Leading Through The Coronavirus & Other Crises
Just ninety days ago, the world was first beginning to learn of a new strand of the coronavirus. And now, less than three months later, this virus--called COVID-19--has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Over 100 countries have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Over 125,000 have been infected by this virus. Over 4,600 have lost their lives to it. And, just a few short days ago, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 hit the county that I call home.
So over the last few days, I have been watch news conferences, bookmarked the CDC's website, and been in ongoing communication with leaders in my church. And I've done all of that to help lead my church through this crisis.
So here are a few principles I've used as I've tried to lead.
1. A Crisis Cannot Be Ignored
At this point last week, I was keeping an eye on the spread of COVID-19. But when our Sunday service rolled around, it was barely a blip on my radar. We didn't mention it in our service. We didn't talk about the CDC's guidelines to avoid the spread of the virus. And we weren't even thinking about creating a policy for the coronavirus.
Now, less than a week later, everything has changed. I've written blog posts for our congregation about the CDC's recommendations. I've talked with our leadership about our Governor's recommendation to cancel Sunday's service. And I've put together a policy that our church will follow throughout this time.
So, if you are in an area that has not be touched by COVID-19, don't wait. This crisis is coming your way. Take the time now to learn from other churches and leaders. And be ready because you cannot ignore a crisis and hope it goes away.
2. Get the Best Information You Can
Over the last few days, my social media feed has been filled with friends sharing posts from people claiming to be doctors who specialize in viral infections. But I'm not using any of these posts as my source for actionable information.
Instead I am relying on the government agencies that are actually dealing with COVID-19 across this country and across the world.
And, in any crisis you face, everyone will have an idea or an opinion about how you, your group, or your organization should proceed. But listening to the wrong sources slows down your ability to quickly respond, and it provides you with bad information to make your decisions off of.
So, in the midst of any crisis, take the time to seek out the best information possible. Turn to the true experts. Learn from them. And use their knowledge to inform your decisions.
3. You Must Respond Quickly
It goes against my nature to respond to any new situation too quickly. I'm the type of person who likes to sit back, examine something new from every perspective, and then weigh in after I've had plenty of time to think.
That doesn't work in a time of crisis. The people you lead need you to lead them as soon as you can responsibly lead them.
Like in my church, yesterday morning our state's governor recommend that churches cancel their upcoming services. Now typically I would ruminate on this for several days. I'd think about why the governor made the suggestion. I'd read up o the CDC's guidelines about large gatherings. I'd consult as many people in the church as possible. And, about the same time our services would be scheduled to start on Sunday, I'd be ready to make a recommendation.
But my church needed to know how our church was responding to this suggestion sooner. So, as soon as I heard the governor had made this suggestion, I immediately contacted the pertinent leaders in our church and asked for their opinion.
I took their thoughts under advisement and made a decision that we could share with our congregation within a few hours--with a caveat that this is a fluid situation and our decision today might change by Sunday.
And we moved quickly because we knew that our people needed to know what we were doing as soon as possible.
4. But Don't Overreact
The fear of responding too quickly in any situation is that you'll overreact. And, it's safe to say that the spread of the coronavirus is causing a lot of us to overreact.
As a leader, you want to show that you are calm during a crisis. And as a pastor you want to be a calming presence in the chaos of life. But you can't do that if your people think you are prone to overreaction.
So be prepared to act quickly, but make sure you understand and can articulate why you're making the decision you're making first.
5. Trust Your People
You may be the leader of your church...but your people are capable of thinking for themselves. So trust them to do so. You don't have to be the go to source for every bit of information or every life decision that people will make during a crisis.
So take that weight off of your shoulder. If your church is having services even with the coronavirus spreading, that's okay. Your people are smart enough to listen to what the CDC, the WHO, and government official recommend so that they can make a decision for themselves.
So provide your people with the best information you can, and trust them to use that information to make the best decision they can for themselves.