HELP FOR A DAUNTING DECISION

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Dr. Teresa Angle-Young

With so much at stake and so many competing opinions, knowing when to reopen your church is a daunting decision. Many judicatories are providing guidance, some are mandating conditions, but many of you are awash in a sea of indecision and conflicting information.

Striking a balance between safety and fostering community in worship is critical during this COVID 19 pandemic. As a responsible leader, we are charged with working with our staff and lay leadership to develop a reopening plan that is strategic, thoughtful, and keeps safety paramount.

One helpful resource is this interactive map found at www.globalepidemics.org. It offers churches and leaders color-coded, county-specific COVID-19 risk levels based on data analyzed by the Harvard Global Health Institute. You can simply click on “Explore Now” then choose your location by state.

Once you have chosen your state, simply hover over your county to see a detailed update on COVID-19 cases including death rates. Here is an example of how one church is using this data to determine their reopening plan.www.kennesawumc.org/reopening. They used the 4 risk levels to develop a specific protocol for each phase of reopening, offering clearly communicated plans for each phase. This plan resides on the church’s website and has been widely communicated through social media channels, email, and other channels. Communication of any reopening plan is a significant key to success.

Using data, as well as input from church members and leadership, is an effective way to determine risk, compliance probabilities, and make the best possible decision about when and how to resume in-person worship.

 

A Matter of Prayer and Action

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Valuing Black Lives: A Matter of Prayer and Action

Guest: Dr. Brad Gabriel

Growing up in Aldersgate Methodist (later United) Church, we were taught the power of prayer.  We prayed the Lord’s Prayer collectively every Sunday.  The Pastor prayed for the people and conditions and in the manner he (in those days, it was always “he”) thought best.  We learned how to pray and the matters about which we should pray by observation, participation, and instruction.  The last being accomplished in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and at home.

We prayed our thanks to God for all manner of things; nature, rain, sunshine, food, presidents, moms and dads and sisters and brothers. We prayed our personal needs; help on tests in school, the soul of household pets who had died, healing skinned knees, and upcoming trips to the dentist or doctor.  We prayed for forgiveness for our errors, mistakes, and failures; calling the teacher a bad name, taking something that belonged to the aforementioned sister or brother, bad thoughts, chores undone, and more.  We prayed for specific people and families as well when those people and families had needs beyond our own; the “Jones” family having a hard time, “Suzie” who had to have her tonsils out, grandma who was sick with something or the other.   We knew (through such books as Tiger Tail Village, the 1962 VBS study) that other people were in need, often through no fault of their own.  The follow up to the lesson was the reminder that we had a Christian duty to help in whatever ways we could.

The last prayer lesson became a staple in all manner of prayer groups and prayer times. We prayed before youth group, on retreats, at Church Board meetings.  We always named the needs of individuals or families or groups.  The veterans and matrons and working-class men and women and new professionals of Aldersgate UMC were never satisfied with praying alone. Without really talking about it, the ethos, as lived out, was, “Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” Money was collected and sent to causes.  Work teams visited the Bethlehem Center mission downtown. Quilts were made.  Books were collected.  Our prayers were always connected to action.  The Church incarnated the old joke, “If someone in a prayer time is named as sick, start making the casserole.”

Prayer always seemed to lead to action of some kind. As well it should!

That Black people in the United States and the Colonies earlier have been treated worse than other groups is objective truth.  From 1619 to 1863 (and beyond in too many places) people of African descent were bought and sold like cattle.  Living conditions were abysmal. Prospects for improvement were non-existent save through the harrowing option of running away. The list of horrors may be found elsewhere.

The end of the Civil War saw a brief time of improvement.  That time was shot dead in places like New Orleans, Wilmington, and Memphis.  Legally established governments of whites and blacks were overthrown by violence. White supremacist regimes installed. Legal retreat from promises of equality was enforced with Jim Crow laws. Plessy v. Ferguson took its place alongside the Dred Scott decision, rulings that effectively claimed White Supremacy was the law.

While I cannot believe that our history constantly must be reviewed, the truth is that economic, political, and educational burdens were put on African Americans that neither my parents nor my siblings and I faced. My father could access all aspects of the G.I. Bill following his service in the Second World War.  He did so, never realizing that people of color, even other veterans, were regularly unable to access those benefits for no other reason than their skin color. Home loans were restricted, making the following of jobs from the central city to the new suburbs difficult or impossible. Schools serving communities of color were regularly under-resourced.  In my lifetime African American Memphians were restricted from access to municipal facilities their taxes supported.   School segregation was as normal as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.

A more thoroughgoing example of pervasive cultural racism is hard to imagine than my High School nickname and mascot. We were the Overton Rebels and Colonel Reb our symbol.  Our ROTC unit shoulder patch was the image of a grizzled Confederate soldier with a battle flag and the legend, “Forget, Hell”.  The American apartheid with its accompanying economic, political, and educational ghettoization was the nature of our nation. Political and legal actions of the late 1940s and 50s that began the legal change the nation, and ramped up in the 1960s and 1970s, have been under attack since.

Today we face the cumulative impact on a people of close to 400 years of deliberate injury, evil action, and callous disregard.  The situation calls for prayer and prayerful action.

To pray that black lives matter is to acknowledge that a group and individuals in the group in our larger community need prayer and prayerful action.

To pray that black lives matter is to recognize that members of our human family, our faith family, our secular national family, have been injured and need service for as long as necessary to offset the injuries done.

To pray that black lives matter does not diminish the lives of any other group of people.

To pray that black lives matter does not attribute blame for past actions to those who inherited our current situation.

To pray that black lives mater calls on those so praying to learn where they have benefited from inequity and address the resultant inequity.

To pray that black lives matter avoids creating another superior/subordinate social situation.

To pray that black lives matter challenges those who pray to educate themselves to the causes of the injury, listen to the experiential knowledge earned by the victims of race-based injuries and take agreed upon, not imposed upon, action to heal the current injury, remove the source of the injury, and work towards a condition that prevents the injury from reoccurring.

To the Lord, our God we pray: black lives matter…to me, to us, and to You, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer. Now, Lord, lead us as we respond.

 

JUST DO IT

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If you’ve been following our page during the COVID-19 outbreak, you know that we encourage the wearing of masks in public settings, including worship, to help prevent the spread of the virus.

As we listen to our coaching clients, we are hearing that many of them are facing vocal resistance from those in their congregations who do not want to wear masks during worship gatherings.

One of the best posts we’ve come across to address this resistance comes from Dr. Samuel Laucks of the WellSpan medical system in Pennsylvania.  We think you’ll find his wisdom useful in interpreting the importance of wearing masks and in responding to some of the objections you may hear.

What follows originally appeared on the website of WellSpan Health.

I have spent the past 39 years working in the field of surgery. For a significant part of that time, I have worn a mask. I have worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of colleagues during those years, who have also worn masks. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from lack of oxygen. Not a single one of us became ill, passed out or died from breathing too much carbon dioxide. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from rebreathing a little of our own exhaled air. Let’s begin here by putting those scare tactics to rest!

