February 12, 2021

The Challenges of Pastoring in a Pandemic

In talking with other pastors, I’ve noticed that a few topics come up in just about every conversation. Our situations are different but we share common challenges of pastoring in a pandemic. Many of these issues are just as frustrating for church members as they are for pastors. While there are no quick answers, we at least need to acknowledge the problems. So, if you want to pray more effectively for your pastor, here are a few challenges that are likely in his thoughts.


Limited Contact with Church Members

Trying to effectively communicate with church members when you can’t gather is frustrating. Some of my pastor friends in rural areas deal with unreliable or nonexistent internet service, making communication especially difficult. How do you encourage and equip a congregation without actually being with them?


One of the harsh realities of COVID is limited contact with those in need. Ministry always presents unusual situations but, in most cases, pastors can at least offer in-person care and encouragement. Knowing that people in your congregation are hurting, and even dying, weighs heavy on a shepherd’s heart. Although digital tools have been a lifeline for many in the past year, they don’t compare to one-on-one ministry when people are experiencing sickness and sorrow.


Shrinking Number of Churches

The anxiety of not knowing if their church is going to survive is very real for a number of pastors. Some studies predict that a third of all churches will close due to effects of the pandemic. America was already facing a shrinking number of churches before all of this started; COVID is just speeding the process up.


Rural churches are being hit the hardest. The average age in these congregations is older and the churches tend to be smaller in size. I spoke with one rural pastor whose church had grown from ten people to forty in almost five years. Now he’s lost half of his congregation to the virus. He and his church are facing an uphill battle.


Mental and Physical Fatigue

We’re all COVID weary. As pastors, we hear from members who spend their days constantly switching from parent, to employee, to teacher, and back to parent. These families are both mentally and physically exhausted. Older members are just weary of being isolated. Many want a safe way to attend as much as possible.


With all that in mind, the decisions pastors face seem to be endless. For instance, when to gather and when to cancel; what programs to keep and which ones to let go. And inevitably, some members will like each decision and some will not.


And none of this takes into account the physical fatigue of actually contracting the virus. I’ve had COVID-19, as have some of my pastor friends and church members. The fatigue that comes with it tends to linger after other symptoms are long gone. In some cases, the brain fog lingers as well. Fatigue and discouragement often run hand-in-hand; which has been true for me as well as the pastors with whom I talk.


The Sovereignty of God and the Sufficiency of His Word

I’m grateful to all my pastor friends who call with encouragement and to just check in. The challenges of pastoring in a pandemic are very real. Still, the conversations reach the same conclusion no matter what we’re dealing with in the moment. We rely daily on the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His Word.


Of course, that doesn’t remove the reality of what we or our churches are experiencing. But we can all receive God’s strength and comfort as we walk through these dark places together. Will you commit to praying for your church and for your pastor? Let him know. It will be a huge source of comfort and encouragement.