What’s Next?

Coming out of Regional Gathering, I was left with the question, “What is needed next for churches and leaders?”

For those who were not there, we met virtually (again) and talked about Covid (again).  We lamented together as we talked about what we had lost.  We praised together as we talked about the good things God had done.  And we looked down the road a bit and shared what dreams we are dreaming.

That last part was the hardest for most.  Because we are tired.  Pastors are tired.  Leaders are tired.  Most of us (maybe all of us) have some level of fatigue because of the last two years.  It has taken a lot for pastors, boards and volunteers to constantly adjust to the various health district mandates and keep services available and accessible.  Meetings and programs have been on and off.  It has been a grind.

Add to that the emotional drain of fractured relationships over various issues associated with the pandemic.  And then, all the adjustments beyond the church – school, work, and family- were in various states of chaos and needed constant attention and adjustment.  It was hard.

Loss also factored in.  Heartbreaking stories of limited people at funerals and the inability to visit family in care homes and hospitals took their toll.  Cancelled or not taken vacations piled up.  Marriages suffered.  Families splintered.  People who dealt with depression took medical leaves at higher rates.  People checked out of responsibilities and walked away from commitments.  This has been a tough season.

And I know not everyone dealt with all that I listed above.  But we all dealt with some of it.  And were touched by most of it.  Now, for sure, not everyone gave up.  And it wasn’t all bad news.  In fact, we have been witness to a great deal of resiliency, creativity and innovation in the church.  And, of course, God was still at work.  But it has all taken its toll, and people are tired.

All of which brings me to the “What is needed next for churches and leaders?” question.  My thought – Wisdom.  Want to pray for your church and its leaders?  Pray for wisdom.  Want to pray for the FMCIC and its leaders?  Pray for wisdom.

Because there is still Kingdom work to be done.  We are still in the business of making disciples.  And some of it will need to be very different from what was.  But for those who are very tired even these simple reminders feel like too much of a “to do” list right now.  And I get that.

But, tired people being what they are, sometimes we can get stuck in “recovery,” and then it is hard to get going again.  Sometimes it’s impossible.  And the church just kind of drifts along.  And that’s no good either.

So pray that pastors and leaders and boards and all of us would be wise and discerning.  That we would find our way through this next chapter.  That we would care for ourselves and people by not pushing too hard or too fast.  But that we would not become so complacent that all the resilience and creativity we discovered start to atrophy, and we just sort of exist.  Not making disciples.  Not taking responsibility for our communities.  Not being about our Father’s business.

That is certainly my prayer for all of us.  That we would thread that needle, balancing the need to pause and catch our breath after a long and difficult season with the need to be doing what God has created and called His church to do.  Father, give us wisdom for these next steps.

Marc McAlister | Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada