Pastors, We Can Figure This Out!
Written By: Brian Jones
Ministry Strategist for Missions
Like many of us at Generis, I spent many years pastoring in local congregations, then transitioned into consulting somewhere along the way. But my dear friend Rustin Comer is still a pastor in a local congregation and he shared some encouragement during their all-staff meeting. I want to share that same encouragement with you.
The encouragement is this: Everything is figureoutable.
The material comes from the book Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. I wasn’t familiar with the book nor the author, but the insights Rustin gleaned from the book offer some powerful and timely encouragement for pastors.
As we find ourselves in these unprecedented times that ask us to solve challenges we had perhaps never even considered or planned for, keep the following things in mind:
1. Take Small Steps.
As we approach the challenge of transitioning to a fully online church, we also anticipate a pivot to what’s next, even as we have no firm timeline nor understanding of the new “normal.” Figuring that out requires us to take small steps.
Little goals are better than bigger ones in this season. Writing “Plan for the Future” on the top of the day’s to-do list feels overwhelming and unachievable. So, break that goal down into several smaller goals, each of which is easily solvable, yet add up to a much greater whole. Your small goal for today might simply be to phone one other person for advice or to do 30 minutes of Google research.
I know this seems obvious but pastors struggle with this all the time. We see a large project ahead of us and become overwhelmed by it. Rather than pause to think about the whole as a series of much smaller, achievable goals, we instead become anxious which leads to procrastination and distractibility.
2. Plan Ahead.
In order for big, important challenges to be “figureoutable,” the best time to begin working on them was yesterday and the next best time is today. Yet, driven by the busyness of week-to-week, us pastors are notorious procrastinators when it comes to the work of future thinking.
I’ll give you an example from my area of expertise. I wrote in THE GREAT IMPROVISATION: Moving Forward to a New Day [LINK to BOOK] churches are rightly focused on short-term benevolence ministries. A common phrase in the world of benevolence ministries is this: “Give a person a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they will never be hungry again.”
The message of those two phrases is very clear: If you want life-changing impact in the area of missions, you must avoid one-time transactional charity and instead focus on long-term strategic development methods and a long relationship..
Except for moments of legitimate crisis like the one many newly unemployed people find themselves in right now. Now is the time to give a fish. Fishing lessons will have to wait until later.
So, how do we then “plan ahead?” Well, in our missions example, my advice to pastors was to make sure their missions and outreach boards were meeting today in order to plan ahead for when it is time to once again begin the “fishing lessons” of long-term development. Develop a practice of planning ahead, in other words.
3. Harness The Power of Positive Quitting.
That begs the question: How can you plan ahead when you are so busy today? Well, you have to strategically say ‘no’ to things in order to be able to say ‘yes’ to the more important things.
We’ve been conditioned our entire lives with phrases like, “Well, we started it, so we need to see it through.” Yet we find ourselves in a period of intense experimentation. We can’t hold on to that same way of thinking in a time like this.
Every church in America has tried something during this COVID season that isn’t quite clicking. Not only is it OK to pull the plug on that experiment, it’s a positive thing to do because saying ‘no’ to something with uneven results right now frees up time to say ‘yes’ to new experimentation or space for long-term planning.
So, what’s only working fine right now? Take a positive step in quitting that thing to free up your creative bandwidth for something new.
4. What Is My Next Right Move?
Well, if we’re quitting things to reframe our mindset toward planning ahead, doesn’t that put us in a place of intense uncertainty? Well, yes. But let’s be honest, we’re already there and will remain there for a while.
But that uncertainty can indeed create anxiety about what to do next. Good news, a key encouragement from Everything is Figureoutable is that you don’t need to plot your every move for every occasion. Sometimes it’s important to remember you only need to make your next right move.
Rather than procrastinate or allow indecision to paralyze you, think about a few positive and meaningful opportunities that are right in front of you. Then make one of those moves. We’re all figuring this out step by step, a day at a time. So don’t hesitate to take today’s step. Those next right moves represent the first leg of your journey toward moving forward to a new day.
5. Expect and Embrace Self Doubt.
We’re all sailing together in uncharted waters. It’s to be expected that each of us will doubt our abilities in these times. After all, we cultivated skills for one way, yet it is now another. Remember that you aren’t alone in this. And those doubts that you feel are understandable.
Don’t just expect those doubts about our abilities right now, embrace them. This is a time to remember that we are all a part of the same body, so let’s lean on each other. Let’s encourage one another generously and let’s share with one another generously. Let’s embrace the fact that we are all experiencing moments of self doubt in these moments and in those times we can lean on each other.
Besides, worry has a wonderful way of turning us back to prayer.
6. Cultivate Patience Above All Else.
Pastors, we can figure this out. But it won’t come easy and it won’t come in a straight line. That’s a reminder that we need to practice patience, both with ourselves, among those we care for, and also as we experiment with ministry models in the days and months ahead.
Our congregations are experiencing anxiety, families are feeling threadbare. Yet God continues to be gracious toward us. And we know that grace is not to be hoarded, it’s to be generously shared. Share grace freely in these times.
I encourage you, pastor, to remember that this is figureoutable. God will not abandon his church, nor will he abandon his people. May you not forget that you are called, and being called, you are equipped. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need help from time to time, so my prayer is that the above will be helpful in some small way as you lead in these times.
Remember, pastors, with God’s help, we'll figure this out.
Meet Brian Jones
Ministry Strategist for Missions
Brian Jones had a thriving career in the FBI before leaving to attend Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. Once graduated he served at First United Methodist Church in Newnan, GA and Colonial Church in Edina, MN. Brian understands the diverse demands and responsibilities in a church. Known for his innovative and strategic thinking, he not only speaks the language of pastor but also brings a thoughtful systems approach to his work. Most recently, Brian became the founder and Executive Director of Innové Studios where he had the incredible opportunity to pioneer a church missions model called “Shark Tank for churches” by Minnesota Business Magazine. Innové Studios has helped churches reinvigorate their missions programs, reengage their congregations, and revitalize their communities through the successful funding and launch of 21 social ventures. Brian’s wife Danielle is the Minister of Mission and Congregational Life at Wayzata Community Church, where he serves on the camp board. He has two wonderful daughters, Campbell and Charlotte, and he has seen all the Marvel movies at least a million times.
Here are other great articles to help you and your ministry during this time:COVID19 - A Response Through The Lens of Generosity
11 Ideas for your Church to Consider in Response to COVID 19
Free Training and Checklists to Prepare Your Church for the Coronavirus
Love in the Time of Coronavirus: A Guide For Christian Leaders
Coronavirus & Simple Setups to Live Stream Church Services