Changing the calendar to a new year looked somewhat different this time. It did not feel the same as it has in the past where the excitement of a new year brings resolutions and goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is hard to think about planning for what we might do this year when we are limited in our ability to be together as we have been in the past. Some days it is hard to think about what we can do at this moment let alone think about next month or the month after.
It has now been a year since we began to hear about COVID-19 and began to see many of the things we love to do, especially in our churches, come to a screeching pause. The past few months, we have experienced illness and death at a level most of us have not ever seen. We have experienced significant financial losses as people have lost jobs or had a loss of income. Parents have had to learn how to juggle work and be educators for their children. The struggle is real, and it has affected how we do ministry.
As Stewardship leaders, we are called to steward many things, and we are in a season where we have been called to steward the hurts, the fears, and the overwhelming grief of our congregations. We must allow that grief to be shared so that healing can happen. Pastors are also experiencing a sense of grief because their calling is to be stewards of a community of faith, a congregation that comes together to worship and serve and celebrate. Much of what the congregation needs can only be provided through online contact, and it is hard for all of us to work through that loss.
I encourage each of you to consider how you might be good stewards of the grief that your congregation is experiencing. Bring people together through the gift of our technology to talk about the things they miss, to remember the loved ones who are no longer with us, to find peace and love in the comfort of one another as we take the time to truly grieve what may no longer be possible in the same way it once was.
Part of moving forward after any season of grief is thinking about the many things for which we are grateful. We can be grateful for technology that allows us to be with one another, while not in-person, at least to see each other’s face on a computer screen or a smartphone and share a smile that is somewhat hidden behind the masks we wear.
We can be grateful for the time we have to be with our families, to work together at home, to have regular meals together. I am reminded of the long commutes and dinner on-the-road that was the norm for my workday before the pandemic, and I am grateful to be able to have that gathered time again.
We are grateful for those who continue to provide the services we need in our community, the healthcare workers who hold our loved ones when we are unable to be with them, the mail carriers and retail workers who make sure we have access to medications and food and the basics of life.
We are grateful for the steadfast commitment of our congregations to online worship and limited in-person services and to those who have been able to continue to provide community outreach to families in need through our food pantries and meals-to-go that can be prepared in a safe environment.
Even while we work through our grief and pause for moments of gratitude, we must continue to be listening for God and discerning what God is calling us to do now and in the future. That means we should be dreaming and visioning, planning for things we can do now and thinking about the things we can hardly wait to do but preparing for them when that time comes. Some of that preparation will involve:
- Stewarding our Congregations – staying connected in lots of different ways. Writing notes to those you have not had heard from recently. Making phone calls to people who are isolated and not as likely to be joining your online worship.
- Stewarding our Time – celebrating a new pace of life and living into the possibilities of how your congregation can grow spiritually. Read a spiritual book together and gather on Zoom to share how it inspires and encourages you.
- Stewarding our Resources – taking a new approach to budgeting. Take your annual budget and break it down into quarterly segments and re-evaluate at the end of each quarter based on current giving and expenses.
- Stewarding the Giving – acknowledging the faithful giving of those who continue to give during these difficult times and caring for those who may be struggling financially giving them freedom to give as they are able.
- Stewarding our Technology – exploring new technology that might enable you to worship and connect to more of your congregation and to the community beyond your members. Invest in what you need to provide that outreach.
- Stewarding our Neighbors – finding ways to be the church in your neighborhood. Is there an organization in your community with whom you can partner and provide much needed food or supplies? Develop a new partnership with them.
We are indeed challenged in our Stewardship efforts right now, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be the church in a new way. God is at work, inviting and waiting for us to respond by caring for all that God has entrusted to us.
POJ Associate for Stewardship