Caring for your pastors through COVID19
This is an extremely pressurised situation for our pastoral caregivers. Amie Aitken offers some pointers to consider when it comes to caring for them
This is a strange time to be the church. It’s a strange time for everyone, but perhaps especially for the church. For centuries our entire existence, particularly in the West, has depended on us being together week by week. While everybody is feeling the malaise of social distancing and isolation, for those in the faith community there is an extra layer of sadness as each Sunday rolls around and we know we cannot be together.
It’s inspiring and encouraging to see how many churches have inclined towards innovation, already finding creative ways to serve one another and their community. It is who we are, and what we do.
There are so many people to take into consideration at this time as we service and pray. We are all mindful of our politicians, our NHS workers and others who are on the front lines of seeing us through this pandemic. Pastors across the nation are doing all that they can to ensure that the church is at the forefront of providing community and pastoral care.
For a moment, can I ask you to consider the care required for your pastoral caregivers? This is an extremely pressurised situation and they are most likely working tirelessly to step up to the plate for their church, being the best leaders they can be through a situation that nobody was ever trained or prepared for. As you get the multitude of communications about service livestreams and virtual house groups, here are some things for you to consider when it comes to caring for your pastoral caregivers:
Give Them Time and Space
Guiding someone through a bereavement or crisis as a pastor is one thing. Guiding the entire church through something that also affects them as a pastor, an individual, a spouse, a parent and a friend too is quite another. As all of this unfolded, they most likely felt the need to step up and respond immediately so that the church felt cared for and secure. Give them time to be human. Let them take their pastor hat off and process what this means for them and their loved ones too. This affects them as much as it affects you.
Give Them Grace
Be gracious if they don't say the right thing at first. There were no "Global Pandemic Devotionals" in their ministry handbook. Some of their theology may be reworking itself and they may need time to process and prepare that for you. They are especially aware that the world may be watching as their messages are broadcast out into the online void. That brings with it an extreme vulnerability that many of us, for the most part, do our best to avoid.
Have grace while they learn to do things differently. For most of them, their entire way of operating is based on the church meeting in person. There was no plan for this. Give them time to learn new skills and set up their leadership teams to operate in a new way. While some churches have been engaged with online broadcasting for some time, others are new to this and generally unequipped. Be kind in your feedback if your online services aren’t a full and professional production.
Be Mindful Of Their Limits
There are usually a small percentage of your congregation going through a life-altering crisis at any one time which is usually manageable for pastoral care, especially with a team. Currently 100 per cent of their congregation are going through this simultaneously. Be mindful of their limits. Not only are they dealing with the immediate need for 100 per cent congregational pastoral care, but they are working totally outwith their normal routines, depleted resources, potentially without key team members and practical challenges for delivering this care in person. They will feel burdened that they can't be there for people the way they would like to.
Provide Pastoral Care
Call and ask how they are doing. They probably spent all week calling everyone else. As people with great responsibility for the wellbeing of the community, they may be feeling immense pressure and may be unable to switch off, fielding a multitude of calls and requests and doing their best to have faith and hope for everyone around them. All of this pressure adds up without the ability to get away on their day off or to keep their work / life boundaries distinct. Recognise the impact this has on them and their home life whether single or married. If they are stressed, their family probably is too. If they are stressed and living alone, they may struggle without a suitable outlet for their feelings. A gentle, caring call may be just what they need.
Pray For Them
Pray for them. Ask God to equip and strengthen them for the days ahead. They still want to do their best for you and be faithful to God under the circumstances. They have been called and equipped to lead your church but require God’s strength and power to do so. Pray that they would stay close to the Lord in this time and that God would give them the guidance, wisdom and boundaries they need to help everyone live well through the most challenging of circumstances. Better yet, let them know that you are praying and ask what you can pray for. The smallest encouragements go a long way.
The Revd Amie Aitken is pastor of Leslie Baptist Church
Image | Arto Marttinen | Freely
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