Why can we not use bulletins? What’s the thinking on that? And if we just put the bulletins out for people to pick up on their own, could we do it that way?
[00:36:26] Are there additional guidelines that can be offered? Can we continue to celebrate communion if you already have the authority to do so?
NOTE: As we concluded the live stream it occurred to us that during phases 1 and 2, face masks will be worn. It is impossible to partake of the elements with a facemask on. When you take a face mask off, you should wash your hands. As you can see, the logistics of celebrating Holy Communion in person are challenging, if not impossible.
[00:44:16] What about hallways and aisles?
[00:45:45] What about the length of service?
[00:48:30] Why no responsive readings?
[00:50:35] Why wear masks?
[00:52:30] Wrap-up and reminders
[00:54:24] Closing Prayer

How are you doing? Really.

As people of faith, we trust God is present in the midst of our everyday lives. Maybe you spent last week learning new technology, creating new systems, and checking in on people in your community. Maybe you were exhausted and maybe you’re missing people you usually see on a weekly basis.

All of those experiences, and many more, are normal for what we’re experiencing.

Stay at Home

As a leader of a congregation, a family, or a business, you are making decisions regarding the safety of the people entrusted to your care. The “Stay at Home” order in Ohio goes into effect tonight at 11:59 p.m. through April 6. That means you’ll be spending more time with your family.

You are already stepping up and leading well. You’re learning new things at a rapid pace and navigating ever-changing circumstances with grace.

You are equipped to lead people through this. No, you and I weren’t trained for what we’re experiencing in seminary or Local Pastors’ School. But you have the skills to lead others through this time.

What follows are seven reminders as you navigate this season of ministry:

1. Feelings are normal.

Feeling anxious in uncertain times is normal. What’s not ok is to allow your anxiety or the anxiety of others to rule the situation. Your job, as a leader, is to manage your own anxiety as you help relieve the anxiety for others. Help them to find calm. Sometimes that’s as simple as inviting people to breathe. Remember that when feeling processes heat up, thinking processes cool down. We need you to keep your head and heart present. That means keeping calm.

2. Keep the facts in mind.

Allow persons to express their feelings. But at the same time, remember to keep the reality of the situation before them. Some questions you might ask are:

    • What do you know for sure?
    • What are the experts saying?
    • What are you thinking?
    • What are you feeling?
    • What are your options?
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages?

You manage your feelings better when you rely on the facts than you do when you immerse yourself in the emotion of opinions and assumptions.

3. Respond swiftly. Be aware of when to HALT.

Remember, we are living in rapidly changing circumstances. That means you’ll likely need to respond swiftly when something else changes. Be sure to check your response against your normal behavior. If you find your behavior being out of sorts, check if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Your response can become uncharacteristic reactions when you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Yes, that means now, more than ever, please care for yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

4. Keep a narrow focus as you broaden your action.

Your congregation is a part of a larger system. As a leader, you might feel you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your entire congregation and the local community.

Remember that you and your congregation are connected to a larger system. As you focus on what you need to do, remember that you have other people within the district, conference, and your local community with whom you can partner. In other words, you don’t have to do it all alone.

5. Let go of perfection.

With the stay at home order in place tonight, you and your congregation will not only be practicing social distancing, but contributing to the health of your community, church, family, and to people, you will never know.

Pastoral care is taking on different forms, so is worship. Your meetings are happening in different ways, too. All these new things and new mediums to communicate mean now is not the time to focus on perfection. Offer your best, don’t exhaust yourself. And that leads us to…

6. Keep things simple.

A telephone is still a great tool. Use it. If you have the capacity to use technology, use it, too. And, yes, wash your hands and keep a 6′ distance. (We hope one day we look back on this post and laugh. For now, these are life-saving measures for you and the people you lead and love.)

As you seek to support people and care for one another, keep your systems simple. A phone tree, email distribution list, or common time for Facebook prayer gatherings are simple ways to stay connected.

7. Work the plan you created.

You’ve suspended worship services and meetings or moved things online or to conference calls. Some of you are also cleaning up from floods. Our guess is, you didn’t have any plans in place for this. After all, why would you?

Now is the time to create communication systems and work those plans. How often will you use the phone chain? When will you send emails? What about USPS mail? Where does social media fit into the plan? (That’s not a list of things you have to do. It’s a list of things to consider.)

In the midst of any crisis, it’s always helpful to name what events trigger your plans. Remember, anxiety does not rule the situation. Decide what will objectively trigger your plan and relax in the knowledge that you will know when to act.

You are Leading

You are already thinking of things that we have not mentioned. Good. That means that you are already starting to lead in the midst of anxious times. Remember to manage your own emotions and thoughts as you work to lead the people around you.

With a deep and abiding peace of God’s presence, you will assess the situation, understand what is happening, and make the leadership decisions needed to navigate this season of ministry.

Please know that you are not alone. We (Sara Thomas and Tim Bias) are available to help navigate these uncertain times with you.

