Eileen Campbell-Reed of Three Minute Ministry Mentor and Good Faith Media joined to produce a webinar focused on the release of 3MMM’s #PandemicPastoring Report on September 1.
Campbell-Reed is the founder and host of 3MMM, a weekly video, blog and podcast providing resources that inform and inspire the practice of ministry.
In the report, she documents findings from a study of over 100 Christian pastors and lay leaders over the span of 22 months. The resulting lessons and insights of the research has proven to be a valuable source of insight, reflection and steps forward as people of faith continue to try to understand the full effects of the pandemic.
The stories and interviews highlight the importance of qualitative data in church work, where so much of the labor is emotional, and where clergy members are privileged to help congregants navigate their deeply personal worries, fears and stresses as well as to share in their collective joy.
The response to Campbell-Reed’s #PandemicPastoring Report was overwhelming, with many in the community sharing feelings of solidarity in their experiences.
Scott Hudgins is the director of the Helping Pastors Thrive program at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship North Carolina, supporting pastors and contributing to their flourishing as congregational leaders.
“By carefully listening and paying attention to pastors and congregations, Eileen Campbell-Reed helps us begin to hear ourselves amid the life altering impact of the last two and a half years,” he said.
The tremendous loss and grief that occurred over the pandemic left many turning towards their faith leaders. Yet, burnout was already a problem within churches before the additional stressors and exacerbated societal divisions of the pandemic.
Junia Joplin of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto shared her observations of serving through a new era of ministry.
“So much has changed over the pandemic. I cut ties with my old church. I joined a new church, a new denomination, and started a new role,” she said. “One thing people have been very good at is talking about needing space, and how it’s okay not to be okay. I’ve never heard more of it than now.”
At the same time, there is a concern about how while the messaging is there, supportive action within the workplace and community can still be difficult to consistently carry out among the many variables of the pandemic.
Joplin continues, “The conditions for doing ministry are not as connected. We’ve moved onto a different era of church work. Churches don’t operate in the same way as the past and they will never operate in the same way again.”
One insight was that while churches operate like any other non-profit, those on the executive committee are expected to fulfill tremendous organizational responsibilities, while supporting the congregation and also making time to care for themselves. The type of limitless availability that is expected can be a recipe for burnout.
Mary Elizabeth Hanchey, a preacher, author and activist based in North Carolina, said: “I found Campbell-Reed’s #PandemicPastoring Report to be validating, enlightening, and encouraging. All of these matter to me as a hopeful congregational and clergy coach, and as an exhausted pastor.”
“In attending to grief and losses, and celebrating resilience and improvisation, pastors and congregations can equip themselves for moving into a shared future; a future that will require the insights, skills and practices forged in the pandemic,” she said. “The #PandemicPastoring report, especially its clear and practical recommendations, offers readers insight, wisdom and hope.”
Hanchey also speaks of entering a new era of ministry work.
“The report offers both insight and wisdom which, together, are important companions for the work of discerning what is next,” she said. “I appreciate the intentionality of the structure of the report. Campbell-Reed begins with a Pastoral Letter rather than a heady executive summary, setting the tone for the thoughtful and accessible presentation of her findings which follows.”
“I am particularly struck by her practical engagement with what we must grieve as we make the turn to what comes next,” Hanchey continued. “Campbell-Reed concludes, ‘[W]e cannot move fully into a new era of ministry without concurrently attending to our grief over what we lost and for all that is passing away.'”
“The recommendations that Campbell-Reed offers point toward both tasks. May our communities of faith, and those institutions that are forming and supporting our faith leaders, be grounded in the work of grieving and of progressing as we endeavor to live faithfully together in this world,” she said.
The pandemic brought to light many of the difficulties churches and the wider community face. Amidst deepening political and economic divides, the crisis has also been an opportunity for lessons in strengthening our society.
Campbell-Reed’s #PandemicPastoring report showcases diverse perspectives and offers insights for cooperation and moving forward.