COVID-19 burst onto the global scene out of nowhere. Well, not out of nowhere. However, in terms of the things you expected to experience in 2020, yes, it figuratively burst onto the scene out of nowhere.
Then within months, even weeks, the pandemic raced around the globe. The inevitable happened: the virus moved into your geographical area and increasingly onto your radar of concerns. Next came stay-at-home orders and the closing of non-essential services.
If you’re like most pastors, you scrambled to determine what to do about maintaining your church and moving to either “in-the-parking-lot” or online services. Frankly, for many, their stress levels soared, too.
In my case, I rushed to transition myself and twelve associated counselors in five locations into tele-therapy mode. I had a week to put in place the technology, policies, procedures, and training. Somehow with God’s help we got it done!
Then several calls came in inviting me to appear on podcasts for pastors. I gladly did these shows and enjoyed talking with the hosts and pastors about their questions and concerns on topics such as stress, self-care during crisis, preaching to an empty room or microphone, and most significantly, how to care for their congregations in a social distancing environment.
You can easily access three of these podcast conversations. In each I spoke with Tim Ware and Todd Barham. You can hear our conversations on the Advancement Podcast (Episodes 52-54) or read the transcripts here.
Here’s a brief excerpt sub-titled, “I wish the ring had never come to me.” Enjoy!
Jeannie Clarkson: Right. You have to get a good mindset. Seeing the opportunity. This is the day that God had given us—this time and season to be a leader. While it comes with a lot of challenges and a lot of scary things, we’ve got to focus on the opportunity and seize the day to redeem the time. So focus on the opportunity, look at the vision. That’s going to help you avoid the negative spiral.
Tim Ware: I think that’s huge thing because when we talk to pastors. As a consultant and a coach, I’ve worked with 100 pastors and as I look into these things I think about the fact that we have to realize God chose us for this moment in time.
Jeannie Clarkson: And we’ll never have this opportunity again.
Tim Ware: Never have it again. There’s something—I love Tolkien and those guys and…
Todd Barham: Nerd alert!
Tim Ware: Yes, nerd alert! Yes, I’m a nerd and a country boy. How did that happen? But anyway, so…
Todd Barham: It’s a weird mix.
Tim Ware: If you remember in the movie there’s this moment where Gandalf is talking to Frodo, and Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me.” And Gandalf says, but it came to you, Frodo, “and that’s an encouraging thought.” You can only do something with the time you’ve been given and this is what you have and that’s a comforting thought. It’s pretty exciting for pastors to know that this is the moment God chose for you. He didn’t choose it for somebody else. He chose it for you.
Tim Ware: Lord of the Rings
Todd Barham: Right.
Jeannie Clarkson: Absolutely. And continuing to pick that thought process back up every day, even if it’s hard, I think is the number one key.
Tim Ware: As 1 Thessalonians says, “Give thanks in everything” (5:18). In other words, “Lord, thank you for choosing me to lead in this time. I don’t understand why you did but you did.” There’s a setup for your day. That’s what you’re saying every day.
That’s not all!
Our wide-ranging discussions in the first podcast (and transcript) also cover:
- The first step in coping with crisis
- Monitoring how much you watch the news
- Where to focus your attention
- The daily nature of coping with stress
- The four self-care routines you should not let slip
- The surprising #1 remedy for stress and anxiety
- The critical role of routines
- Why you should let the sunshine in—literally
- My own mini-meltdown—and why you must accept that you’re only human
- One creative way to keep your prayer life alive
The second podcast (and transcript) I did with Tim and Todd covers:
- One introvert and two extroverts discuss social distancing
- Two suggestions for extroverted pastors
- The loneliness epidemic and the need for more virtual contact
- How to lessen your stress by leaning into change
- Finding the appropriate balance between optimism and realism
- Why you just need to “be real” with people in times of crisis and loss
- It’s okay for pastors to reach out for help, too
- How isolation presents a unique opportunity for extroverts to develop their relationship to God
- The danger of a spiritual recession, the opportunity for a spiritual resurgence
- Out of our comfort zones, into our growth zones
The third podcast (and transcript) covers:
- What is emotional intelligence?
- A scriptural perspective on emotional intelligence
- Is everyone emotionally intelligent?
- What your vocabulary may reveal about your emotional intelligence
- Blind spots, feedback, and personal growth
- How to apply emotional intelligence when preaching to a camera
- It’s not just what you want to say, but how you want your listeners to feel
- Why “less is more” in the current environment and things don’t have to be perfect
- The importance of increased “touch points”
- A really scary decision some churches have made during the current crisis
- Why you should consider producing your online services in a more casual space
- The biggest thing people want from a pastor during times of crisis
Together, we can get through this!
Dr. Jeannie Clarkson is the researcher behind a groundbreaking study linking emotional intelligence and performance-based self-esteem with burnout among Christian pastors. She is founder of Christian Care Connection, a multi-staff professional counseling center in the greater Toledo, Ohio area. She also is the author of the book, The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor: A Guide for Clergy and Other Church Leaders.