Reality Check on Everyone’s Capacity!
If there is one word that I have heard or used more in the last three months, it has been “capacity” and more importantly, the lack thereof! The world has gone through a pandemic, is still in a pandemic and might be entering into a flare up of a pandemic. As more and more people have become vaccinated, nearly all of our churches have opened up, but many of our pews are still only a third to a half of what they were pre-pandemic for the summer months. That is a reality that I am hearing from my clients from California to Connecticut and in the heartland.
I am hearing that those in our congregations who were the loudest about the need for the churches to open, are rarely the first ones back in the pews. I am hearing that there are cries to our clergy that they need to get their Bible studies started up again and the coffee brewing for fellowship hour or people won’t return – but then rarely are there people showing up for the Bible Study, or brewing the coffee, bringing the treats, or willing to clean up after fellowship.
Most of our people (and frankly our clergy) are lacking capacity– and most can’t put their finger on it… they just don’t feel “all there”. Most clergy have been on an adrenaline rush for 18 months and although things seem to be going back to “normal” they are just not feeling relieved. Many are finally getting their first vacation in over a year, and they come back and are not feeling refreshed. They are trying to find people to volunteer for activities in the fall, and they are not finding volunteers. Many clergy are exhausted just thinking about what fall might look like. They are exhausted from making so many decisions over this past year+; how to do ministry virtually, how to connect with our people, how to keep our people connected with one another, how to conduct meetings via Zoom – the words “steep learning curve” and “pivot” were used over and over and over again.
We are now supposedly coming out of this time warp. People are craving normalcy, a mask-less society again. Those clergy who have younger children have been hit especially hard as they were trying to do ministry and distance learning with their children at the same time. And we still don’t know what the fall will look like due to the Delta Variant.
It is okay to slow down. It is okay to start up slowly. Before you completely gear up for going all steam ahead for the fall programming, take a little time to check in with your people and see what their capacity is… see what ministries people REALLY want to commit to getting going again. It is also okay to take a little time to touch base with your own capacity, to what YOU need moving into this fall planning. Are you still doing online ministry as well as in person? How much of your energy does that take? What are you taking off your plate to do that? How can you work in some margin to your schedule for the fall? I have a client who is planning on doing Confirmation 3 weeks on and 1 week off as she knows she will need to have intentional breathing spaces in her schedule. Another client is sharing the online worship recording with a neighboring pastor/congregation – making the best use of the resources of their time and energy. Another client has a group of pastors in his area who are each recording a “Bread” sermon for these 5 weeks of bread lectionary readings, thus giving each other a preaching break.
Ministry is most likely not going to look like it did pre-pandemic and it doesn’t have to. God is still faithful. God is still present. God is still working in and through you and your congregations. God is at work in and through your online ministries. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!