Susan Beaumont’s 2019 book “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going” is helpful for any 21st century leader — and that includes leaders in a pandemic. ( I suggest the paperback version. Don’t faint from the price of the hardcover version.) Full disclosure: it’s a highly technical read for church leaders, written by a brilliant church consultant. I recommend it for its great theological reflection and wise organizational practices.
I’m reminded that one of the most important marks of a resilient congregation and its leader(s) in this season of uncertainty and challenge (pandemic or not) is the ability to think adaptively. To be “resilient” literally means to bounce back. Being adaptive literally means to adjust or to fit to. Bouncing back from a pandemic is clearly not about going back to the way things were. Bouncing back means to realize that we can thrive in a “new normal” world. How we gather for worship will likely have some different facets, but we’ll still gather. We’ll bounce back, with adjustments. It allows us to affirm “Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) about Christ’s unchanging love and presence, while also affirming that Christ’s followers are something new, something adaptive, while embracing that steadfast, unchanging love. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17 for a glimpse of that newness.)
I hope as leaders of congregations we’re thinking about what’s next and not being paralyzed by the uncertainty. There are things we can affirm that are unchanging and we have opportunities as we anticipate what might or might not be next to imagine new expressions of our commitment to God’s persistent and faithful gift to us in Jesus Christ. Beaumont says it so well: “We stand on the frontlines, waiting and watching to see what God will do next. We can take comfort and reassurance from these words from Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you God will not leave you or forsake you.”