God is with Us a Daily Devotional for all God's people Navigating COVID-19

 

I’ve had several conversations/emails from Pastors leading smaller, older congregations asking something like, “How can I lead worship during this time?”

Often, the congregation is not on Facebook, individuals don’t have a computer, and are in the high-risk group for COVID-19. If this is you, keep reading. If it’s not, jump down to the section “Daily Devotional” below.

Leadership Pivot

First, thank you for asking and seeking to find new ways to lead, worship, and care for the community of faith.

This is a leadership pivot. Here’s what I mean. Plant one foot in what is essential at this moment (faith, hope and love; Scripture, prayer, the spiritual disciplines; reminding people they are not alone, God is with them, etc)

Then scan for opportunities. Here are a few opportunities I found that may be helpful. Please comment below to share your resources, too!

Scanning for Opportunities

  1. Sign up at freeconferencecall.com
    • You’ll get a phone number that you can then share.
    • Everyone calls one number and you’re all on the line together. 
    • Do a devotion/prayer request/reflection time.
      • Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice.
      • This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium.
    • UPDATE from FreeConferenceCall.com (3-20-2020 email). To help alleviate the strain on their system, the following steps are suggested:
      • Download The Mobile App. Tap here to Download for iPhone, here to Download for Android. This will give you the ability to call in over WiFi. Our app also has smart call routing so when you dial-in using your phone we’ll route you to carrier networks that have the most bandwidth.
      • Download The Desktop App. This lets you call in using your computer and also lets you stay better connected with screen-sharing and video conferencing. Tap the following link and scroll down to Download the Desktop App. 
      • Schedule meetings to start 15 or 45 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour. Carrier networks are less congested at these times.
  2. Sign up for zoom.com (free version).
    • Zoom uses both telephone and internet/video, so this can be an ideal solution for everyone.
    • Distribute the phone number and link via a church mailing or phone chain.
    • Share a devotion/prayer request/reflection time. Give people opportunities to talk too. Don’t be the only voice. This is a different medium. You’ll need to pivot to adapt to the medium
    • The benefit of zoom is you can break people into groups. And some will be able to see one another, too. There is an app for smartphones and iPads, too.

Pilot

Remind people we’re living in an ever-changing time. You might try a conference call a few times and find it works. You might do the same with zoom. It might be awkward, weird, and different.

And that’s ok.

Remember you can pivot at any time if you find a better solution.

Here’s what I wouldn’t do: don’t try one of the above options once and quit. There’s a learning curve for everyone. Be patient as you pilot.

And, yes, I may have written that as much as a reminder for you as for me.

Launch

Do one of the above at least weekly. Either of the above will be great for worship, a mid-week check-in, and meetings. Try something! That’s all I’m encouraging.

Daily Devotional 

To help with the devotion piece, starting Sunday, Tim and I are facilitating a daily devotional.

I say facilitating because we’re inviting anyone to write a devotional.  My point of bringing this is is to say, feel free to use one (or more as the weeks go on) on your calls outlined above. Here’s all we ask – acknowledge the writer, just like you’d do in a sermon. Give credit where credit is due. 🙂 

If you sign up for “God Is With Us,” we’re also working on a pdf version that won’t be dated so it can be copied and mailed to people without email/tech. 

Again, you can sign up to write or receive the devotional here: https://www.transformingmission.org/god-is-with-us/

For anyone who is tech-savvy, you can share this bit.ly link

bit.ly/GodwithUs (case sensitive)

Your Ideas

Tell us in the comments, what are you doing to stay connected as a faith community and support those who are quarantined?

In Gratitude

I commend you on coming through your first Sunday disruption regarding the coronavirus. Thank you for finding new and different ways to communicate and to connect with your congregation. 

As you know, this disruption is not over.  In fact, we are entering a new normal. For how long? Who knows. But when was the last time you and your spouse were working from home, while the kids were home from school?  When was the last time you did not have extra-curricular activities, one, two, or three nights a week? The normal rhythms of life are being disrupted. 

COVID-19 is a serious global pandemic.  All necessary precautions should be taken. Thank you for stepping up to do your part in addressing this crisis. But just as you had to find new and different ways to communicate, you will now have to find new and different ways to lead your congregation and community. 

What we Know

Here is what we know: 

  • Although COVID-19 is a new virus, we, as a human community, have successfully faced and overcome similar crises in the past. 
  • For example, the plague in London, the flu epidemic in 1917, the Poliovirus in the 1950’s, and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. We have survived the atomic bomb, two world wars, a Cold War, wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, global terrorism, 9/11, not to mention the assignation of a president, a civil rights leader and presidential candidate, natural disaster, cancer, STD’s, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the list goes on. 

We will face and overcome this serious virus as well.  But you will need to step up and lead the people around you through the anxiety and confusion.

  • Because COVID-19 is a new virus, it is frightening. We can’t control it. Precisely because it is new and we don’t know how to control it, we are being asked to take precautions, that for some seems drastic and unnecessary. Regardless of what you think or how you might feel about the situation and circumstances, we are in a time of great anxiety and stress.

