Dear Pastor,

With all of the challenges we’re facing, I want to offer a few reflections to you, pastor-to-pastor. While we haven’t walked through a pandemic, two years ago, our entire community was turned upside-down for several months during Hurricane Harvey, and we were compelled to make a lot of the same decisions on the fly that you’re having to make right now. As promised, I have broken these ideas down into brief topics so that you can focus on what you need the most at the moment. Here, I want to talk about something I like to call my “leadership circle.” You can call it what you want to, but you need one right now more than ever.

Surround Yourself with Leaders. It’s easy to make decisions in a vacuum during difficult moments – and as I’ve already mentioned, this is no time to remain stagnant or slow down decision-making processes. Even so, there is tremendous value in making decisions with others involved. They may be staff members, lay leaders, or a combination of both, but you need people around the table (or in the “Zoom meeting” nowadays) who are helping you sharpen the steps you’ll take. There are lots of good reasons, but I’ll offer three. First, your leadership circle will help you think of things you won’t notice on your own – and if you get the right ones, they’ll poke healthy holes in your plan before it’s executed so you can solve problems before they start. Second, your leadership circle will take ownership of the plan as something they helped develop as opposed to something you emailed them, and they’ll carry it out with greater enthusiasm and understanding, and less second-guessing. Third, your leadership circle will add credibility to the wider congregation as they help you to communicate what is going to happen in the future.  For my context, my leadership circle includes both staff and “Church Council” – an assembly of key lay leaders who help us make high-level decisions at the church. Even if you don’t have a Church Council, every church has 4-8 men or women to whom everyone looks when they’re trying to decide whether things are okay or not okay. When you have a meeting, and they talk, people listen. Get on the phone with those people soon – and early in your planning. Listen to their ideas and get them talking to one another.

Since this crisis began, we’ve assembled groups and sub-groups multiples times: We’ve met online with our Church Council on two occasions and sent multiple emails. We’ve assembled our staff in a room together once (before that was frowned upon) and online twice. Each of our age group ministries have taken the “big picture decisions” we made together and assembled online with their own sub-groups multiple times. There are now multiple layers of buy-in. Besides our online worship services Sunday morning, obviously, we want to make sure our people are also aware of everything happening and our priorities for these unique days. As a result, we’re hosting a church-wide “town hall meeting” on Zoom this Wednesday evening. Like you, I’m speaking online through “Facebook Live” and other means to our flock constantly, but this is not the same. When we gather in this meeting setting, we’re going to answer any questions our people have, and then we’re going to share some key components of our logistical plans with everyone. And here’s why I bring this up: I’m not the only one talking. Our pastors, Finance Committee members, and Church Council members will be talking to our people. Then I can come along behind them, close out the meeting, and take on the role of shepherding them. Can you see how much more momentum that affords us than me getting on a video and stating, “Folks, I’ve prayed about this, and here’s what we’re going to do”?

Pastor, as you lead, surround yourself with leaders – and free them up to help you lead.

Ryan Rush, Senior Pastor, Kingsland Baptist Church