(It is true that some people, with advanced lung diseases, may be so fragile that a mask could make their already-tenuous breathing more difficult. If your lungs are that bad, you probably shouldn’t be going out in public at the present time anyway; the consequences if you are exposed to Covid-19 would likely be devastating.)

“But”, you ask, “can’t viruses go right through the mask, because they are so small?” (“Masks keep viruses out just as well as a chain link fence keeps mosquitoes out,” some tell us.) It is true that individual virus particles can pass through the pores of a mask; however, viruses don’t move on their own. They do not fly across the room like a mosquito, wiggle through your mask like a worm, or fly up your nose like a gnat. The virus is essentially nothing more than a tiny blob of genetic material. Covid-19 travels in a CARRIER – the carrier is a fluid droplet- fluid droplets that you expel when you cough, sneeze, sing, laugh, talk or simply exhale. Most of your fluid droplets will be stopped from entering the air in the room if you are wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is a very efficient way to protect others if you are carrying the virus (even if you don’t know that you are infected). In addition, if someone else’s fluid droplets happen to land on your mask, many of them will not pass through. This gives the wearer some additional protection, too. But, the main reason to wear a mask is to PROTECT OTHERS. Even if you don’t care about yourself, wear your mask to protect your neighbors, co-workers and friends!

A mask is certainly not 100% protective. However, it appears that the severity of Covid-19 infection is at least partially “dose-dependent.” In other words, the more virus particles that enter your body, the sicker you are likely to become. Why not decrease that volume if you can? “What have you got to lose?!”

“But doesn’t a requirement or a request to wear a mask violate my constitutional rights?” You’re also not allowed to go into the grocery store if you are not wearing pants. You can’t yell “fire” in the Produce Department. You’re not allowed to urinate on the floor in the Frozen Food Section. Do you object to those restrictions? Rules, established for the common good, are component of a civilized society.

“But aren’t masks uncomfortable?” Some would say that underwear or shoes can be uncomfortable, but we still wear them. (Actually, being on a ventilator is pretty darned uncomfortable, too!) Are masks really so bad that you can’t tolerate them, even if they will help keep others healthy?

“But won’t people think I’m a snowflake or a wimp if I wear a mask?” I hope you have enough self-confidence to overcome that.

“But won’t I look stupid if I wear a mask?” I’ve decided not to dignify that question with an answer!!

“But I never get sick; I’m not worried.” Well, then, wear a mask for the sake of the rest of us who are not so perfect!

There is good evidence that masks make a real difference in diminishing the transmission of Covid-19. Please, for the sake of others (and for the sake of yourself), wear your mask when in public. It won’t kill you!

P.S. – And, by the way, please be sure that BOTH your nose and mouth are covered! Recommendations around mask usage are confusing. The science isn’t. Evidence shows that masks are extremely effective to slow the coronavirus and may be the best tool available right now to fight it.

(republished from July 1)

MASK RESISTANT

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If you’ve been following our page during the COVID-19 outbreak, you know that we encourage the wearing of masks in public settings, including worship, to help prevent the spread of the virus.

As we listen to our coaching clients, we are hearing that many of them are facing vocal resistance from those in their congregations who do not want to wear masks during worship gatherings.

One of the best posts we’ve come across to address this resistance comes from Dr. Samuel Laucks of the WellSpan medical system in Pennsylvania.  We think you’ll find his wisdom useful in interpreting the importance of wearing masks and in responding to some of the objections you may hear.

What follows originally appeared on the website of WellSpan Health.

I have spent the past 39 years working in the field of surgery. For a significant part of that time, I have worn a mask. I have worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of colleagues during those years, who have also worn masks. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from lack of oxygen. Not a single one of us became ill, passed out or died from breathing too much carbon dioxide. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from rebreathing a little of our own exhaled air. Let’s begin here by putting those scare tactics to rest!

(It is true that some people, with advanced lung diseases, may be so fragile that a mask could make their already-tenuous breathing more difficult. If your lungs are that bad, you probably shouldn’t be going out in public at the present time anyway; the consequences if you are exposed to Covid-19 would likely be devastating.)

“But”, you ask, “can’t viruses go right through the mask, because they are so small?” (“Masks keep viruses out just as well as a chain link fence keeps mosquitoes out,” some tell us.) It is true that individual virus particles can pass through the pores of a mask; however, viruses don’t move on their own. They do not fly across the room like a mosquito, wiggle through your mask like a worm, or fly up your nose like a gnat. The virus is essentially nothing more than a tiny blob of genetic material. Covid-19 travels in a CARRIER – the carrier is a fluid droplet- fluid droplets that you expel when you cough, sneeze, sing, laugh, talk or simply exhale. Most of your fluid droplets will be stopped from entering the air in the room if you are wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is a very efficient way to protect others if you are carrying the virus (even if you don’t know that you are infected). In addition, if someone else’s fluid droplets happen to land on your mask, many of them will not pass through. This gives the wearer some additional protection, too. But, the main reason to wear a mask is to PROTECT OTHERS. Even if you don’t care about yourself, wear your mask to protect your neighbors, co-workers and friends!

A mask is certainly not 100% protective. However, it appears that the severity of Covid-19 infection is at least partially “dose-dependent.” In other words, the more virus particles that enter your body, the sicker you are likely to become. Why not decrease that volume if you can? “What have you got to lose?!”

“But doesn’t a requirement or a request to wear a mask violate my constitutional rights?” You’re also not allowed to go into the grocery store if you are not wearing pants. You can’t yell “fire” in the Produce Department. You’re not allowed to urinate on the floor in the Frozen Food Section. Do you object to those restrictions? Rules, established for the common good, are component of a civilized society.

“But aren’t masks uncomfortable?” Some would say that underwear or shoes can be uncomfortable, but we still wear them. (Actually, being on a ventilator is pretty darned uncomfortable, too!) Are masks really so bad that you can’t tolerate them, even if they will help keep others healthy?

“But won’t people think I’m a snowflake or a wimp if I wear a mask?” I hope you have enough self-confidence to overcome that.

“But won’t I look stupid if I wear a mask?” I’ve decided not to dignify that question with an answer!!

“But I never get sick; I’m not worried.” Well, then, wear a mask for the sake of the rest of us who are not so perfect!

There is good evidence that masks make a real difference in diminishing the transmission of Covid-19. Please, for the sake of others (and for the sake of yourself), wear your mask when in public. It won’t kill you!

P.S. – And, by the way, please be sure that BOTH your nose and mouth are covered! Recommendations around mask usage are confusing. The science isn’t. Evidence shows that masks are extremely effective to slow the coronavirus and may be the best tool available right now to fight it.

 

 

COMPLICIT

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Guest Post from Rev. Erin Baldwin Day, Anchorage, Alaska

(An Open Letter to White Pastors, Preachers, Priests, and Ministers in America)

My fellow clergy: the collective, historical silence of our white churches regarding the systemic sin of racism in America is deafening and damning. And it must end today.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about us — white religious leadership — in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail in 1963: “…some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”

More cautious than courageous.
More apathetic than prophetic.
More paralyzed than proactive.
Silent behind the security of our stained glass windows, and our white privilege.

