By Rocky Stone
I have to tell you right off the bat; I’m not an expert in this. In fact, I’m struggling in this area. But I want to talk to you about three key areas that I’m pressing into, and my hope is that this will encourage you and help you connect with and serve your family better as we continue in this current pandemic.
Number One: Be Flexible.
I am a person that loves my schedule. I’m the guy that has my alarm go off at the exact same time every single morning, whether or not that’s actually when I need to be up. Even on my days off my alarm goes off and wakes me at the same time as it does on days that I have to work. I love having a schedule, I love being in a routine, I love doing things regularly, and right now we find ourselves in a place where our routines are being flipped on their heads? Nothing is happening as I expected it. Routine and planned have gone out the window, things are continually changing. I want to encourage you, and encourage myself in the same breath, be flexible. This is the best thing that we can do right now. Embrace the day as the day comes. Be willing to change and move things around. This is our new reality. I’m not used to working at home. I’m used to traveling from place to place and meeting with people while working out of Starbucks or an office. Before this pandemic, I worked from home only a fraction of the time that I do now. Working from home and working through this with my family has its challenges. But in those challenges, some beautiful things are happening.
Be flexible about how you’re working, and when you’re working. Before this crisis, I lived and died by your calendar and schedule, but that can’t happen right now. In this new reality, work can happen at any time which brings new challenges into the home. I have found great importance in making sure that my family knows when I’m working and when I’m off work. The temptation, at least for me, is to continue working well into the evening. Everything becomes a ministry, and everything becomes work.
In this, I’ve learned that my kids need to know when daddy’s off work and when I’m not. Having me at home and seeing me throughout the day is confusing to my two younger kids, all they see is that daddy is home and he doesn’t have time to play. As a family, we can establish new routines that respect my work time if I let them know when I’m working and when I’m not.
Number Two: Be Intentional.
Let’s remember that this crisis isn’t going to last forever. Even though it feels like a few weeks is forever, this time will soon pass. Recognize what this time is, it’s a gift.
There are some scary things going on in the world. In the midst of this, some people are sick, and some people are losing jobs. This isn’t to minimize any of that, but to keep it in its proper place. These things are happening, but for the most part, we do not have any control over that. Let’s focus instead on what we can control, our time. I want to encourage you to capitalize on this time by being intentional with your family. Spend this time talking to your kids. I have four boys, my youngest is three, and my oldest is 12. I’ve sat each of my kids down, even the three-year-old, and asked about how they’re doing. How are they processing this, and what are they missing? What are they sad about, and what are they enjoying? We’ve had some great conversations about how they are feeling. It has helped me realize that I’m not the only one that’s had a significant shift in my routine, this shift has hit my kids and my wife as well. I want to encourage you to remain flexible, to embrace the time that you have with your kids and your family and be intentional with that time.
Number Three: Be Loving
I think this is probably the area that, at least for me as a dad, I’m struggling with the most. As my kids run around and make a bunch of noise and get into different things while I am trying to work, it’s easier for me to snap and jump and correct them. It’s harder for me to be quiet and embrace the difficulty that they’re having as their world has also been interrupted. We have a choice on how our kids experience us during this time. Let’s choose to set the example and lead them well in love and compassion.
Often, as pastors and ministers, we talk about our families as our first ministry. If we are honest, that’s something we love to say, but it’s oftentimes not evident in our life. As the world hits the pause button, we get the opportunity to make that statement a reality and allow our kids and our spouse to be that first ministry in our life.
I think many of us are finding creative and exciting ways to connect with our church, to love our neighbors, and to serve the people around us. Many of the ways that we are serving others can also be applied to how we serve our families. Match the time and energy you’re putting into serving your community and your church with the time you are serving your family. Let those balance each other, let your kids and wife be more important than the next crisis or this current pandemic.
These are things that I have been trying to do. There are some days when I succeed, and there are some days when I don’t. Each moment is a new opportunity. Keep loving your family. Have extra grace for them and be thankful. Be thankful for the time you have with them because we all know that in just a short amount of time, life is going to come roaring back. We’re going to have tons of responsibility, an overwhelming amount of conversations, and lots of tasks to accomplish as we put life back together.
Take advantage of this time. Love this time. Cherish this time.
I’m praying for you.
Rocky Stone was born in LA and raised in Moreno Valley and Riverside. He served in the US Army for 11 years and graduated from California Baptist University with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and Religious Counseling. Rocky previously served on a church planting team as a teaching pastor and was a General Contractor in Chicago, before becoming pastor at Sandals Church Menifee. He has been married to his best friend, Nicole, for 8 years and has 4 sons, Amere (12) Avante (11) Owen (5) and Graham (2). He loves tacos, woodworking, and walking with people as they discover how amazing it is to be all in with Jesus.
By: Pastor Alfredo Ramos
How you as the pastor can be encouraging your church staff during this time.
Your ability to pastor your team ties directly to you
first and foremost, being pastored by Jesus.
Even if you find your time with Jesus limited, I would also share that will your team. Sure, it’s difficult even when it seems like we have more time. It’s harder to connect with Him, but acknowledge the fact that despite that He is still good, He is still present and here is how He’s speaking to me. I want to encourage you with that because we can’t give to our church staff what we don’t possess as Jesus followers. So lead them in the way that Jesus is leading you during this time.
One thing that I try to do in light of that is to open up my time with my church staff every week with a psalm—both silence and scripture and praying that psalm into our all-staff meeting. There’s 10 of us, but it’s the thing that we open up with first and foremost. A lot of people easily forget that a third of the psalms are psalms of lament. Where people are praying and crying out to God, even in a poetic way that He would draw near to them, that He would be with them, that He would rescue them from what they’re experiencing. And so there is something unique and powerful as we pray into our meeting.
In that same spirit, I would encourage you as the pastor as you try to encourage your staff to create space in your meeting to grieve. Specifically, grieve the loss of what the have identified as their routine or their rhythm. We are now all living in this new normal world, and it’s strange, it’s bizarre.
We’ve lost the way we used to do things, and we must grieve that loss.
We cannot grow in this unique and troubling season if we don’t first grieve in this unique and worrisome season as well. Create space for your church staff to do that. I’ve been doing that over the last few weeks. And it’s been important to allow them to share. Often as pastors and people who work for a church, there’s a temptation and a tendency to feel like we have to say the right Christian thing. Faith over fear. And even though these things are true, they’re not necessarily accurate to how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking. And so this opportunity for your church staff to grieve allows them to be honest and to process out loud in the presence of God how they are doing during this time.
I would also encourage them to reimagine their role. This a unique time for not less creativity and imagination, but more creativity and imagination, especially when it comes to your staff thinking about what they’re doing for the church right now. Because their primary job when it comes to them and God is to abide in Jesus. They cannot do their job, apart from having a deep ongoing relationship with Jesus. I think it’s true to say that God is far more concerned about the kind of people we are becoming than he is with the kinds of things that we are doing right now. So remind your staff of that truth and encourage them as they remind themselves and really experience who they are before God, so reimagine their roles.
God is far more concerned about the kind of people we are
becoming than he is with the kinds of things that we are doing right now.
So one thing that I’ve had our church staff do over the last several weeks is to call every single person that’s attended our church who regularly attends our church. Maybe it’s a volunteer, or perhaps they oversee our volunteer team, have them reach out and begin connecting with their church and their church members in that particular way.
And as I said, reimagine what God wants to do with their role. We worship and follow the God of resurrection. God is going to do something new in all of us and through all of us. We should be asking Him as we ask each other and imagine our roles. What is something new that God wants to do in us and through us? I hope that in that process, your staff would be encouraged to know that God is still very active God is still very much at work and invites all of us to be a part of that work as well. And so, reimagine your role as a pastor to them,
There is undoubtedly so much for us to be considering and thinking creatively about what God is asking us to do. I think through those things of you first being led and encouraged by Jesus by you giving your church staff space to grieve in the meeting and to share the process with you and the others.
And then lastly, to think creatively, I try to execute this when I do my one-on-ones with my staff. And so, if you aren’t currently doing a one-on-one meeting either weekly or bi-weekly with each of your church staff members, I would start doing that today, right now. It is one of the most practical ways that you can encourage and still be with your church staff in some way, whether it’s to zoom a Google Hangout or FaceTime. Find a way to be with your whole staff weekly. Do one-on-one meetings with each one of your team members every other week. If you have a smaller team, you can do it every week. And I think in those conversations you’re going to be able to think with a fresh imagination about what they can be doing.
And man, remain optimistic about the work of God during this time. The kingdom of God is here. Even more, is coming, even in the midst of us being all scattered.
God is busy. God is at work doing something.
And the wonderful thing about that is that He invites us to be the church right where we are. There is so much still to do that we should take that on with confidence and joy.
Alfredo Ramos was born and raised in Riverside, CA. He graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a BA in Philosophy and later received a Master’s of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Alfredo previously served as a high school teacher and VP at Woodcrest Christian High School before becoming pastor at Sandals Church Palm Avenue. More importantly, he’s been married to Ashley for eight years and has two children, Eli (6) and Ella (2). He’s passionate about food, people, culture, and loves to help people find their real-life in Jesus.
By Justin McVey
There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has completely changed the way we do church, but I need you to understand that:
Social distance does not mean emotional isolation.
There is nothing more important than staying connected on a deep level with the people God has called us to minister to. And so that’s what I want to do today. I want to give you three incredibly easy, super simple ways that you can connect with the people that you love so much, and care for so much. They’re going to be so easy and so simple that you can do it from your garage.
Number one is my favorite.
We’re going to go old school, on you, you won’t believe what has been the single most effective thing we’ve done to connect with people. The single most effective thing we’ve done to connect with people at Sandals Church East Valley is to call them. You thought phone calls were dead, right? The only people who call are telemarketers. Well, that was before Covid-19 hit.
Right now people are isolated and feeling alone. They want to connect with people, and they’re answering their phones. Not only are they answering, but guess what? They’re are talking. I have had amazing conversations where people have poured out their hearts; they’ve shared with me what’s going on deep within. They shared with me their struggles, their hurts, and they’ve also shared with me how they are going to help out and their desire to be part of the solution. It’s been amazing. I have had in-depth conversations with people I’ve never talked with before.
How We Did It: We printed out our database, we divided it up among our staff members, and we began calling people. And I can’t tell you how appreciative they’ve been for us to check-in and to know that we care about them. We want to have a conversation with them. We want to hear what’s going on in their lives. Listen, if you’re worried about people answering, send a text ahead of time. Let them know who you are and why you’re calling and when you’d like to connect. They will call you back before you have a chance to make the call because people want to hear another human voice. Parents are on lockdown with their kids, and they want to have an adult conversation. I’m telling you, making phone calls, is an incredibly simple way to connect.
The second one is social media. I want to encourage you to, as you use social media, don’t just use it as a one-way means of conveying information to people. Let it be a two-way thing.
I challenge you to figure out how to use the Livestream platforms on all of the social media channels. You may need to bring some people in on your team to help you with this to watch the comments section and to reply to people. I’m telling you, people will love it. They’ll jump online. They’ll watch it. They’ll make comments and begin connecting. And don’t be stiff. That’s one of the biggest problems I see. People get nervous, and it feels like they’re teaching a class on theology at a seminary, somewhere. It’s just so stiff and rigid. Be relational.
How We Did It: Record it on the couch with your family. Don’t push them away; let them come in. If you’ve got pets, bring them in. Have your dog sit on your lap. People will love that. Maybe record in your garage or an interesting location in your home or yard. The audience will think it’s great because they will be able to see that you’re a person just like them. You’re struggling just like they are. We have to be honest and real with ourselves. We need to connect too. The great thing is that people will begin connecting through that as well. Don’t be surprised if all of a sudden, the comment string is people talking to each other and asking how they’re doing. That’s what we want.
We need people connecting on a deep level because that’s
what the church is about, it’s about family.
I want to challenge you to get creative with number three. Using online meeting platforms that allow you to connect face-to-face in live time. The one that I have loved using the most is Zoom. It’s a great platform that facilitates a lot of different people.
How We Did It: We sent a how-to sign-up email to everyone that stated the times that we’re going to be setting up these group chats. We let them know that we would love for them to sign up for a time. We told then to expect an invite with the time to log in. It’s super easy and super simple.
Make it incredibly relational. Do it while you’re prepping dinner and joke about what you’re eating. Have your kids run through once in a while, and make a mess of it. People will connect, and they will begin to share what’s going on in their lives, they’ll be open, they’ll be transparent and honest, and there will be opportunities to pray for each other.
The kids even begin to connect. Let them take over the group chat or create one for them. It’s just this beautiful, beautiful picture of what happens when families come together— that’s what we want more than anything else.
We want people to realize that social distance does not equal emotional isolation. They are still connected and loved, and a part of God’s family.
Three simple, easy ways that you can connect with your people from your garage.
One: give them a phone call
Two: set up live feeds on social media
Three: use live meeting platforms like zoom to facilitate groups of people coming together and interacting.
You won’t be sorry that you took the time to invest in this. If some of you out there may be a little hesitant with the technology, you don’t understand it, or you’ve never used it before, YouTube.com has so many tutorial videos. Type in what you’re looking for, and there’ll be people who can walk you through the process and teach you everything.
As pastors, it’s our job and our calling as ministers. God has put us here to care for people, connect with them, and love them. We’ve got to be creative. We have to be wise. We must find new ways to do it.
I love you, and I’m praying for you all.
Justin McVey has been in ministry for 17 years, working as a Worship Leader, Youth Specialist, and Family Pastor. He currently serves as the campus pastor at Sandals Church East Valley. Justin and his wife Heather have three awesome/crazy kids, Teagan, Terek, and Tinley. The McVey Fam currently lives in Redlands, California with their dogs Ty and Tilley. Justin loves ESPN (GO CHIEFS!!!), pizza, snowboarding, long walks on the beach and binging on Netflix. Justin is the founder of #NEVERALONE and has a passion is to reach others with a message of hope so that they can encounter the power and presence of Christ and connect with others in a meaningful way.