How Church Leaders Reply to COV Challenges … | The alternate

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The world is changing rapidly. Initiatives and solutions that were new just a few weeks ago are stale in the minds of managers and are looking for ideas to keep pace in a changing context. While we understood the severity of COVID-19 a few weeks ago, few were able to predict the depth of the changes we are going through – and indeed, many still do not fully appreciate it.

In our first survey, we identified some important issues in the early response of pastors and churches to the virus. For many respondents, the challenges in navigating the online church combined with the uncertainty over the duration of the crisis dominated the results. As a result, pastors and church leaders sought practical advice on how to make the transition effective while continuing to serve their members and congregations.

This latest edition of the survey builds on many of the same questions while examining the impact of the crisis on the financial situation of the church and the pastor's mental health. We have been in crisis for well over a month and many have been in emergency shelters for several weeks. Not only has this placed a significant strain on the resources of the Church and its members, it has also burdened the pastors of leading and guarding through this insecurity. Although there are signs of optimism in the fight against COVID-19, this season's demands on pastors and church leaders are not likely to subside in the near future.

As with the previous survey, this is a sample of churches within Exponential and partner networks, and is not a random or scientific sample. As such, it is a snapshot of a subset of churches (associated with these organizations, online, mostly evangelical, ready to respond, etc.) to help church leaders understand how churches are doing and what steps they are taking Companies. while they continue to adapt to remote service. The large size of the sample makes it more valuable and may be the best available snapshot we have until randomized samples can be collected.

This survey includes 1,937 responses that were submitted online from April 13-17, 2020. This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Send Institute, the Exponential, Leadership Network, the Association of Related Churches (ARC) and of the Billy Graham Center. This is the second in a series to be repeated over a period of several weeks, with respondents willing to track responses over time.

This survey revealed several important findings that pastors and church leaders should take into account when they begin to address issues of reappearance and recovery. Pastors have been innovating in their ministries for over a month, but there are signs of stability in this transition. The optimism expressed by pastors about financial concerns has continued in this survey, although this stance appears to be tense with significant drops in giving. Churches continue to prioritize their ministries and members as they seek help to optimize their other ministries and reach in quarantine. Even though online articles are the most important platform for content, many pastors and church leaders are looking for collaborative and discussion-based formats to get support. Finally, this season has seen an unprecedented increase in pastoral workload, but leaders are mostly positive about their current mental state.

To equip community leaders for this next phase, this survey includes strategic insights into how churches can respond to the data. In these sections on Future Focus, we not only offer the next steps, but also important resources that can help churches respond well.

First, many churches continue to innovate to find the right service format.

When asked about their current approach to corporate worship, 90 percent said their services are exclusively online. Over half (54 percent) indicated that their online services are in a different format than their face-to-face meetings. This corresponds to an increase of six percent compared to the first survey. Thirty-six percent said their online services follow the same format as their face-to-face meeting, almost the same as the first survey.

In addition, 15 percent of pastors and church leaders who completed both surveys changed their personal meeting format to another. In essence, more and more pastors and church leaders are experimenting with different online formats to find the expression that best suits their members and their church.

This desire for innovation is also reflected in a shift in the resources that the churches are looking for this season. The survey asked, "What resources do you need to run your church, your staff, or your organization in this challenging time?" In response, 40 percent of pastors and church leaders asked for technology training, a significant increase over the 30 percent Respondents in the previous survey.

While most churches have successfully switched to live streaming and teleconferencing, churches are looking for help using new technologies to create engaging experiences for their people and / or to reach those who are spiritually interested in their communities.

At the same time, there are signs that pastors and church leaders are gaining confidence in their current online Sunday services. When asked how best to describe their future plans for worshiping businesses, the percentage of pastors and church leaders who replied that they would continue as they are now rose from 27 to 39 percent while those who were unsure and took things for a week time dropped from 53 to 40 percent.

This trend was particularly evident among those who replied to both surveys and for whom almost a quarter (23 percent) switched their response to continuing their current activities.

Future focus

Setting a regular pace for your weekend weekend services is a good time to focus on disciplining both existing and potential leaders. Depending on your government policies, smaller groups may be able to meet in person again in the next few weeks to months. This is a good time to think about what leaders need emotionally and spiritually to effectively guide them through the spring and summer months. In this webinar, Rise of the Micro Church, learn how to think about decentralizing churches for missionary engagement:

Second, optimism about finances remains high, despite a widespread decline in donations.