White religious leaders of America: our silence is complicity, and the moral vacuum created by our polite refusal to take the problem of racism as seriously as we do the problem of hunger — or virtually any other social ill — has resulted in the proliferation of an evil that LOOKS LIKE US.

Yes. We are complicit. May God have mercy.

Fellow ministers of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ: I call us all to collective and active repentance, NOW.

We have forgotten that in his first recorded sermon, Jesus the Christ put the religious establishment on notice as to what his mission would be, and read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to SET THE OPPRESSED FREE, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Do we not follow in the footsteps of this Christ? And yet…

We have not preached about racial injustice from our pulpits.
We have not taught white allyship in our Sunday School classrooms.
We have not listened to the voices of people of color, nor elevated their message, nor have we welcomed their witness.
We have not mourned with those who mourn the flagrant acts of aggression against their pigment.
We have not grieved with those who grieve daily injustice.
We have not turned the tables of white privilege and white fragility.
We have not stood in solidarity with our neighbors of color until there was viral video evidence to shake us from our apathy.

We have pretended that systemic racism in this country is not the white church’s problem nor our purview as white pastors.

We have decided that, since overt acts of racism “don’t happen in *our* town”, or since our suburban churches are mostly white, or since our rural communities aren’t very diverse, that racism doesn’t actually require our attention.

We have not acted decisively and in wholehearted support of our brothers and sisters of color, because we have been more interested in maintaining our emotional comfort than advocating for the upending of the racist systems that benefit us at every turn.

We have not spoken boldly and prophetically, because we have been more afraid of what our white congregations might think of us than we are of the shameful repercussions of our silence.

We have worried about how our white parishioners will respond when/if we raise names like Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd during worship, and whether the nice folks who tithe will feel uncomfortable.

We have pretended that our prayers on behalf of the dead and their families are enough to shift our national conscience toward justice and truth.

We have convinced ourselves that the work of anti-racism is reserved for those few white pastors who “feel passionately about the issue”.

We have deluded ourselves into thinking that we should leave the real work of advocacy around race and anti-racism to the voices of our brothers and sisters who are black, indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC). We have remained silent.

And in so doing, we have clearly communicated to our white congregations that we affirm the status quo of racism in America. We have abdicated our moral responsibility.

Is it any wonder, then, that precious little has changed here since MLK was jailed in Alabama in 1963?

“I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.”

White religious leaders: we preach about repentance.

Today, we will model it. On Sunday, let us own it.

Let us stand before our congregations, unprepared though we may be, and say out loud that racial justice in America is long overdue. May we own to our churches that we have been silent where we were called to be prophets. Let us declare that we and our congregants will learn together how to be part of the disruption and the healing and that we refuse to be complicit any longer in the sin of racism.

And then let us ACT.

This is how the Kingdom comes.

——————–

A Postscript: I understand that white pastors (and white people in general!) may feel like they don’t have the tools or the language to talk about systemic racism as a white person.

Friends, be teachable. There are countless books, blogs, Facebook groups, and community spaces *led by non-white voices* where you could dive deeply into the topic of racism, listen to the lived experiences of our BIPOC brothers and sisters, and discover helpful frameworks for action. I will link a few in the comments to get you started.

It is up to US to show up in spaces where our voices are NOT centered (weird for pastors, am I right?), stay quiet, listen carefully, and educate ourselves. *It is not up to people of color to educate us.*

It is also up to us to consider whether our understanding of racial justice is actually embedded in our understanding of the gospel, and then do the needed work of integrating our theology and practice.

I also realize that white religious leaders may be at a loss as to what to DO, beyond “thoughts and prayers”.

After your work of self-education is underway, you have an incredible opportunity for Spirit-inspired creativity:

If your congregation has an Outreach Committee or a Hospitality Team, why not a Committee on Racial Justice? Could the members begin to educate themselves, and your entire congregation, about the presence and effects of systemic racism?

Find out if law enforcement in your town uses body cams. Call your local police department and ask if de-escalation training is required for officers. Research whether “no-knock” warrants are legal in your state. Use your pastoral privilege to advocate for better policing practices.

If you’ve ever hosted a series of town hall meetings around an important topic, could you host one on systemic racism & racial reconciliation, and invite people of color to keynote?

If your congregation offers Christian education classes, couldn’t one of those be a close reading of “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”? Could you begin to include the writings of black, indigenous, and theologians of color in your curriculum choices?

If your town has a newspaper, could you write an op-ed piece and publicly announce that systemic racism is alive and well, and is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus?

If your church has bulletin boards, could you create one dedicated to resources that actively help your white members move from a posture of defensiveness and avoidance to one of engagement and advocacy?

Could you host a service of lament and mourning for your community, with the faces and stories of murdered black men and women placed throughout your sanctuary?

… I look forward to hearing what new practices your churches embrace. Peace be with you all.

Guidance for the New Normal

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Rick Kirchoff

At Clergy Coaching Network, we’ve been curating the best articles about the future of the church in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. As we’ve done this work and as we’ve listened to the challenges and creativity of our coaching clients, we are drawing several conclusions.

What follows is a summary of the insights of the best ideas about the future of the church. (A complete list of our sources is at the end of this article.)

Tony Morgan writes:

“I’m noticing two types of church leaders right now. One type of church leader is just waiting for things to go back to normal so that we can get back to doing church the way we’ve always done church. The question they’re asking me is this: “When do you think we’ll be able to reopen our churches?”

Then he adds: “I’m hearing many pastors talking about everything returning to normal in May. That could happen in portions of our country, but most of us will not be returning to large social gatherings, including church services until widespread testing and vaccines are available. That’s going to be many months from now.

Between now and then, there may be some loosening of guidelines where large social gatherings are allowed. But as cases return and increase again (because widespread testing and vaccines are not available), the guidelines will tighten again.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think church leaders need to be planning for a full year before large social gatherings are happening throughout the entire country without restrictions. Are you prepared for that?”

(The best estimate of epidemiologists is that some social distancing may need to persist into 2022 in the USA to keep the surge of people severely sickened by COVID-19 from overwhelming the health care system. – Journal of Science, April 14, 2020)

Tony Morgan identifies the second type of church leader he’s starting to encounter.

“They aren’t so concerned about when we might return to normal, because they realize what we’ve experienced…and will continue to experience for many months…is going to force the church to change. Normal isn’t coming back. The question they’re instead asking is this: ‘How must the church change for a new normal?’ And they are ready to start making those changes now. They are not waiting for their church doors to reopen.   

Susan Beaumont concurs:

“Crisis moments call for strong, decisive action—people want to know that someone is in charge, and things are being managed. But once the initial crisis calms, a period of disorientation sets in as we find our way to a new normal. The resolute leadership style that worked well during the initial crisis won’t work well in this ongoing unsettled space.

We are in a liminal season, stuck between an ending and a new beginning. The pathway forward is not knowable. The way we “did church” even two months ago is done. We have literally been thrown out of our buildings by a pandemic. We can reassure people (and ourselves) by pretending the disruption is temporary. “We will resume all normal activity soon.” That reassurance is not helpful or truthful.”

And in another article, Ken Braddy adds,

“We will not go back to business as usual in our churches. If you think we’ll all rush back to church and pick up where we left off, don’t kid yourself – it’s not going to happen. Or at least it shouldn’t happen.”

