Category Archives: Pastors

New Measures of (Re)Engagement for a Post-Pandemic Church

As ministry leaders look to guide congregations through and past the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are beginning to think about what the Church will look like moving forward.  It is premature to declare that we are on the other side of this crisis, but it is not too early to give consideration to what ministry (re)engagement could be like as we move toward that day. 

Just as we learned to value “engagement” as a meaningful measure of ministry impact mid-pandemic, we will be looking to measure “re-engagement” in a post-pandemic world. 

In the online world of virtual church, pastors and ministry leaders have measured the impact of their services in a couple of ways.  Through analytics we have been able to measure the number of connections or views provided through various online platforms. These numbers tell you how many “views” or IP address connections each livestream broadcast, social media post, or Zoom meeting generated.  While interesting, and not without value as a measurement, analytics alone cannot measure the true impact of ministry.

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Podcast Available

I’ve begun sharing a weekly podcast titled “Dan’s Sunday Preview” that takes a look at the coming Sunday’s sermon passage.

These are generally 5-7 minute recordings that examine just one aspect of the text, prompting our thinking prior to the coming Sunday. If you are interested, you can find this week’s (as well as former episodes) here: Pilgrimage Takes Us to Holy Places

Dan’s Sunday Preview Podcast. If you enjoy or benefit from the podcast, please subscribe.

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Names, Faces and Stories

You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:3-4)

It was my good fortune during a ministry chapter in my life to make the acquaintance of a man who was both a pastor, educator and community chaplain. He may not have officially carried that last title, but in reality he functioned within his community in that way. This man, over 40+ years of serving the same congregation, working in school administration and living in the same community was well known. To sit with him for lunch in the local café was to have your meal interrupted time and again by folks who dropped by just to share some news, a prayer concern, or extend a friendly hello. Over the time that I knew this gentleman I became aware that he had officiated at over 1,000 weddings and funerals in that community.

By comparison, in my now 30+ years of ordained ministry, I have officiated over 170 funerals and about one third of that number of weddings. I think of those numbers, and especially my friend’s tally, as the United States surpasses 400,000 deaths due to Covid-19. This milestone comes roughly one month after we passed by the 300K marker, meaning that the death rate has vastly accelerated. It’s a number that exceeds all the American casualties in World War II, which occurred over a few years. This 400,000 number came in just 9 months. I could hardly fathom the 1,000 count of services my friend had lived and officiated in his small community over a lifetime. But as I sat over coffee with him in that local café he’d comment about the passers-by: “I did their wedding.” Or, “I did her husband’s funeral”. My point is, by and large, he could put a name and face and story to the many services he had officiated. They weren’t just numbers, they were people.

The same is true, of course, of the 400,000 plus Americans who’ve lost their lives to the virus. You probably know one, or know of someone. They may have been your mother or dad, your brother or uncle, grandparent, neighbor or friend. They are more than a number. They are a name, a face and a story. I applaud the efforts of news organizations who try and tell some of those stories each week. If we fail to do so, we become numb to the numbers.

I was moved this week by the display of light in our nation’s capital surrounding the Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool in honor of the 400,000. It is a solemn and worthy tribute to all who’ve died. May their names be shared, their faces remembered, and their stories told.

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Crisis Fatigue

In a recent article, author Jake Owensby uses the term “crisis fatigue” to describe the tumultuous climate we are living through today in the world.

He says, “Confronted by a relentless barrage of stress-inducing events, we respond with a draining mixture of exhaustion, rage, disgust, despair, anxiety and grief. We want things to change, but the problems seem so huge that we don’t know where to start. We begin to wonder if we could make a real difference anyway. We’re overwhelmed.” (Ministry Matters: “Do the right next thing”)

Owensby’s words resonated with me as I consider my ongoing response to 2020, and as I walk alongside many others who, like me, are trying to faithfully follow Jesus in the midst of a global pandemic, struggling economy, racial unrest, natural disasters and contentious election year. People are simply tired. In fact, “tired” doesn’t do it justice. “Fatigue” is a much better word. Fatigue carries in its meaning the accumulative effect of tiresome events, issues, and engagements. Tired is overcome by a good night’s rest. Fatigue is only overcome by a more intentional and lengthy response.

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Remembering . . .

Earlier this week the United States surpassed 200,000 deaths due to Covid-19. This NBC News story gives a good summary of the impact of this number in our country.

On May 29, 2020 I wrote about the 100,000 deaths caused by Covid-19. In just shy of four months we’ve doubled that number, and some experts estimate it could double again toward the end of the year.

So, why focus on these numbers? Why blog about such sad news? My answer to that as a pastor is that we need to grieve. There has been so much focus on “getting back to normal” and “re-opening the country and our economy” and “pushing for a fast-track vaccine”. I fear in the rush and hurry we are overlooking our need to grieve.

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