As with the first report, and perhaps surprisingly, the majority of pastors and church leaders remain optimistic about finances. When asked how well their church is prepared for the financial crisis, over 80 percent said they were either not concerned or that spending could be reduced without too much pain.

Over a quarter (28 percent) said finance was not a problem, while more than half (53 percent) said it was getting tight, but not too painful. Similar to the previous survey, only a few executives indicated that layoffs were likely (nine percent) or that important initiatives had to be canceled (six percent).

In addition, there was a remarkable increase in pastors and church leaders over the previous survey, stating that finances were not a major problem. They rose from 20 to 28 percent, while those who indicated a likelihood of significant cuts or layoffs fell from 14 to nine percent.

Among the pastors and church leaders who completed both surveys, those who changed their answer from tight finances to no noteworthy concerns were twice as high as those who switched the other way (10 to 5 percent). In essence, not only pastors and church leaders are optimistic, but this stance also seems to be increasing as economic data falter.

Pastoral optimism was also reflected in the resources pastors and church leaders were looking for this season. In both surveys, there was a significant drop in pastors and church leaders looking for resources to weather the financial crisis (55 percent decreased to 33 percent) and to maximize donation (49 percent decreased to 39 percent).

With the adoption of the CARES law in late March, this financial support may have dispelled many of the concerns of church leaders. Our next survey round will look at this question.

This trust is unexpected, as we believed that pastors and church leaders may experience a deeper financial crisis given the worsening effects of the crisis on the economy and unemployment among church members. Indeed, this survey reported significant drops in church donations that appeared to contradict the trust expressed by pastors and church leaders.

While 30 percent of pastors and church leaders said that giving was almost the same, over 60 percent saw that their giving decreased. This includes a quarter (25 percent) indicating that giving has decreased by at least 10 percent and almost another quarter (24 percent) by at least 25 percent. The most worrying are the 11 percent of pastors and church leaders who replied that giving has decreased by at least 50 percent.

This decline in giving was most clearly felt by rural, urban and small churches. Among the churches that saw a decrease of at least 25 percent, the rural (41 percent) and urban (44 percent) churches were significantly higher than the suburban churches (31 percent). Similarly, 25 percent of churches under the age of fifty saw a decrease of at least half compared to only four percent of churches over five hundred.

Even if pastors and church leaders are increasingly optimistic about giving, there have been widespread, and at least for many churches, deep losses in giving. For these churches, this level of financial recalibration, if extended, will have a significant and sustained financial impact.

Future focus

Even if some churches are financially well, there are many problems. At this point in the crisis, it is critical for established churches to start or continue to support church planting and missionaries. For churches that can help other struggling churches, a new service called Churches Helping Churches has been set up to coordinate these efforts. On their website you can find out how to award or apply for a scholarship:

Third, Sunday services and Church members remain top priorities.

One of the main struggles for pastors and church leaders in this crisis is to narrow down and refine their service priorities. The rush to put services online was followed by a slow development of other church services and public relations to adapt to the new socially isolated reality.

When we asked pastors and church leaders to classify their top three current priorities, weekend worship and caring for Church members were the most common top priorities (30 percent and 29 percent, respectively), followed by evangelism (18 percent). No other selection has registered more than six percent as a top priority.

When considering a first or second priority, 48 percent of pastors or church leaders chose weekend services, 54 percent chose to care for church members, and 29 chose evangelism. In other words, these three areas of service are the main priorities among pastors and church leaders during this period of remote service.

While pastors and church leaders give priority to Sunday services, they continue to seek help on how to involve their people and communities despite social distance restrictions. The survey asked, "What resources do you need to run your church, your staff, or your organization in this challenging time?"

The top two answers remained how to create engaging online conversations and gatherings (61 percent) and practical ways to go on a mission this season (55 percent). Even if the churches have had several weeks to improve their meetings and contacts, pastors and church leaders are still highly motivated to improve.

Future focus

Many churches are familiar with the UP (worship), IN ("another") and OUT (evangelism and compassion) framework for service and discipleship. These first weeks were a significant effort to develop the UP and IN rhythms in this new standard. During Holy Week, many discovered through their OUT engagement that the ecclesiastical right now have a unique spiritual interest.

It is a worthwhile effort for you to maintain the OUT posture from Holy Week to the spring and summer months, both in word and in action. See Mike Frost's list of 35 ways to love your neighbors now, Ed Stetzer's "Corona Virus Evangelization" and Rick Richardson's "Corona Virus Age Witness".

Fourth, collaborative platforms emerge as critical resources that church leaders are looking for.

