Drowsy Driving. How do you stay awake and alert when driving long distances? Most likely it involves: 1) getting a good night’s sleep, and 2) having a conversation partner in the vehicle. I think that we are entering a season of drowsy driving as churches, and these two practices are important guidelines for us to apply (rather than vast quantities of energy drinks). Let me explain.
Based on recent research by Barna, there is a good chance that we have reached the point of drowsy driving as churches. The struggle of ministry in this COVID-19 season is taking a toll. There are indications that we are tired at the wheel–we are growing weary in: our faithfulness, our efforts to keep up momentum as a church, and also our outreach efforts.
Faithfulness. In April, only 4% of pastors in the United States thought that the faith journey of their congregants would decline during COVID-19, and 44% projected that individual faith commitment would actually increase in their congregations. By the end of July, 18% believe that the individual faith commitment of their congregants may decline, while only 27% now believe that there will be an increase in living out individual faith journeys. That means that nearly 75% of congregants may be plateauing or declining in their personal discipleship.
Momentum. 46% of pastors in the US report struggling to figure out how to maintain the momentum of their church as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues. What we had been touting as the ‘great gospel opportunity’ is now a church momentum vampire. Assuming that pastors are an accurate indication of their churches, nearly 50% of churches are struggling with how to maintain their current level of engagement, not even speaking into increasing that engagement.
Outreach. Nearly 90% of pastors in the US indicate that outreach plans in Fall 2020 will be disrupted by COVID-19 impact. With ongoing changes in guidelines and general uncertainty, outreach plans are being drastically revised and incredible amounts of energy and creativity are being invested to contextualize outreach to this specific season. This can be an amazing opportunity, but is once again costly.
Self-awareness. There comes a time in which we need to acknowledge the cost that our churches and church leaders are bearing emotionally, physically, and spiritually during this season. We are tired. As we continue to look for ways to drive the bus of gospel opportunity as God directs us, we need to simultaneously be concerned about health and wellness. Let’s apply a few lessons from drowsy driving:
- Get ample rest. Invest some extra time in those spiritual practices that nurture and feed us as individuals.
- Make sure we stay in community. Keep attending our church in an appropriate way. And, let’s go out of our way to encourage one another over and over again with words. Let’s not try to do this drive alone.
Grace and peace,
Carl Greene, Executive Director, SDB General Conference of USA and Canada
“About the Research: COVID-19 Data: Barna Group conducted these online surveys among 2,694 Protestant Senior Pastors from March 20–July 26, 2020. Participants are all members of Barna Group’s Church Panel. Minimal weighting has been used to ensure the sample is representative based on denomination, region and church size.”