Pastors today are in a difficult position. It seems any decision they make pleases half their congregation, and causes the other half to shake their heads, murmur, withdraw, or leave.
I’m sure you’ll remember the story of Moses in Exodus 17. The Israelites had engaged the Amalekites in battle, and here is the description of what happened:
11 While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 When Moses’s hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword.Exodus 17:11-13, Christian Standard Bible
In a survey completed by Lifeway Research recently, pastors are saying the following about the financial impact of COVID-19 on their congregations:
- 48% say that the current economy is having a negative impact on their church up from 26% in 2019
- 33% say giving is lower than budgeted
- African American pastors are the least likely to select “The economy is having no impact on my church” (18%) and most likely to select “Very negatively” (20%)
In addition to this, churches are experiencing lower percentages of attendance than in pre-COVID months.
- 63% of pastors report that COVID-19 attendance levels are 70% or less than pre-COVID levels.
- 29% of pastors report that attendance levels today are less than 50% of their pre-COVID worship attendance.
Pastors feel the weight of navigating an election with all the turmoil it has brought, lower financial giving, and lower attendance (Barna reports that 1/3 of Christians have stopped attending church during COVID). To add to the dogpile, some people are predicting that up to 30% or more of pre-COVID attenders will not return to the church. Our pastors need encouragement. They need our support.
Now, back to the Exodus text.
Leaders such as Moses have limited strength. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Moses realized he needed people around him who would stand with him and help Israel gain a victory over the Amalekites. Enter Aaron and Hur. They held up his hands. Israel won.
Your pastor is in the battle of his life. Some are not going to survive COVID-19 and will go home to be with their Lord. It has already happened to numerous ministers. Some will catch the virus and be forced to gear down. Some pastor’s bodies will be changed forever because of COVID’s long-term effects.
Your pastor is most likely worn out physically and spiritually. The church had to pivot to online worship, online Bible studies, online giving, physical distancing when/if worship reopened, and of course, masks – to wear or not to wear, that has been the question, right?
Let’s end the year by giving our pastors a boost. Let’s encourage them, not nip at their heels. No seminary class, no workshop, and no book they’ve read has prepared them to lead in times like this. Be gracious to them, be forgiving, and believe they are making the decisions they feel are the right ones. Stand with them. Encourage them. Pray for them. Follow them. Give them advice. Agree to disagree at times. Support them.
If you have a genuine concern, don’t gossip; instead, meet with your pastor and hear one another. Don’t rally the troops against them. Talk to your pastor. Try to understand the reasons for his decisions or his stance on controversial subjects that have arisen during COVID. Accept his decisions. Follow his leadership. Be kind.
Lift high the hands of your pastor.