Right now, it kinda sucks to be a pastor.
For nearly 18 years, I was in pastoral ministry. The job is emotionally and mentally demanding even without a global pandemic and a massive civil rights movement happening.
I went to church my whole life. Saved when I was in second grade, surrendered to ministry at 16 at camp, got my undergraduate degree in Youth Ministry, got my Master’s in media and communication and have always loved being part of it.
I never thought there would be a day when we just couldn’t meet at church. Ever.
It never entered my mind that there might come a day when we actually had to rely on digital versions of first-century practices for community instead of the regular rhythm of gathering every 7 days. I know many pastors can say the same.
But now, I’m part of the communications division of the church world. It’s something many never thought we’d need but boy, do we need it. So I’m trying to figure out ways to get pastors to listen to the need for a digital strategy, how to enhance your social presence, and BOOM: pandemic.
I believe that as the role of the pastor has changed in this time, so has the role of the communicator.
We must become leading supporters of our pastors.
When Israel went to war with the Amalekites in Exodus 17, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battle with Aaron and Hur while Joshua went to fight. As long as Moses’ arms were up, the Israelites were winning. So the two attendants, both high-ranking officials in Israel, held Moses’ arms up when he got tired.
What a lowly task. Sniffing an old man’s armpits for the better part of the day sounds not awesome.
Aaron was the high priest, very educated, and powerful in the nation and here he was, putting his college degree to work, holding up an ex-con’s (Moses murdered a guy if you didn’t know that) arms all day.
We have an opportunity to be this same type of leading supporter for our pastors. Not that you should just say “yes” to everything they suggest. Not that you should check your brain at the door. Not that you shouldn’t execute your job duties to the best of your abilities. But communicators can really take a lot of stress away from our leadership right now if we’re willing to go the extra mile for them.
Our pastors need us to be a little extra in good ways right now, even if it seems trivial or like busy-work.
How Communicators can Support Pastors Now
There are at least 5 ways that communicators can use their skills to support their pastoral leadership before they are asked right now that I know pastors will appreciate it.
Pray for Them
Where we all should start is with prayer. We like to say this is obvious or a no-brainer, but I’m regularly reminded that it is not as obvious as we would like to believe. Pray for your leaders. Pray for their wisdom.
To quote a pastor I heard once who said this about a president (but it applies here too), “How dare you criticize that man if you haven’t prayed for him.”
Pastors are lonely. They often report feelings of inadequacy and isolation that they cannot express for fear of losing their jobs. You might think that they are surrounded by positive support, but they often do not feel that way.
Send them emails or texts or give compliments when you can. “Great message this week,” and “Thank you for putting so much time into our meetings each week” and “you’re doing a great job” can go a really long way. They may hear some positivity, but the negativity is often overwhelming and disproportionate.
Positivity costs nothing so give it away freely. (If you were looking for something to tweet, that was it!)
Research for Them
There is a lot of conflicting news and stats. Right now, they’re trying to decide when to open, how to open, what measures to take, etc. Help them research data for making decisions and share it with them (or with those who will share it with your leadership).
Help your team sift through the misleading headlines (see last week’s post) and the talking head agendas to make good decisions in your context for your church.
Send them Wins
One of the most encouraging things you can do is send your pastor stories of wins and good things happening in your church. Send via email or text when someone accepts Christ or you hear how church online is impacting your people. In fact, this is one of the few times that warrants an “all-staff” email!
Communicators are supposed to be more attuned to the implications decisions will affect or warrant communication with your people.
You know that you will eventually need to communicate that your church is reopening, so start working on a plan now. It would be wise to prepare communication in case someone in your church is exposed to COVID and what the plan will be if that happens. Along with that, you may need to talk to the local press, so what’s your PR plan?
Most pastors are not thinking about these things. That’s not a slam, it’s just not honestly what they get paid for. It IS what you get paid for, though. Start anticipating what you will need in the coming months and start working on those policies now.
When your pastor needs it, you want to have something ready to go already. They will love you for it. You have no idea how much stress you can relieve by removing their need to add one more thing to their plate. It’s our ministry to them.
I would bet I didn’t cover it all. What else could we do to support our pastors and leaders right now? Let us know in the comments and I may add them into the blog. Thanks for reading!
Seth has been in ministry for over 20 years, recently serving as Communications Director at a thriving church in North Dallas. He is also the host of The Seminary of Hard Knocks podcast, blogs at sethmuse.com, and has his Masters of Arts in Media and Communications from Dallas Theological Seminary. Seth specializes in helping church communicators use social media and content marketing to find common ground with their audience to empower them for spiritual growth.