It is in the midst of this anxiety and stress that you are needed to step up and to be a calming voice and presence.

Sara Thomas is trained to coach people during times like this. Reach out if you need someone to be in conversation with about your own anxiety, leadership, and navigating this disruption. Coaches don’t have an agenda, they hold space for you to discern what is needed. We’re here to help. 

Things to Consider

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Be the leader that you need and want. 

  2. Communicate with the people in your congregation.                                      

    • Since information sharing and communication on Sunday mornings is out for a few weeks, identify the ways you will connect with people in your congregation? Email, text, phone, Zoom? You have an opportunity to develop some new patterns of communication and new habits for connecting. 
  3. Lead by example 

    • You have the opportunity to use technology to pray, teach/preach, lead meetings, etc. It is only inconvenient because it is not your normal pattern. Make it your normal pattern so that you can continue to be the leader you need and want. 
  4. Live your life as a follower of Jesus

    • There are people around you who are afraid.  They need to know they are not alone and that someone cares for them.  This crisis provides you the opportunity to point people to God’s love in Jesus. Be the presence of Jesus in every situation and circumstance. Watch for an email about a daily devotional that we’d love for you to contribute to and share with your congregation.
  5. As a follower of Jesus…

    • You already know that whatever happens, you will be okay because “nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus…” Offer such assurance and hope to the people God has entrusted to your care. 

Again, thank you for your leadership.  God is not done with you yet. In the midst of the crisis, you are being shaped as the person and the leader needed for these days. Step up and become who God is creating you to be.

Please know that Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to help navigate these uncertain times. 

A person claimed to weave “biblical principles” into his business. When his business went bad and the stock market dropped, he left his investors to pay his debts and his customers to pick up the pieces. 

Another person talked about integrating biblical principles into her business. When her business fell on hard times and the stock market dropped, so did her livelihood. But she did not run away. She stayed and worked out a plan to pay back her investors and to care for her customers. 

No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. You will have a greater impact by what you do as opposed to what you say. Most people will forget 90 percent of what you say, but they will never forget how you live.

Dishonesty and Lack of Integrity

In a day when “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable mode of operation, do you justify acts of dishonesty for valid reasons? Consider these examples:

  • overpromise and under deliver
  • exaggerate in job interviews to secure a job
  • overstate budgets to get what you want
  • understate values to get a better deal
  • cover up mistakes so you don’t lose a customer
  • call in sick because you don’t have more paid time off

Each of the above examples is an act of dishonesty which in the end reveals a lack of integrity. 

Losing the Ability to be Trusted

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of integrity. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification for a moment, but it never lasts. What have you gained if you lose your ability to be trusted? 

Maybe that is why Paul wrote to Timothy: 

Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.1 Timothy 4:15-16 

Paul tells Timothy to watch himself and his teaching. In other words, watch your life and your doctrine. Better yet, give careful attention to your behavior and belief. Make sure they match. Constantly examine yourself to see that your walk matches your talk and that your practice in life matches your profession of faith. 

Integrity is Forever

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, write, “If you step out into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory…”

If people are going to follow you whether into ministry, business, or the ballfield, they want to know if they can trust you. Do you keep your promises and follow through with your commitments? 

Brene Brown in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead writes, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” 

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, but it takes a second to lose it. 

Integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, your words and your ways, your attitudes and your actions, your values and your practice. 

Does Your Behavior Match Your Belief?

So, the question is, does your behavior match your belief? 

If the answer is “Yes”, every person who trusts you will spread the word that you are trustworthy, and the truth of your character will spread. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.

At work, you will be trusted by colleagues and customers with more responsibility. In the home, you will be trusted by a spouse to be faithful and by your children to be present. It means you will have people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputations.

When your behavior matches your belief, you will experience limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.

Maintain Your Integrity

So, as a leader, what do you do to maintain your integrity? You choose to be vulnerable and you develop your character.

First, choose to be vulnerable.

  • Integrity is a choice. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. Choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
  • Be accountable. If you slip up, apologize. Make amends and make it right. It might be uncomfortable but being accountable will build trust and credibility. Don’t let one integrity slip alienate everyone around you.
  • Be transparent. Say what you mean, mean what you say and, of course, don’t be mean when you say it. Trust develops when people feel like they don’t need to keep up their guard.

Second, develop your character. 

  • Be kind to yourself. Stop the inner voice that is verbally and emotionally beating you up. Speak to yourself as you would speak to someone you love: your spouse, your child, your friend.
  • Be the person you want others to be. Modeling integrity and good character are much more effective than telling your team what to do. Showing that you’re always willing to make the difficult, courageous decisions build connection and trust.
  • Character is built one choice at a time. Integrity is all about consistency. It’s doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching, even when you don’t want to.
  • Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole. In every moment, and at every decision, lead from a place of wholeness. 

Do what is right and let the consequences follow. No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. Remember, success will come and go, but integrity is forever.