If they (and their colleagues) are correct, and we believe they are, how will we begin to adapt to the is new normal? What innovations are needed now and in the future? What questions do we need to address now, before people return to our church facilities?

As I’ve listened to what others are writing and saying, here are some tentative thoughts. What follows is wide-ranging and is admittedly somewhat overwhelming. But I invite you to examine these ideas, glean what is useful, discard the rest, and build a plan that is right for you and your context.

And realize that no strategy, even the best one, survives intact after it encounters reality and human frailty. So, my best wisdom is to build a strong prayer team as you venture into this challenge.

In addition, seek to build your plan with a congregational team that includes wise influence leaders and those who will be able to interpret the program to those who are resistant or even obstructionist. This team will help you both gather accurate information and make informed decisions. For more about this team, check out the third point in this article: (https://outreachmagazine.com/features/leadership/53337-principles-for-leading-through-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html)

 

IN LIGHT OF THE CORONAVIRUS, SAFETY CONCERNS (INCLUDING SANITIZING, FACE MASKS, AND SOCIAL DISTANCING) WILL RESHAPE MANY OF OUR CONGREGATIONS.

Some elements of social distancing will become permanent for churches as churches become less “tactile.” Stand and Greet is Dead; church huggers will no longer be tolerated, and for a time, handshakes will be off-limits.

You’ll want to provide hand sanitizing stations and places where people can get a face mask.

Guests/Newcomers will be asking: Is it safe to attend? Hand sanitizing stations are only the beginning. Safety concerns will impact the size of worship attendance, sanitizing of the nursery, restrooms, door handles, stations for hand sanitizer, even the smell. Does it smell clean?

Many churches will need to decide whether to add and/or shorten worship services to accommodate people while allowing for social distancing.

If physical gatherings are limited in size to accommodate the need for social distancing, you have options:

(1) offer more services

(2) encourage people to continue worshiping online

(3) remove pews/chairs from your worship space to help people avoid close contact

(4) block off pews/chairs so that people no longer sit right behind someone, reducing the chances of them sneezing or coughing directly into the back of the person in front of them.

How will you sanitize and sterilize your entire church building? You’ll likely want to consult your local health department to learn about proper sanitizing measures and their recommendation for your congregation. With that information, you’ll plan to regularly sanitize your worship space and all classrooms (especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch during the course of a Sunday or Wednesday class experience, as well as pre-school).

Have you sprayed or wiped pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping doorknobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected? Now is the time for all this to take place, not the week of the “you can go back to church” announcement by government officials. Will implementation of this gives rise to a new team of people on campus whose ministry it is to walk around wiping doorknobs and other surfaces? Who is going to clean restrooms throughout the time that people are in the facility? Remember, you’ll have hundreds (some of your churches may have thousands) of people touching things while they are on campus.

The Nursery and other children’s spaces will be a top concern for parents. They may view kids’ area as a Petri dish into which they are throwing their children. If we don’t accommodate for sanitized nursery spaces and other children’s rooms, should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing, and keep a close eye on their little ones?

How will safety concerns impact the Choir and other elements of your music ministry? How can social distancing guidelines be maintained when choirs practice and present in spaces that do not provide a 6-foot distance? Does singing help to spread the virus? And what about wearing face masks while trying to sing? What about handbells and keyboards?

Something to consider: In a recent article in Infection Control Today, Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, writes about choirs and singing: “Why am I calling out churches? The answer is asymptomatic spread and aerosolization of the virus from singing. It’s been determined that this virus is much more infectious than the flu. National leaders are now saying 3 times as infectious, giving the epidemic a R0 of approximately 4. This probably requires other methods of transmission than from sneezing and coughing. And if approximately 50% of individuals catch this virus from asymptomatic carriers, one must ask, how are these carriers spreading the virus? They are not coughing and sneezing. The answer is probably aerosolization, were the virus can float in the air and be picked up later by an unsuspecting passerby. The virus has been observed to survive in an aerosol form for up to 3 hours. Thus, singing and church choirs may be the worst practice one can participate in.”

How will you sanitize the multiple TouchPoints in your worship experience? These include door handles, pew or seat backs, hymnals, offering plates, communion practices, worship bulletins, shake hands with the pastor and others, church dinners, classroom gatherings, recreation & fitness facilities, elevator buttons.

How will you provide for Weddings, Baptisms, and Funerals and do it safely?

And what about coffee time?  Many churches have invested serious dollars in creating a coffee shop or self-serve coffee experience for groups and classes. Is that still a good idea? Gathering areas with tables and chairs may need to be placed in storage so that people don’t congregate within a couple of feet of one another.

What about your Greeters ministry? Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all? Will you have door greeters? Seriously?! But you’ve always had door greeters. But in a COVID-19 world, do you want a door greeter holding the door open while a parishioner walks by within a foot or two of them? The new normal may be to provide automatic door openers and ask greeters to stand back six feet, inside the church building, and welcome people verbally without opening the door for them.

Some clergy believe that the best way to approach all of this is by developing a “health team,” made up of wise leaders, who will review these recommendations, those of the CDC and local health leaders, and give guidance to the congregation.

Welcome to the new sanitizing world COVID-19 has created.

 

SMALLER & MULTIPLE WORSHIP SERVICES COULD BECOME NORMAL

What if epidemiologists recommend that social distancing protocols continue and your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 50 or 100 people? If we are limited to a smaller number by healthcare leaders, what is your plan to provide a place and time for all attendees to worship?

One primary strategy is, of course, to continue to offer worship online.

Another strategy is to add worship services to accommodate attendees.

So, it is likely that smaller worship services will become normal. There is already a trend of churches moving to smaller worship gatherings, even if the church was growing. In a COVID-19 world, we may need to anticipate capping services attendance at a size that allows for proper social distancing. As a result, the 80% rule will become the 50-60% rule for worship gatherings. The 80% rule said that a worship center with a capacity of 200 feels full at 160 (80%). The 50-60% rule will say the congregation will want more social distancing, and thus the 200-capacity worship center will reach its social distancing capacity at 100-120. (T Rainer)

 

RATHER THAN THE COMMUNITY COMING TO CHURCH, THE CHURCH WILL GO TO THE COMMUNITY

For too long, some church leaders have devised strategies to get guests to “come to church.” The pandemic is forcing us to see that the church building is only a gathering point, not an ultimate destination. How can you lead the churches right now to find ways to be a real ministry and influence in the community? How will you enable the church to go to the community rather than pushing the community to go to church? (Thom Rainer)

James Emery White writes: “Churches have been forced to move from a weekend-centric, crowd approach to a seven-day-a-week, incarnational approach. While every church should embrace, celebrate, and promote corporate worship, too many churches made that celebration the end-all for the life of the church. We say that the church isn’t bricks and mortar, but a community of faith that can be strategically served by bricks and mortar. Yet too many churches were never leaving the building. The goal of the church is to be the church in the community where it resides, attempting to reach and serve in the name of Jesus. The pandemic has broken us out of our gospel ghettos and holy huddles and into the neighborhoods and streets where we live.”

