It Was Time to Do Something
Those who know me personally know that I have "struggled" with a weight problem for all of my adult life. Twice in my life I have lost >100 lbs - the first time doing the American Heart Association diet (no exercise really) and the second the South Beach Diet (again, no exercise). From 2008 to now, I have lost the same 30 lbs over and over again, but have not been able to break through. Now, I am two years away from 40; things are changing. It isn't as easy to lose weight as it once was, and my metabolism was slowing to a crawl, I'm sure. I had one medical professional tell me that at this point in my life, the weight wasn't going anywhere. So I took that as a personal challenge. I'll show him (which may have been his goal in saying that).
I've posted a little bit about the journey, but I began strength training last August, just keeping an eye on the diet, but no cardio. I could tell there were changes, but between the holidays and a back injury this past February, I fell off the wagon so many times. It was time to do something.
Any time I have been "successful" to any degree with this, I have done something "different." The different thing I did this time is invest in a personal trainer. Meet Marcelo!
Marcelo is a NASM certified personal trainer and certified in advanced sports nutrition. I knew that whomever I worked with would need to strike that ideal balance between challenging me to do more than I thought I could while at the same time being patient with my limitations. I have found Marcelo's approach to be very helpful. We are tracking macros (fats, carbs, and protein), and keeping them in proper proportion. We are doing cardio (novel concept). We are doing strength training - balance and stability, stretching. I've lost 19.6 lbs already, taken five minutes off my walking mile, and I've seen improved numbers in several other areas as well.
I write this post for two main reasons. First, I need the accountability of knowing that this is out there. It will encourage me to stick with it. Then, I want to encourage every brother in ministry - get in shape! Protect your physical body, your health. Protect your earthly vessel. How many men I know let themselves go, and as a result, find their time to bear fruit on the earth cut short. Trust me, I know that God is sovereign over all of that, and at the same time, God wants us to be good stewards of our bodies, no doubt. So, take the plunge. Maybe you need a trainer like Marcelo to monitor your progress and help you customize a program to your goals. Always ask your doctor, of course, before anything like this. But for the glory of God, do what you can do to get yourself in shape. There are all kinds of reasons to do it, and our kingdom work is a very important one. I'll keep you posted on how it goes for me. Why don't you do the same? I'd love to hear from you!
The Second American Revolution
In a relatively short time, American society has gone from a people trying our best not to spread COVID-19 to a nation in shock over the horrific encounter of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd. Many acknowledge that the situation was brewing beneath the surface for some time, and the scene in Minneapolis simply was the match that ignited what we have now. Regardless of your political views or even your views on systemic racism, the US is not close to a revolution - we are there.
Look at some facts. The map below (USA Today) shows cities and towns which have had protests (peaceful or not) and states where the National Guard has been activated. Various places throughout the country are seriously considering dismantling their police forces, with New York City having already diverted funds away from its own NYPD. It does not feel to me like this current crisis will blow over (and I'm not saying it should or shouldn't). Ordinarily, these things, when on this scale, end either with a dictator crushing the rebellion or an overhaul of the way a society is constituted and governed.
As a spiritual leader shepherding your congregation during a revolution, here are some reminders and encouragements. There truly has never been a better time to be a pastor, because we have the answers for which so many are genuinely searching.
After much prayer, Bible study, consulting the wisdom of others, and soul searching, I finally developed a church strategy for the foreseeable future. Our people's church experience will consist of:
Facebook LIVE Worship Experience: Building on the following and the system we have begun to develop in March, we are planning to deliver a difference-making worship experience at our regular worship time of 11 AM on Sunday mornings. Our goal is to build our audience and incrementally improve the quality of our product as we eventually branch out to simultaneous livestreams across several platforms.
Online Small Groups: We had already been planning to implement a curriculum I am writing called "Faith Dissected" into groups in May. We have remade the curriculum to fit an online delivery format. We have interactive PDFs for notes and devotions, and we will host Zoom calls (or similar) for the discussion groups.
