LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Seldom do I find statistical information encouraging. In fact, the opposite is usually true. But my reaction was strikingly different when Lifeway’s research director, Scott McConnell, shared with a group of leaders some statistical discoveries about churches from earlier this year.
The stat that caught my attention was the way church members viewed their church’s approach to handling the COVID-19 global pandemic. Overall, church members are pleased with how their church, and as a byproduct their pastor, handled the pandemic.
Let me repeat that statement in a different way. Most church members are not openly or privately critical of how their church and their pastor handled the decisions that needed to be made during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Scott McConnell and his team asked the same survey question in two different ways. Question No. 35 stated, “I am ashamed of how my church has responded during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Eleven percent of respondents somewhat disagreed, and 74 percent strongly disagreed. Question No. 34 stated, “I am proud of how my church has responded during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Eighty-six percent of respondents agreed with that statement either strongly or somewhat. This is encouraging news to decision-weary church leaders across Kentucky.
What can Southern Baptists do with this research?
- Find a way to show appreciation to your pastors and church leaders. Leaders are required to make determinative and directional decisions every day, but never so many new decisions as they were forced to make during COVID. No one except Jesus makes the right decision all the time, but our pastors, working with deacons and other church leaders, navigated the pandemic decisions well. Find a significant way to tell them, “Thank you.”
- Remember the squeaky wheel principle. While it may have sounded like an entire army of church members were angry about masks requirements, seating arrangements, online versus in-person services and much more, the truth is that it was only about 12 percent and, in many cases, they disagreed with each other. Never let a handful of unhappy church members set the tone – or the direction – for how the Lord is leading the church forward through the church’s designated leaders.
- Remember to be patient with one another when we are in unprecedented times. There, I said it. I used the word that was so overused during COVID – unprecedented. But it fits. These were unprecedented times, and our leaders were forced to lead through previously uncharted waters. Those of us who follow need to remember to be patient with our leaders and with one another during times like these.
Even as we await the end of the pandemic, we are much further down the road than we were 18 months ago. We are wiser and, hopefully, a little more humble. May the Lord continue to bless His churches and their leaders with the wisdom they need to walk us through whatever may come our way.