Churches are being brought back to their missionWhen all of your methods and practices have been stripped away, you are left with something raw and unfiltered. It’s called your mission. Churches around the world are finding that much of what they had been doing to fulfill the mission had become the mission. Now, they are beginning to see the actual mission in a new and liberating light.

This includes doing the work of Making Disciples for the Transformation of the World.

And it includes feeding people who are adversely impacted by the Coronavirus Shutdown. So many are out of work, and the need is great! Support your local Food Bank. Our metro area food bank can feed 300 for $100. If your community has no Food Bank, look at starting your own or doing food distribution cooperatively with other churches and/or service groups.

 

THE DIGITAL CHURCH IS HERE TO STAY & INTERNET WILL BE A BIG FRONT DOOR

Many churches have resisted the migration into the virtual world, but the coronavirus has taken many congregations into a quick immersion into the digital age. The initial forays have been to introduce digital giving and to Livestream some form of worship services. But coronavirus is the tipping point of much more to come in the digital world.

It seems that Digital is here to stay. And, churches will be shifting to making this a primary platform for everything they do rather than just a stream of their Sunday services.

Carey Nieuwhof writes:

“Some churches may think of their recent foray into Facebook Live as a means to provide a worship experience for their people is a temporary thing – a stop-gap measure during some extraordinary days. They look forward to the day that online services give way to worship experiences on campus. But is that the right strategy? Church leaders say their worship attendance and group attendance are up – significantly – because people are finding them online.

What’s kept a lot of church leaders from truly embracing online services or an expanded online ministry?

One main thing: worry about a drop in physical attendance. Until now, too many pastors have concerned about the internet as a back door.

That’s because until now, most church leaders have kept score by how many people physically attend their church.

I realize numbers matter because people matter, but it’s strange that we value the people we can see physically more than we value the people we can see digitally. That’s doubly strange if people actually matter to God.

Pastors have resisted online ministry, argued video teaching doesn’t work and fails to invest seriously in anything digital because they’ve been worried it will become a back door through which people walk away.

Church online will continue to grow as a front door for the curious, the skeptic, and the interested. It will be the first stop for almost everyone, and a temporary resting place for people who are a little too afraid to jump in until they muster the courage to jump in through physical attendance.

Your online ministry is also a side door to Christians who, when travel resumes, won’t be there on a given Sunday. Ironically, it will help them stay engaged because you’re equipping them every day, not just on Sundays.

If you continue to behave like the world doesn’t live online, you’ll miss the very people you’re trying to reach.

The future church (at least future churches that reach unchurched people) will no longer be in-person gathering with a smidge of online thrown in.

If people live every day in need of hope and resources to live out their faith (or to find faith) every day, church leaders have to start coming alongside people every day. Like many are doing right now.

That won’t go away when things go back to ‘normal.’ There will be a new normal, and it will be a seamless interweaving of the digital and analog, just like life is these days.

Starting now, Sunday-focused churches will become every day-focused churches because people need to live out their faith every day.”

So, should you be investing in new digital equipment right now? Yes, we’ve all hopped online and used Facebook Live to broadcast our worship services. Some of us are doing that with iPads and other devices, but is this the time to admit that online worship is probably here to stay? If yes, then it makes sense to invest dollars now so that quality cameras, microphones, and other equipment that will help the church be more engaging in the new online world of worship.

 

STAFFING FOR ONLINE WILL BE A PRIORITY 

For years Carey Nieuwhof has suggested that church leaders asking if online counts is like Sears asking if Amazon counts. Suddenly that conversation seems more real than ever. Of course, online counts. Just because real-life counts doesn’t mean that online doesn’t, and just because online counts doesn’t mean real-life doesn’t. They BOTH matter!

Here’s the problem: most churches spend somewhere between 90-100% of their staff dollars on in-person experiences: Sunday gatherings, groups, events, community service.

With only a few exceptions, even in large churches, the paucity of resources given to online resources is staggering.

What usually happens is the senior leader gives the website, streaming, and social media to a teenage volunteer or to some 20-something staffer who ‘understands that stuff,’ tacking it on to his or her already full-time job description. Alternatively, the senior pastor outsources it as a line item in the budget to some third-party service he doesn’t even know the name

Now is the time to rethink how to redistribute staffing for when things go back to ‘normal’ because normal won’t be the way it was. It will be a new normal. Churches that reach people in the future will staff online as though it’s real because it is.

 

OUR ONLINE SERMONS WILL IMPROVE AND TAKE ON A NEW LIFE

A crisis is a cradle for innovation. So, when it comes to the sermon, it is a great time to innovate.

Many pastors are discovering what it’s like to see and listen to themselves preach. And for some of us, it is a rude awakening. Speaking into a camera takes a unique skill set, and most leaders are choosing to go shorter rather than longer. But brevity alone is not the answer. The issues are too numerous and lengthy to address here, so here is a link from Carey Nieuwhof that may help us all to be better online communicators. (Here are some pro-tips on that).

You can easily make messages interactive. Having live-chat during sermons can allow your hosts to engage with people, and at the very end of the service on Sunday, take live questions from people about the message.

You can start to film in advance and make the messages more creative, almost taking a cinematic approach to it.

To help in speaking directly to the camera, some preachers are investing in readily available, low-cost teleprompters that can be used with smartphones and pads.

 

SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL CHANGE SOME WORSHIP TRADITIONS IN MANY CHURCHES. 

As mentioned above, the “stand and greet” time is dead, at least in the way many have done it. This practice has been on the decline in recent days. Many churches have already abandoned it because of its ineffectiveness with guests, not because of COVID-19 concerns.

Is a physical “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past? How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate that 99 other people just touched?

What adjustments will you need to make to Communion, baptisms, and your choir ministry? Do you believe you can conduct communion as you have in the past? Your church’s tradition may involve passing a plate of elements, or it may include drinking from a common cup in some denominations. Will you use the self-contained juice and cracker cups? What about baptism – it’s going to be impossible to practice physical distancing in a baptism pool. And as one reader said, “What do I do about my church’s choir program?” He realizes that people standing side-by-side won’t be practical.

 

DIGITAL GIVING WILL BE THE NORM

Non-digital giving will become an outlierFewer people will want to handle the offering plates or buckets or touch cash. Watch for a dramatic decrease in non-digital giving. Make sure you are moving your church to digital giving.

Have someone in your church who can help the digitally challenged to set up online giving for them.

You and your leadership can explore how to help people understand how to do an automatic bank draft, set up online giving, and even provide a non-pass-the-plate option for those who wish to give their gift when they come to worship.

For a deeper dive into online giving, check out this webinar and summary:  https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/online-giving-through-covid19

 

SENIOR ADULT MINISTRY WILL UNDERGO DRAMATIC CHANGE

Because older adults are at higher risk from COVID-19, they may be the last to return to in-person worship and other congregational activities. This is not to say that they don’t want to return, but they do not want to take the risk. In a recent post, Carey Nieuwhof asked this poignant question: “For those who lead multi-generational or older congregations, what if a good chunk of your church shouldn’t gather for a year or two?” 