Online Prayer Meeting: We are pleased with the developments of our midweek prayer time at 11 AM on Wednesdays. This is conducted in a private Facebook group for our church (members only) for the sharing of prayer requests and praises of a personal nature, not for public consumption. People have come to expect this, and we love it. Some are taking their lunch hours from work to tune in and pray.
Curbside Church-in-a-Box: Even though we haven't implemented this yet, the plan is coming together to offer a plastic shoebox in a drive-through format. The box will contain CDs of services (for now), a printed newsletter, postage-paid offering envelopes, and more. We will communicate a time via phone tree and Facebook for people to come drive through and get their box. This will be done once per month. They can bring back their box to be sanitized and receive the next month's box.
Service Opportunities: Our two projects going on right now are sewing face masks for the hospital and distributing toilet paper.
Pastoral Care: My Assistant Pastor and I are calling through members and attenders each week to check in. It lets them know they are on our minds. We also learn of needs in this way.
Additional Online Content: We are producing additional Q&A videos, devotionals, and other online content for all generations to include social media and printable materials.
Looking Ahead Into the Fog
By now, it should be universally accepted that no one can know precisely when churches will be permitted to reopen their doors to groups of more than 10 people. Critics may criticize for any number of reasons, but this should not be one of them. Also, even with the uniqueness of the COVID-19 situation, any time we deal with uncertainty on this scale, we do well to prepare for as many different scenarios as possible. That said, I am grateful for the work others have done to forecast trends and ideas of where the Church may be post-coronavirus. Having done some of my own research, I'd like to add a few thoughts for church leaders to consider.
The 80% rule (or 70% rule) will probably become the 50% rule (not the 60% rule). You understand your worship space feels full at about 70-80% capacity. Some predict that post-coronavirus this percentage will fall to 60%. Based on researching policies at AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas and others, 50% appears more likely. This has implications for churches who are designing buildings. If we build what we had previously designed, we will basically lose 60 usable seats if 50% is the new normal. It also has implications for mobile churches. Depending on how your rental agreements are structured, you may have to rent more ballrooms, or more classrooms, and this could drive up your costs.
"Public Health Officials" hold the trigger. Not much is said about how we will know when we can resume gatherings, probably because we are at the mercy of the government. The NBA, NHL, and other entities identify "public health officials" as having sole authority about when things reopen. For churches, this is significant, because we appear to have mixed feelings as to our level of willingness to comply with what these officials hand down. Let us factor in the reality that these officials are not just cancelling public worship, but also any gathering of any real size. This is a good talking point for conversations with members. It is essentially out of our hands.
People will give toward this but not that. Some are postulating how giving will be affected by COVID-19, just in broad terms of how much it will decrease. Admitting that none of us know anything about the future here for sure, it feels that giving could hold steady, decrease less than expected, or even increase depending on priorities. Layoffs, reduced hours, and basically having less residual income will change things. It feels like people will likely prioritize ministry (difference-making) with immediate fruit, community involvement, personnel (who are making a difference, loving, and serving), missions, and technology over brick-and-mortar, utilities, property upkeep, and so on. This will have budgeting implications.
I will save my other thoughts on future trends for a later post. Hope this helps! If you have a sense of where things are going for churches after COVID-19, please feel free to share it in the comments.
One gift Sir Isaac Newton gave the world was his Law of Inertia (sometimes called Newton's First Law or Law of Motion) - namely that objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion (unless acted upon by an unbalanced force).
When it comes to church attendance, it was challenging to get people to come to church before the Coronavirus disease. Our church would have 63% of its "active members" in public worship any given week; but it was a different 63% every week. We found that the national trend of people attending 1-2 times per month was true in our church. That was before the virus. Now that we have been unable to gather for two consecutive Sundays, anticipating at least a third, what will that mean for us coming back together?
As church leaders, we need to be prepared to lead from the expectation that Newton's Law of Inertia applies here. If we do not initiate an outside force acting upon our people, then those who are no longer in motion (i.e. they no longer attend) will continue not being in motion, even after we are cleared to resume public gatherings.
What should that "outside force" be? Here are some ideas.
I will pray for you and your church as you put together intentional plans for coming back together. If you come across an idea for keeping everyone together that seems helpful, please put it in the comments below.
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.