Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on Lockdown leadership that cares for women in church and ministry with Elinor Magowan and Elizabeth Smyth plus Q&A with two leaders of churches that reopened last Sunday and two that did not.
1. The apostle Paul instructs church leaders to care for the whole church (1 Timothy 5:1-2) by building up everyone in the faith through the gospel; to equip the whole church for ministry (Titus 2:1-9) so that the body is built up to be a holy and evangelistic community with members using their gifts to serve in varied ways; to teach and apply the whole Scriptures to the whole church (2 Timothy 3:15-16).
2. Clarifications on government guidance issued: a) Risk assessment changed to assess risk emphasising obligation under Health and Safety regulations; b) Children’s and youth work churches run needs to follow government guidance for children’s activities taking place outside formal education context; c) When gathering as a church participants are not to engage in conversation with others who come to worship (no social interaction with those from a different household).
3. Lockdown has presented a variety of challenges for ministry wives: 1) Loss – of community, of structure to the day, of meeting people, of identity; 2) Insecurity – watching husbands struggle being videoed on camera, how to serve; 3) False guilt – not being busy in way they usually would be, feeling inhospitable because not able to do hospitality as usually would; 4) Personal struggles – if shielding, caring for children with special needs, caring for elderly parents; 5) Complexities in church life – conflict, difficult pastoral issues, complaints of members.
4. The challenges facing ministry wives can be blessings with trials becoming opportunities to draw closer to Jesus, greater family time with husbands not being out at meetings, more relaxed Sundays (if pre-recorded), opportunity to refocus on family responsibilities like support husband or caring for children, join in with ministries online.
5. The journey out of lockdown provides an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-structure ministries.
6. Four key pressures women’s workers have faced during lockdown: 1) Isolation – from normal ministry life, from other church staff, from usual contacts; 2) Invisibility – invisible to church (unlike the pastor who is seen in online services) and invisibility of the church (pastoral care more difficult); 3) Interaction – lack of interaction and the buzz of seeing God’s Word doing its work in the lives of other women; 4) Intensity – outside of comfort zone, lockdown makes pastoral needs more complicated, social needs in community, a whole day on Zoom is exhausting, stress of using technology, those single feel singleness more.
7. Ways to support women’s worker include make sure regular communication, praying for and with them, giving them confirmation that their ministry is valued, involving them in church’s online meeting, commending their ministry to the church (like Paul does in Romans 16), and encouraging ministry friendships outside the church.
8. Women’s workers of FIEC churches have testified to unexpected opportunities that have come to them and to God’s faithfulness to them during this time of lockdown.
9. During the summer months where some people in the church will be able to get away on holiday, don’t forget to support those in the church who are shielding.
10. Summer holidays have come at the wrong time with churches coming out of lockdown. Recognising people in church are exhausted and need a break/holiday is a good reason not to rush to hold services or to do all that was done before lockdown.
11. A challenge of the hybrid model (live and livestreaming) is that it difficult to do the service to camera if there is a congregation attending. It might mean having to decide whether to direct the service to camera or people present. One option is to do the service for the live congregation but to acknowledge those streaming in.
12. One option now available is for two households to watch the livestream service together.
13. No social interaction and not raising voices above conversational level effectively advices churches against holding prayer meetings and home groups in church buildings.
14. To be able to pray, hear Scripture read publicly and a sermon preached, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper with other brothers and sisters is significant.
15. Each church will have to work out whether benefits of restricted gatherings outweigh the benefits of online gatherings.