One older adult friend has remarked that he and his wife do not plan to return to church until there is a proven vaccination. They continue to worship online, connect with church friends, and give, but they will not attend until it is proven safe. They are missing the church, their friends, their volunteer activities in the church. They want to return, but for them, church gatherings can be dangerous. They are hopeful that their congregation will offer online options, in addition to worship, so that they can fully participate in the community in this strange season.

In many congregations, they have organized service teams to reach out to their senior members to help them with errands, shop for groceries, and pick up medications.

One pastor just told me that in the three weeks, he had made more than 300 phone calls, making it a priority to “reach out and touch” the older members of his congregation.

Clergy can make phone calls and write letters. Phone calls and hand-written letters are low tech and no tech. But there is high value in the personal connection they bring.

Help Seniors access and learn a New technology: This might be FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. All sorts of online options exist to talk with family and friends. And you for many of these you don’t have to be tech-savvy. Doing the basics is easy, and for most people, fun. If setting up an account is daunting, put together a steam that can help, be on call, and give ready tutorials.

In some congregations, where older people do not have the technology, they are buying Chromebooks (costing less than $300) and purchasing WIFI for those who are not connected. They’ve solicited donations to do this for unconnected seniors, and then have a servant team that helps older folks get set up and are available by phone to help when the new technology seems overwhelming.

Help older members find a ministry by reaching out to others from their homes. It may sound counterintuitive. How can you remain a part of the community and serve even if you are sheltering at home? Seniors can make phone calls to check in on others. They can write letters of encouragement.

Reaching out to residents of Nursing Homes:

Pick a person and a day and shower that person with greeting cards.

Reach out the nursing home social worker and explore having a 10-15-minute FaceTime meeting with the nursing home resident once a month. In that facetime visit, include a familiar hymn, a scripture, a personal check-in, a devotional thought, and prayer.

 

WE WILL BECOME CREATIVE & PERSONAL IN OUR DISCIPLESHIP PLANS

Two options: Online Groups & One-on-One Coaching

Online groups: You can begin by taking your current face-to-face classes and groups online.

Many have already done this.

Take your membership class online.

Here’s some guidance from someone who’s been leading online groups for over a decade: https://catalystchurchcreative.com/coronavirus-online-groups/

One-on-One Discipleship Coaching:

One of the most creative approaches to discipleship that we’ve seen in this time comes from Ken Willard, Director of Discipleship, Leadership, and Congregational Vitality for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

It is called Digital Discipleship Coaching. Discipleship Coaching builds on three foundations:

  1. As followers of Jesus Christ, people want and need to grow as disciples. None of us are finished growing into the image of Christ. This is a lifelong process sometimes known as sanctification, or as John Wesley called it, “becoming perfected in love.”
  2. Spiritual disciplines are the building blocks of discipleship. These behaviors and actions are the means by which we best grow as disciples of Jesus. By taking intentional steps in the spiritual disciplines, over time, we become more fully devoted followers of Christ.
  3. Coaching is a partnership process designed to help a disciple best discern their next steps. By asking powerful questions and then actively listening, the coach acts as a spiritual guide.

Discipleship Coaching happens best in one-on-one situations. Most people, no matter how long they have been in church, have never had a one-on-one conversation with anyone about their spiritual growth. With everything suddenly being forced online, now is a perfect time to schedule a conversation. People in our congregations need the connection and the encouragement to continue their discipleship journey. To learn more about this one-on-one discipleship plan, go to https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/10205/digital-discipleship-coaching

If Ken’s plan doesn’t seem right for you and our context, how could to adapt the program to reflect more of your gift, temperament, and the needs of those in your congregation?

 

BUDGETS AND STAFFING WILL HAVE TO REFLECT THESE NEW REALITIES 

The issues regarding church finances and staffing are too complex and contextual to address here.

So, we will point you to several web resources that offer ideas, models, and plans. What follows is not an exhaustive listing, but it will help you and your leadership to begin a conversation about these critical issues. We encourage you to take a deep dive into these sites and discern what approaches are most helpful for your context.

Finances:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/10-ideas-for-church-financial-leaders-amid-the-covid-19-crisis

https://samrainer.com/2020/03/creating-a-financial-plan-for-your-church-during-the-outbreak/

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/leading-staff-reorganizations

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/stewardship-giving-though-crisis

Staffing:

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/critical-components-of-restructuring-staff

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/leading-staff-reorganizations

The coaches at Clergy Coaching Network are available to assist you and your congregation as you navigate these challenging times.  You can learn more about us and our work at www.clergycoachingnetwork.com or you can email me at rickccnet@gmail.com

 

Sources:

What will The Post Coronavirus Church Look Like? https://tinyurl.com/u27wp6o

The Current Crisis is Accelerating the Future Church: https://tinyurl.com/u9xmrpd

The Church is now a Blank Slate: https://tinyurl.com/rg5shmb

5 Predictions About the Future Church: https://tinyurl.com/rowp53a

Five Ways You Will be a Different Pastor: https://tinyurl.com/w8z3qjk

Seven Shifts the Church Needs to Make: https://tinyurl.com/y7ku4ov9

24 Questions Your Church Should Answer:  https://kenbraddy.com/2020/04/18/20-questions-your-church-should-answer-before-people-return/

5 Ways the Pandemic is Saving the Church: https://www.churchandculture.org/blog/2020/4/20/5-ways-the-pandemic-is-saving-the-church

Finding Our New Normal: https://www.congregationalconsulting.org/finding-our-new-normal/

A Financial Plan During the Outbreak: https://samrainer.com/2020/03/creating-a-financial-plan-for-your-church-during-the-outbreak/

For a variety of articles and curated webinars about leadership and finances during this crisis: www.vanderbloemen.com/blog

 

Resources for a Changing Ministry

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What follows is a listing of the most popular resource links from the Clergy Coaching Network Facebook page. We trust that you will find many of these links lead to learning and ministry innovation in these challenging times.  (This list will be regularly updated, so please check back.)

LEADING “VIRTUAL” WORSHIP

A Quick Guide to Live Streaming: https://tinyurl.com/qpbb9qz

Using Free Conference Call (finding a way to worship with people who don’t have digital media): https://www.freeconferencecalling.com/?

Digital Audio Tips: https://tinyurl.com/vsg5zp3

What happens when Faith Communities are Forced to go Virtual? https://tinyurl.com/vho5hze

How to Facebook Live (for small churches): https://tinyurl.com/r2ndjtd

Resources for Worship at Home: https://tinyurl.com/qlrrtl7

Don’t Let the Virus Stop Sunday Worship: https://tinyurl.com/wycs7rj

Preaching & Covid-19: https://tinyurl.com/tyjdnub

5 Tips for Preaching Remotely: https://tinyurl.com/tfr8942

A Beginners Guide to Online Worship: https://tinyurl.com/r3mh4f6

Live Streaming while Sheltering in Place: https://tinyurl.com/uv2tf6d

Encouragement for Live Streaming in the Small Church: https://tinyurl.com/t3awvf6

How Clergy are Handling Un-gathered Worship: https://tinyurl.com/t6lnpqs

Virtual Communion in a Time of Pandemic: https://tinyurl.com/w4swpra

          Half of All Churches are Instantly Growing:        https://tinyurl.com/wayu498

 

CONGREGATIONAL CARE

10 Guidelines for Pastoral Care:  https://tinyurl.com/r2y7dko

 Staying Connected: https://tinyurl.com/rwsfto3

Connecting in a Time of Social Distancing: https://tinyurl.com/vuptsey

 

DISCIPLESHIP

A Model for Discipleship Coaching: https://tinyurl.com/vcdmjxt

 

CHURCH FINANCE

The Paycheck Protection Program. What you need to Know: https://tinyurl.com/tuvqy27

Ten Ideas for Leaders: https://tinyurl.com/w33hcde

Churches fear for their future: https://tinyurl.com/qluvuqq

Three Sites to help you Understand the Stimulus, The CARES Act and the impact on Churches and Salaries:

From ECFA: https://tinyurl.com/yx6urpzj

From Christianity Today: https://tinyurl.com/qr53zfx

From United Methodist News Service: https://tinyurl.com/v2yx6vn

 

SERVICE

Putting the Mission in missional: https://tinyurl.com/w9bnbua

Contagious Kindness: https://tinyurl.com/to68eyc

 

SELF-CARE

Words of Encouragement for Clergy: https://tinyurl.com/srwuqjs

Protecting Your Mental Health while Social Distancing: https://tinyurl.com/qmjtu8o

Taking Care of Your Mental Health in a Time of Uncertainty: https://tinyurl.com/ukrge2h

3 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Break in a Crisis: https://tinyurl.com/vftxmdg

17 Ideas to Keep Your Body, Mind and Spirit Strong: https://tinyurl.com/toog7ec

Building Resilience: https://tinyurl.com/yxyq4crn

The Benefit of Shedding Tears: https://tinyurl.com/soef382

Preventing Loneliness: https://tinyurl.com/s5r5zzp

It’s OK to Grieve our Losses: https://tinyurl.com/v4to8o6

Grieving our Losses: https://tinyurl.com/w4olytf

Managing Worry: https://tinyurl.com/txpgyf8

 

UNDERSTANDING THE FUTURE CHURCH

What will The Post Coronavirus Church Look Like? https://tinyurl.com/u27wp6o

The Current Crisis is Accelerating the Future Church: https://tinyurl.com/u9xmrpd

The Church is now a Blank Slate: https://tinyurl.com/rg5shmb

5 Predictions About the Future Church: https://tinyurl.com/rowp53a

          Five Ways You Will be a Different Pastor: https://tinyurl.com/w8z3qjk

Seven Shifts the Church Needs to Make: https://tinyurl.com/y7ku4ov9

 

BETTER VIRTUAL MEETINGS

8 Rules for Running Virtual Meetings: https://tinyurl.com/skcb4e5

 

DEALING WITH FEAR

We’ve got plenty to be afraid of these days. So why does the Bible tell us not to fear? https://tinyurl.com/qqus32b

Helping Children Deal with Fear: https://tinyurl.com/sbgfpkb

How to Stop Awfulizing: https://tinyurl.com/wlpvf9p

What Our Fears Reveal About Us: https://tinyurl.com/thqqesz

Ways to Activate Faith Over Fear: https://tinyurl.com/vvyba55

Taking Our Thoughts Captive: https://tinyurl.com/ufj9j6s

 

GENERAL LEADERSHIP

5 Good Things that Can Come from a Bad Virus: https://tinyurl.com/u5fs5pz

8 Ways to Lead in a Digital Default World: https://tinyurl.com/srsgbd3

Finding Clarity About Mission in the Midst of Crisis: https://tinyurl.com/snrskez

Church Canceled? 6 Ways to Respond – And 5 Ways Not To: https://tinyurl.com/venp5yr

Crisis Leadership & Christian Leadership: https://tinyurl.com/vsu59j4

Philip Yancey on LIVING IN TIME OF PLAGUE: https://tinyurl.com/s8yq3bh

Ways Other Churches are Stepping Up: https://tinyurl.com/r5km8ln

Preparing for the Crisis to Come: https://tinyurl.com/trfftpz

What the Crisis is Revealing about Christians: https://tinyurl.com/tcdxhj4

7 Strategies of Leadership When you Can’t Gather (Podcast and summary): https://tinyurl.com/twpehjm

The Need for Relationship: https://tinyurl.com/uzh4vm4

Why do I Miss Church so Much? https://tinyurl.com/tz28xbq

 

 

10 Rules for Addressing Panhandlers

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By Dr. Pete Gathje, Memphis Theological Seminary  

“If a panhandler asks me for money, what should I do?”

This question is asked almost every time I give a talk about homelessness, or when people find out I help run Manna House, a place of hospitality for people on the streets. Here is my advice based upon my knowledge of homelessness, and talking with panhandlers.

1. Give or don’t give. It is really your choice. But always look the person in the eye who is asking, and say “Hi.” If you are not going to give then add, “Sorry I can’t help today.” If you are going to give add, “Hope this helps.” Either way, always treat the person with respect. They are human beings, made in the image of God.

2. If you do give to a panhandler, remember it is a gift, and the person is free to do with it whatever he or she wants to do. The person is not homeless because of some personal moral failure, so do not get into making moral evaluations and judgments. 

3. If you do not give that is OK. Panhandlers know most people will not give. One said to me, “It is like cold calling in sales. I expect to get turned down most of the time, and it doesn’t bother me. Just treat me with respect.” (See Rule #1 above). 

4. If you feel unsafe or the person panhandling is being aggressive or threatening, leave the area and don’t give. As one panhandler said to me, “There are jerks in every line of life. Don’t reward them.” 

5. Sometimes give more than you are being asked for. So, if someone asks for a dollar, give them five! Both you and the panhandler can share in the joy of that unexpected gift. 

6. Set a limit or a boundary to your giving. Mine is $5 per day. Once I have given out my $5 then I respond to anyone who asks, “I’ve given out already what I give each day.” I consider this my “street tax.” 

7. There are people who panhandler who are not homeless. They are simply poor. It is near impossible to tell the difference between a homeless panhandler and one who is not. So, again, give if you want, or do not give if you do not want to, but treat everyone with respect. (See Rule #1 above). 

8. Feeling awkward or uncomfortable when you see a panhandler or are asked for money is OK. It means you have a conscience and some compassion. 

9. If you have time, and are so inclined, volunteer with an organization that works with people on the streets offering food, or shelter, or medical care etc. You will get to know some really interesting people, and they will get to know you. And you might see them on the streets from time to time, and you can wave and yell “Hi!”

10. If you really want to help people who are homeless, then advocate for housing for all homeless people and free shelters. Support organizations in your area that practice a “housing first” approach to homelessness. Also resist all efforts to dehumanize, disrespect, and criminalize people who are on the streets with laws like “No panhandling” or myths like “Panhandlers make a lot of money panhandling.” (See Rule #1 above). 

 

(This post originally appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal as an oped on 9/7/18)

Didn’t Your Mama Teach You That?

senior bald man in yellow shirt asking what's going on

By Rev. Dr. David Galloway, Galloway Consulting, Atlanta, Georgia

Emotional Intelligence is a shorthand way of talking about how you get along with others. There’s lot more to it, but bottom line, it’s about how you bring the person you are into interaction with the people you deal with in business, your work environment, your social community, and even your family.

