Reality Check: “I’m not seeing an end anytime soon.

Let me share some things that I’ve learned these past few weeks. Maybe some of this will be helpful for you. It’s helped me—

This week I was in an email exchange with a pastor/friend of mine. He was sharing a great report from his church’s online Easter services. (Thirteen people made decisions to follow Jesus!)

After celebrating with him, I asked how I could be working with my team at The Unstuck Group to support pastors and church leaders now that the immediate response to the coronavirus is behind us. Here’s what he shared:

I am sensing a need for us to speak into people’s mental health. The first week it was kind of fun, the second week, “OK we can do this,” the third week, “this needs to be over now,” and currently I feel like people are thinking, “I’m not seeing an end anytime soon and I am absolutely exhausted.”

Our people are feeling this, and our ministers and staffs are feeling this as well.

Maybe some encouragement of “not growing weary in well doing” and some ideas on how to stay fresh and creative.

You all are feeling that, aren’t you? I know I am.

There are other people on my team who are better at the encouragement part of his request. I’ll let them contribute their thoughts in the coming days. My wiring is more toward realism rather than optimism. That’s probably why strategy has always been easier than vision for me.

With that in mind, let me share some things I’ve learned through these last four weeks. This is in no particular order. Maybe some of this will be helpful for you. It’s helped me—

Write down why you’re thankful.

I’ve started the day writing down (that’s key) three things that I’m thankful for. And I’ve finished the day writing down three things that I’m thankful for.

Last week that list included things like freedom in Christ, walks with my wife, spring in the South, conversations with my mom, our home, family time and the hope of Heaven. I’ve always tended to worry too much. Because of that, I need that reminder that God is good even in times of trouble.

Stop watching cable news.

Those channels make money by sewing fear and division. None of that is helpful for my mental state right now. And, frankly, nothing related to this virus is going to change overnight.

Financial advisors will always tell you not to watch your investment portfolio on a daily basis during a financial crisis. (By the way, don’t do that either.) Watching coronavirus news is the same thing right now. Better days are coming, but we’re not going to overcome this overnight.

Reframe the time window.

We started with 15 days to beat the virus. Then we added 30 days. I needed to come to the realization that there is not going to be a quick fix for us to return to our normal lives. (Again, I’m the realist.)

We are many months away from “normal” in many parts of the world. You need to begin preparing yourself and the team around you for a marathon rather than a sprint. That’s important because it will help you consider your pace in this season as well.

Take a day off every week.

I have to shut everything down. Sometimes I have to shut the door to my home office to remind myself that Saturday (in most instances for me) is not a work day.

Then I have to be intentional about what I’m going to do on that day off so that my mind doesn’t drift back to the challenges that are waiting for me “back at the office.”

Don’t over Zoom it.

Earlier in this process I found myself loading up my calendar with video meetings and conversations with friends, co-workers, pastors we’re serving and family members. I wanted to stay connected. I wanted to stay productive.

After about two weeks of that I realized that wasn’t helpful…especially for an introvert like me. I’ve returned to my normal meeting rhythm and created more space in my schedule to work and think and create.

Pray for other people.

First of all other people are facing far greater challenges than I’m facing right now, and I’m asking God to intervene in their situations. Secondly, anytime I focus on ways to love God and love others including the act of prayer, it takes my focus off of me. It’s not that we shouldn’t pray for the challenges we are facing in our own lives. It’s just that we need to make sure those challenges don’t consume our prayer life.

I have found focused prayer for others to be a good thing. It’s good for my spiritual health, but it’s also very good for my mental health.

Get outside.

I’m convinced I’m going to win yard-of-the-month in my neighborhood because my lawn has never been more manicured. There’s not a weed in sight. The shrubs are trimmed. The flowers are blooming. After this is all behind us, I won’t have time to be the full-time maintenance crew for maintaining my property on an almost daily basis.

But right now, I need this. I need the sunshine. I need to get lost in outdoor projects. I need the sense of accomplishment. 

Take more walks.

Sometimes I’m doing that with Emily. Sometimes I’m doing that with Andy Stanley…or another thought-leader through podcasts to get my mind thinking about the future.

In most cases, though, walks are when I do my best creative thinking. Many of these articles…including this one…were actually “written” while I was on one of my walks. My doctor wants me engaging this approach to my “writing process” as well.

Start dreaming about the future.

That’s what I’m beginning to do with my team now. The crisis response strategy is behind us. Now we want to figure out how we can serve more churches in what will be the “new” normal.

With that in mind, here’s the question I posed to my team this past week. Let’s pretend we can never get on an airplane again. (My apologies to Delta. I miss you.) How would we continue to help churches get unstuck? I love those types of conversations. Constraints like that increase my creative thinking. And it’s easier than ever in this season to leverage constraints to help us discover the next opportunity to serve more churches. Or, in your case, to reach more people for Jesus.

That’s a sample of what’s working for me in this season.

What’s working for you?

I’d love to share your strategy with other pastors and church leaders. Feel free to comment on this article with your thoughts or email ideas to help@theunstuckgroup.com.