When we asked pastors and church leaders what types of resources were most effective in deciding how to lead through the crisis, the online articles (61 percent) were the most common response.

However, it can be seen that community learning among pastors and church leaders is highlighted as effective formats. Pastor cohorts / regular support groups (53 percent), webinars (48 percent), and conference calls / roundtables (39 percent) were the next three responses that signaled the desire of pastors and church leaders to engage other leaders with their questions and ideas rather than Consume media strictly. This is also reflected in the low response to online courses (12 percent) and newsletters (11 percent).

In addition, content producers should be warned that pastors and church leaders mostly report oversaturation of the content level for church leaders. Nineteen percent of respondents strongly agreed, while 42 percent thought they felt over-saturated, compared to only ten percent who did not disagree.

As the move to online has created a flood of new media, pastors may find it difficult to sort the masses to find the content relevant to their priorities.

Future focus

Pastors and church leaders are looking for good information and support systems. If you are a network leader, it is not too late to develop pastoral cohorts to consider an intentional strategy for how to lead through and out of the pandemic.

This is an important opportunity for pastors and church leaders to make permanent changes that further decentralize the ministry's work towards mobilizing members and mission engagement. You can learn more from the Catapult Group about designing pastoral cohorts in the midst of this crisis:

After all, Church leaders are generally positive about their state of mind despite a significant workload.

This crisis has predictably led to a significant increase in the workload for pastors and church leaders. As a burden not only to guide their organizations through a fundamental reorientation of their way of working, pastors and church leaders are also tasked with caring for their people in an unprecedented period of fear, loss and isolation.

As a result, more than three in five pastors and church leaders report a significant increase in their workload. 11 percent state that it has only continued to grow in recent weeks. While the largest block reports that this workload is slowly slowing down (28 percent), it is unclear what new balance will be struck and whether pastors and church leaders will be able to recover from the energy used in the past month.

Despite this increase, pastors and church leaders are optimistic to describe their mental state. The three most common answers (hopeful – 46 percent; encouraged – 38 percent; resilient – 33 percent) are positive and speak for the attitude that many pastors and church leaders have towards the possibility that this crisis, despite its fruits, will bear fruit in their churches and congregations It is the current challenges.

In contrast, few pastors and church leaders selected the negative traits that are usually associated with burnout, such as Lonely (four percent) or Struggling (seven percent). It is important to note, however, that the two main negative attributes, exhausted (21 percent) and insecure (20 percent) reflect the tribute this pastoral health season has had, although they remain generally positive.

This tension was reflected in the qualitative responses when many pastors and church leaders noticed that they were tired, but quickly weakened this reception with a positive attribute such as determined or focused.

In anticipation of this burden, we asked pastors and church leaders which of the three most important sources would be most helpful to them if they led them through this crisis. Despite widespread online communities and scholarships, many of the most common responses emphasized local community relationships, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) choosing support for church staff and leaders, and 41 percent citing support for church members .

This was followed by resources from denominations / church networks (41 percent) and resources from other churches (33 percent). The fact that government sources (19 percent) and resources from non-church services (16 percent) were the lowest responses could indicate that pastors and church leaders turn to networks and sources they have long trusted and relied on in times of uncertainty .

Future focus

What started as a sprint has turned into a marathon. Pastors and church leaders who continue at an unsustainable pace must begin to make room for long-term sustainability for both their organizations and themselves. This means that conversations and practices related to self-care and soul care are more vital than ever.

More than a month after responding to the crisis, it is important that you, your family and your managers find a new, normal rhythm for the service. Especially one who is healthy enough to want to stay after the pandemic. We have partnered with many other reputable groups to develop resources for pastors and leaders who can focus on their own health during this time:


Like most of the world, church leadership is in flux. There are important and ongoing questions about how best to answer. As financial donations wane, pastors and church leaders continue to be positive. However, if the downward trends continue, this is likely to change.

In a way, the data show that pastors and church leaders have successfully adapted their ministries and people to the situation. At the same time, there remains a strong impetus to look for more innovative and effective ways to support communities and involve communities.

This need will continue to burden pastors and church leaders only if issues of reappearance take precedence. It is therefore more important than ever for managers in the coming weeks to develop healthy rhythms for service and rest. This would be greatly supported by the ongoing search for ongoing resources and communities that equip and refresh pastors to meet the needs of effective service in such an unprecedented season.

Andrew MacDonald, Ed Stetzer, Todd Wilson and Daniel Yang report

Ed Stetzer on Vimeo

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