If you’re anything like me, nothing could have prepared you for the current Pandemic Crisis we are experiencing with COVID-19. It’s almost one of those 9/11 moments where you know the world isn’t going to be the same once we’re through this. Hopefully, as a leader within your ministry, you are modeling well for your students and families what it looks like to lead your own heart, your homes, and your ministries. Ministry hasn’t stopped! It just looks different. And that’s ok.

We’re all learning a ton through this, but here’s a few lessons I’ve learned so far that I think are important for us as we lead students:

1. Do what only you can do.

Whether you lead a ministry of 30 students or 300, you simply cannot be all things to all people during this time. If I know your heart, you love people and you really do want to be there for your students and their families. That’s commendable and exactly where your heart should be! Continue to focus on your core group of students by checking in with them and helping them. Then, focus on what’s going to multiply your efforts during this time: maybe you have a student ministry staff and/or a great team of volunteer leaders and parents. Keep pouring into them and casting the vision and direction for ministry. If you haven’t huddled up with your teams by now, take the time to schedule a call with them. The purposes of that call should be to invest in them personally, encourage them and help them see how we’re going to reach students and disciple them through this. Keep leading and casting vision!

2. Stay flexible and adapt.

The hardest decision we recently had to make was to cancel our summer plans. This means our largest event, Kamp, and our mission trips. These are events that our students absolutely LOVE, and it was a rough week getting the word out. The last thing we want to do is take another experience away from our students at this point, but we felt the wisest and most helpful thing for families was to give them some certainty during this uncertainty. Many families will be faced with financial struggles in the near future and the reality is, our team was in many ways “handcuffed” to our summer plans.

Now that we have cleared the calendar, our team is able to be flexible and adapt. Right now this is key because no one knows when life will get back to “normal,” but it allows our team to rise and meet the immediate needs of our students and families. This doesn’t mean we’re not “planning” to do a bigger event for later in the summer, but we’re holding those plans loosely and paying attention to what our people really need. The adage, “people over programming”, is a great way to think about your summer!

3. Focus on opportunities, not just problems.

I recently listened to a podcast by Craig Groeschel called Leading Through Crisis where he talks about not just identifying the problems we face and tackling those, but also the opportunities. Now is a great time to take a step back from the every day needs of ministry and get a wider picture of where you really are. I know for me personally, thinking like this doesn’t just happen amidst the week-to-week grind of ministry. I often have to schedule dedicated time to get away and pray, dream, and envision with the Lord. With some “extra” time, schedule a day to do this and bounce your ideas off trusted leaders in ministry. What are the decisions you have been putting off that would be great to implement now? What are the true, real needs of our students and families? If you had to start over again, what would you do differently? Don’t just overlook the problems! Be clear you understand what they are, but realize there are opportunities that present themselves in crisis as well.

4. Make an effort to be present.

In the past, I’ve found in crisis, not just with the current one we find ourselves in, but in ALL crisis, kids care less about what you say and more about the effort you make to be present with them. Don’t misunderstand me and think it’s not important for us to teach Biblical truth during this time. We should always be pointing kids to Jesus and helping them remember God is faithful, even in hard times! This is absolutely necessary and my guess is most of us are figuring out ways to do that creatively. However, kids will pay more attention to the effort you put in to connecting with them and being “present” in their lives. Right now this is obviously accomplished through text, phone calls, social media, FaceTime, Zoom and other means, but it could also be old fashioned. With wisdom, driving by someone’s house or writing letters goes a long way. Students will remember you were there for them when life got rough.

Focus more on connecting with them than saying anything profound…and don’t worry if your teaching videos aren’t perfect. No one relates to anything perfect right now. Authenticity and being real are relatable.  

5. Take care of yourself!

Please take advantage of this time to continue to grow spiritually, personally, mentally, and physically. I’ve found it’s difficult to stay disciplined when your normal routine has been taken from you. Create a new routine and come up with a plan for how you are going to continue to grow in all areas of your life. Obviously, you know yourself, your family, and your schedule better than I do, so make it work for you. Have you been running too hard previous to all this and risking burn out? Maybe now is a great time to reconnect with God and focus spiritually. Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, but haven’t had time for? Go read! What about taking care of yourself physically and establishing good exercise habits? Research ideas and do it! There is NO REASON we should come out of this crisis in worse shape than when we entered it. God is still in control and He’s still at work.

Ministry hasn’t stopped; it just looks different.

God bless!

Joe Landi
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