Let me begin by again thanking all of you for your partnership in ministry and your leadership through the latest virus challenges. I am asking God that the Psalm 34:4 testimony will be freshly proven in the midst of these trials: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Several items for you (our 10 AM ZOOM pastor call tomorrow will provide an opportunity for us to interact about these items and anything else on your heart):
- MISSION/MINISTRY ALERT: I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to this 3-30-20 post from Ed Stetzer on our denominational website– https://www.mcusa.org/ed-stezer-resource-for-churches-and-pastors/. As much as this virus situation has proven to be a challenge for our ministry contexts, Stetzer suggests the greater crisis is yet to come, and we as churches must plan and position ourselves to be in the flow of the Holy Spirit’s opportunities in the next several weeks. Make sure you and your leadership teams seek God’s plan for not only how He will maintain your flock, but how He desires to use your church family members in the coming months to be salt and light. (Again, check https://www.mcusa.org/covid-19/ for several informative videos and website resources for everything from online ministry tips to service ideas to missional challenge.)
- STRATEGIC ISSUES: More and more Christian leaders are wrestling with the possibility that this virus crisis lingers for much longer than a few weeks or even a couple of months. Given that the timeframe continues to be lengthened by the experts, it is wise to consider not just how we as churches adjust temporarily for the short term, but also what the long term implications are and what we might need to change in a more permanent context. Here is an article that addresses that issue head on: https://journal.praxislabs.org/leading-beyond-the-blizzard-why-every-organization-is-now-a-startup-b7f32fb278ff
- FINANCIAL ISSUES: If you check out President Steve Jones’ latest update (https://vimeo.com/401732424 ), you’ll note that the denomination has adjusted its 2% giving requirement to a “real time” model. Your church, instead of the previously assigned 2% amount (based on last available reported annual giving from 2018) should send a “real time” 2% of the previous month’s giving to the denominational office. That means that any church which is seeing a downturn in giving should get some relief. Further, you will hear him speak of the possible opportunity for financial relief represented in the recently passed US government stimulus package. Specifically, there is promising speculation that churches may be able to access potentially forgivable small business loans to assist toward maintaining payroll and even utilities costs, though there are still questions as to the exact requirements and limitations involved. Please be patient as the details of this opportunity are fleshed out; Glenna Stout, our regional treasurer, and Don Williams, our denominational Operations Director, are suggesting much should be clarified by the end of this week, April 3rd. In the meantime, if you’d like to read about some tentative possibilities the stimulus package might provide, check out this news release by GuideStone, a partner with the MCUSA in retirement planning: https://www.guidestone.org/NewsRoom/NewsReleases/2020/2020_03_27-COVID-Pandemic-Phase-III-Stimulus-Package#Q&A. Also, the US Chamber of Commerce has provided a guide for potential eligibility for one of the four loan programs being offered: https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/sites/default/files/C3_COVID_EmergencyLoanGuide.pdf
- PRACTICAL LEADERSHIP ISSUES: Should this virus crisis intensify as our state and federal government officials are projecting, it is likely that all of us will eventually be impacted in some way. In the near term, we need to be thinking now about what and how we will handle the Easter/Resurrection Sunday season in a “remote broadcast” environment. Further, we as leaders need to plan for how God would have us respond should someone in our congregation be diagnosed with COVID-19. Please take the time to identify which leaders will step in to share ministry responsibilities should a pastor or some other church leader fall ill. Know that it is my sincere hope such a contingency would never be needed, but we as leaders must do the work of preparation.
Let me close with another expression of gratitude for your shared work in the Kingdom. May God grant all of us the balance of wisdom and faith reflected in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”
Jeff Kephart, MCECR Director