7 Tough Truths for Leading the Church in a Post-Covid World

7 Tough Truths for Leading the Church in a Post-Covid World

Good leaders can lead their team, organization, or church through challenges in the present. But great leaders not only lead through challenges in the present, they do so with a visionary direction for the future that goes beyond the present moment.

And that is really the challenge for all church leadership teams right now, that they not only navigate the current challenges with Covid, but that they cultivate a fresh vision for the future that gives them direction for their steps today.

But in order to cultivate vision for the future, it is important for us to spend time in prayer and in reflection on what a post-covid world will look like and what that will mean for leading the church in that world.

As I’m sure you are already anticipating, there are going to be tough truths that we as pastors and church leaders are going to have to wrestle with.

7 Tough Truths for Leading the Church in a Post-Covid World

1. Every pastor (at least in the West) will be in church revitalization work.

If you were already in a revitalization before Covid arrived, then your starting point may be further back than you would hope.

If everything was humming prior to Covid, you’re probably going to need to rebuild a lot of the things you took for granted. Welcome to church revitalization.

And for either situation, it won’t be easy.

It will require an intentional plan and for your entire team to work in unison.

Church revitalization in the post-Covid world will require the right blend of patience and tenacity.

Or allow me to say it another way: Gradatim Ferociter. Step-by-step, ferociously.

Church revitalization in the post-Covid world will require the right blend of patience and tenacity.

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2. Your emotional health will continue to be contagious.

As Edwin Friedman has pointed out in his book, A Failure of Nerve, any organization, group, church, nation, etc. is affected by its leader’s emotional health. So, you must take your own emotional world very seriously. Not just for you. But for everyone around you (and everyone around those who are around you).

Mature leadership begins with the leader’s capacity to take responsibility for his or her own emotional being and destiny.

Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve

But if you are healthy and can take the hits that come with leadership and remain connected and committed to your congregation, over time the congregation will follow your lead.

So if your emotional health will continue to be contagious, what are you spreading?

Over the last twelve months (especially), you’ve probably recognized the exorbitant amount of anxiety that is present in your people, in your community, in your country, and possibly even in you.

To lead your church forward, you have to get honest with yourself on how you’re really doing.

3. Your bitterness is only going to grow unless you deal with it.

Early on in the Covid pandemic, I realized that one of my most basic goals was get to the other side of the pandemic without growing more pessimistic toward people. Why? Because I had already started to grow bitter.

How are you doing in the bitterness space of your heart toward the people around you or even toward people in general?

The path back to health begins with taking the step of naming what you feel.

Don’t run from it, though. If you let bitterness hang out with you, understand that it won’t stay put. It will spread. Like a virus spreading to survive, bitterness will try to find every nook and cranny of your heart and soul to take residence.

Get honest. Are you already feeling bitter? If so, what are you bitter about?

Give yourself space to be brutally honest. Start a word doc and write it down.

Now, here’s the kicker: has your bitterness taken over your optimism toward the work God does in people’s lives?

In other words, has your bitterness led you to believe that the people you’re bitter about are beyond God’s reach? Beyond His ability to transform?

Bitterness toward people often leads to a downplaying of God’s power to work in people’s lives.

If you’re bitter, deal with it before it deals with you.

Bitterness toward people often leads to a downplaying of God’s power to work in people’s lives.

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4. Many people now prefer a digital church experience vs physical.

And that might make you nervous. Once it’s not a missional necessity to do digital, how will you look at digital? Will you see it as a ministry? Will you pull the plug? Will you simply look at it as a lesser version of engagement?

These are important questions to wrestle with.

However, in this area, Covid was merely an accelerator. Our foyer had already become our website years ago. People were already checking out a sermon before they attended. And if you had a live stream, they likely watched it prior to attending.

Now? That process may be longer.

Now? You may be reaching people thousands of miles away from your community.

And instead of looking at that as an obstacle, look at it as an opportunity.

What the printing press did for the world (and the church) five-hundred years ago, the internet is doing at an even greater degree for us today.

Leverage it for the gospel.

What the printing press did for the world (and the church) five-hundred years ago, the internet is doing at an even greater degree for us today.

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5. Over the last twenty-five years, political parties have discipled people better than the church has.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s due to political pundits and commentators to constantly play with people’s fears.

Or maybe it’s due to the constant stream of political content that, out of a desire to keep people’s attention, engages in sensationalism and is totally devoid of any nuance.

Maybe it’s due to the amount of pastors and other “bible teachers” who have found it advantageous to synthesize following Jesus with following a certain political party.

And yet, maybe it’s due to the fact that most church people read none of the Bible and grew up in a home that professed the Lamb, but followed the elephant or the donkey.

What I’m getting at is if this is the case, should we be re-thinking the way we think about and do discipleship?

Has our approach to discipleship trudged deep enough into people’s hearts and souls?

Or have we prioritized information over transformation? Have we elevated attendance over obedience?

To lead the church past this moment in history, we must get honest with ourselves.

Maybe the best path for many of us is to start a conversation with our team and with friends we have in ministry. Let’s work together to disciple people better.

When it comes to discipleship, have we prioritized information over transformation? Attendance over obedience?

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6. The methods of ministry in a post-Covid world will need to change (even more than they have thus far).

The last year has confirmed what we already knew deep down. Making people into worship service attenders is not making people into disciples.

So what does the future need to look like? What kind of methods of ministry need to be adopted in a post-Covid world?

Well, if we want to know what to do in the future, we need to look to the distant-past.

Jesus shows us a model for transformative ministry.

He spent some time with the crowds.

He spent more time with His followers.

He spent even more time with the twelve.

He spent the most time with the three (Peter, James, and John).

Not only that, but He brought the twelve with Him when He ministered to the crowd.

He had less patience with the angry religious folks and much more patience for the sinners, the outcasts, and the tax collectors.

Ah yes, and He sent His followers out to speak the gospel to people.

So what methods of ministry in a post-Covid world will be important?

  • How will you spend your time?
  • Who will you spend the most time with?
  • How will you prioritize connecting with outsiders?
  • How will you bring people along with you as you minister to people?
  • How will you deploy people for ministry?

I realize I’ve given you more questions than answers. But I do believe that if we ask better questions, we’ll get better answers.

7. A LOT of people will be in transition mode in multiple areas of life.

When the dust settles, this truth is going to become abundantly clear.

Some will transition churches because they were not happy with how their church handled Covid.

Some will transition jobs because the extra time they’ve had has allowed them space to think about the future. Many will change jobs or even careers.

Others will be moving to a different city, town, region, or even country because now that remote work is more of a norm, they can live anywhere.

Many marriages that were on the rocks in pre-Covid days will move to or finalize divorce.

The church you lead past Covid and into a post-Covid world will likely look different than the church you led prior to Covid.

But you get to choose how you will respond to this.

You may be tempted to dwell on the losses. And there’s a time to mourn, no doubt. But as a leader, the church won’t move forward if you don’t first.

Move Forward With Purpose

Leading the church in a post-Covid world won’t be easy.

But if you move forward with purpose and intentionality, I believe the future is bright.

God’s still got work to do through you and as you process what it means to move forward as a leader and as a church, I want to help.

At all times in leadership, it is important to lead with clarity, with direction, and with vision.

At all times in leadership, it is important to stay healthy.

But as we lead the church forward, these things aren’t just important, they’re required.

If you want to lead in this next season with:

  • Clarity
  • Direction
  • Vision

And establish healthy rhythms for your time…

You’ll want to consider adding The Intentional Pastor’s Toolkit to your leadership toolbox.

Too many pastors in too many churches are living Sunday to Sunday. They go an entire year without any distinct focus beyond making sure Sundays happen.

Don’t settle for that pattern anymore.

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.

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