I use Emotional Intelligence in my consulting work with leaders. I have talked about it in lectures and teachings. The coaching I provide and the training I do begin and end with an appreciation for the role of Emotional Intelligence. It is the “grease” that makes thing work well and move smoothly at work and home. Finally, I use a heaping, helping load of Emotional Intelligence in my life, just getting through the work of the day and the tender of the night.

Thankful to my Mama and my grandmother for teaching me the basics of Emotional Intelligence, they trained me in how you treat other people with respect, as fellow human beings that have inherent worth. That notion of dignity and worth is forged into the Baptismal Covenant I signed onto when I aligned myself as a follower of Christ. And even the country I call “home” asserts from its very beginnings that all people are created equal, endowed with rights, even though we are struggling still to make that real in our common life. So Emotional Intelligence is sewn into the fabric of our life, in the principles we say we honor and the values that inform us.  I have been able to refine that attitude and those skills in the years beyond the training my family, tribe and country gave me, but it really comes down to how you regard and treat others, just like my Mama told me in the beginning.

Didn’t your Mama teach you that? Or somebody else with some common sense? The answer I get from many people I work with is “No”, either formally or by the testimony of their actions as they struggle to get along. They seem baffled by the most simple interactions that some people do simply, natively.

Let me give you a flesh and blood example.

I was doing a consulting gig at a healthcare system in a large Northern city. This system was bleeding financially to the point that their viability for the future was in question. The leadership team had a Chief Operating Officer (COO) that was famous for his financial shrewdness but was infamous for treating his staff badly. This reputation had gotten legs, making its way to the group of Catholic nuns who ran the board of this hospital. The Sisters felt that this man did not understand nor represent the mission of the hospitals in his demeanor. When I arrived, the board of nuns was contemplating his future and was discussing the need to “redirect his career”, or in common speak, fire him. As  he was providing a much needed eye to the bottom line, I offered to coach him, hoping to offer him a choice of treating his people with more regard.

And so with the Sisters sponsorship and his agreement, I entered the scene as his coach. While the work was framed in terms of leadership coaching, I was basically working with him in the area of EQ, that is, Emotional Intelligence, which focused on how he interacts with his co-workers.

Basically, my work with him was about a mindset shift, plus some immediate feedback around the way he led meetings and interacted with peers and direct reports. He actually was a great guy underneath his professional, brusk persona, learned in business school and groomed in executive training. I was hoping to transform his way of seeing the people in his field of being and alter his mindset from a typical business-utilitarian view of people into a more empathetic perspective, with the valuing of his co-workers as people, not mere cogs in his machine.

My intervention and input provided new options for how he might do his job, widening his repertoire of skills in terms of leadership. The feedback I was able to give to him as I shadowed him in meetings held up a “mirror” so he could catch himself and “see” how he was interacting in the moment. This magical combination woke him up to a new way of being a leader in the organization, of treating people as real peopole. The proof of his personal transformation was in the results as he turned around his 360 evaluations, with his coworkers experiencing him as a new person who treated them differently.

A magician never reveals the “trick” of his magic, but here it is. Truthfully, he had been suffering from a limiting belief system, given to him at business school. There, he had been given an image of a COO as being a person without a heart. He was natively a good man, so all he had to do was to realize he could treat people with respect and still drive for metrics and accountability. This was such a relief for him to discover that he could be himself and still make his productivity goals. The result was that of a much happier work place for him and his colleagues. His coworkers were pleased, the Nuns were thrilled, and he was more satisfied with his role in the organization.

Truth is, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is at least as important as cognitive ability, usually measured as IQ. The good news is that EQ, unlike IQ, can be trained and increased with attention to that dimension of a person. I use an amazing assessment tool to give a baseline of what is the current capacity a person is bringing to the dance. From that starting point, we begin a process of training in which the person attends to his interactions with other persons at work or in relationships. An added 360 component, which adds an assessment by one’s peers, can add a powerful reality check and a measure of progress in one’s EQ development.

Emotional Intelligence has been on the business scene since 1995 when psychologist, Daniel Goleman, wrote a book on how our emotions show up in our business and work. Now an accepted concept in business schools, EQ has been studied and received attention by academics and practitioners who are interested in how this dimension of human capacity can increase effectiveness, and therefore productivity, resulting in a very real impact on the proverbial bottom line. At the Clergy Coaching Network, we are exploring ways in which Emotional Intelligence can enhance the effectiveness in the leadership of clergy.

Emotional intelligence looks specifically at the self perception of the person. It concerns how the person regards oneself, including an awareness of both strengths and weaknesses. EQ refers to how aware one is of one’s emotions, what’s going on internally as one enters the scene of planning and interaction. And , EQ is interested in the orientation one has as to one’s continuing development and improvement.

This sense of self is expressed to the outside world in the form of observable emotions within the context of relationships, both at work and in personal relationships. One’s assertiveness and independence is noted as well as how one shows empathy for the perspective of others, and to groups one is in, such as a team.

Further, emotional intelligence looks at the way in which one make decisions in terms of problem solving and reality testing. Notably, one’s impulse control is in play as decisions are made and actions are executed. How do you do what you do?

Again, the encouraging news is that one’s EQ can be increased with attention to certain dimensions of your self and ways of relating with others. If you are interested in Emotional Intelligence and how it plays into your work or in your relationships, I recommend an accessible text, The EQ Edge, by Steven Stein and Howard Book. If you are wanting to work with someone in the context of coaching, contact me and I be happy to help you increase your awareness of EQ and assist you in your development. It can make a world of difference.

If your Mama didn’t teach you, the good news is that Emotional Intelligence can!

Our Mission and Comment Guidance

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The 3-part mission of the Clergy Coaching Network Facebook page:

To ARTICULATE A VISION FOR FAITHFUL CONGREGATIONS. This includes but is not limited to these Missional Objectives: Hospitality, Discipleship, Inclusiveness, Evangelism, Social Justice, Worship, Community, Congregational Care, Service, and Leadership Development.

To CHALLENGE, EQUIP AND INSPIRE clergy and congregational leaders for transformational leadership in an ever-changing world.  We will do this by sharing relevant articles, research, quotes, memes, and occasionally a bit of humor about human nature, theology, and congregational life.

To INVITE CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONAL LEADERS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR COACHING SERVICES. We hope that many of those who discover our page will seek to employ one of our well-trained clergy coaches to assist them in their leadership and ministry.  Our coaching services are available to leaders of all religious traditions. You can learn more about us at http://www.clergycoachingnetwork.com

Posts on this page come from a variety of perspectives and seek to address the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing clergy, faith leaders, congregations, and the communities in which they minister.  In most cases, our posts seek to address the concerns expressed by our clients and the congregations that they serve. Because our coaching clients are diverse, some of our posts will confirm what you already think. At other times we hope they will challenge assumptions and invite the exploration of new possibilities.  If you are uncomfortable with posts coming from a variety of points of view or religious perspectives (conservative, moderate, and progressive, sacred, and secular), this may not be the page for you.

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