By Dr. Craig Webb
For pastors, stay-at-home regulations haven’t meant less work, less stress, or more rest.
Many have been forced make a hard and sudden pivot to provide online-only worship, virtual group connections, creative pastoral care, and innovative community ministry.
And without help, pastors are at risk of neglecting their primary calling of prayer and preaching the Word.
Those who have asked for and received help from deacons and elders are thriving and will see the churches that they serve bear fruit for the glory of God.
The early church faced a similar crisis where the need was greater than the apostles could handle without neglecting their primary calling.
So, they said, “Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4).
Church leaders such as deacons and elders are looking for ways to step up during this time. Many of them have or will make the time to serve their pastor, their church family, and their community.
And don’t forget: Some have technological skills, knowledge, connections, and equipment they would love to use for God’s glory.
While you may have been going it alone for the first few weeks, it’s time to get help.
Pastors who haven’t already done so should consider sharing the load with deacons and elders in the following areas:
- Recording, editing, and online distribution of the primary worship service
- Organizing and overseeing online small groups and online prayer meetings
- Organizing and contacting every church member (phone or video call preferred) to ensure comprehensive pastoral care
- Evaluating finances and making needed adjustments
- Creating a platform for online committee and team meetings
- Organizing, recruiting for, and leading community ministry
I serve through the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention which covers the Hawaiian Islands, Micronesia, the Samoas, and international churches in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.
It’s been wonderful to see the way pastors, deacons, and elders have worked together during this pandemic crisis.
It’s been especially gratifying to hear how deacons, elders, and other church leaders have stepped up to take on new ministries in order to allow their pastors to focus on the Word and prayer.
Here are a few examples of how pastors are empowering their deacons and/or elders to be extensions of ministry during this critical season:
Pastor James Shiroma leads one church with two locations on the Island of Oahu, The Gathering in Mililani and Citywide.
He has focused on regular email communications to members, a daily Facebook live devotion and prayer gathering, and two live online services on Sundays.
His elders have taken on extra responsibility through the church’s prayer team, contacting families, and being available to meet practical needs like grocery pickups for elderly or those with high health risks.
“Having these leaders step up in this way has allowed me to focus on prayer and the Word,” says Shiroma.
For Jon Elliff, pastor of Makakilo Baptist on the Island of Oahu, their deacons are small group leaders and ministry team leaders.
“For the deacons who are small group leaders, they are regularly checking in with group members and conducting online group meetings via Zoom,” he says.
“Our deacon-led ‘Helping Hands’ ministry already serves our elderly. They have continued to meet the needs of our elderly during our stay-at-home period.”
Elliff also reported that elders have helped contact church members to ensure their spiritual and physical needs are being met.
For Chris Eyre, pastor of Koza Baptist Church on the island of Okinawa, he and his deacon body prioritized contacting everyone in their database of church members.
Since Koza’s membership is primarily made up of military families who move every three years, their church management system database was sorely out of date.
A team of deacons quickly did a database clean-up.
The they used Ministry Grid’s online training platform to get the rest of their deacons up to speed on how to use the system to access information and log their calls.
Deacons, elders, church staff, and community group leaders are currently calling every church member.
The pastors who are delegating leadership to deacons, elders, and other servants in the church report a sense of excitement about the next phase of their post-pandemic ministry.
May God use this pandemic crisis to unleash God’s people for God’s work for God’s glory as they pray, disciple, proclaim the gospel, care for the body, and serve their community.
DR. CRAIG WEBB (@pastorcraigwebb) is the assistant executive director for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention and the content editor for Lifeway’s Deacon Magazine. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Honolulu and have three grown children. He produced the Pastors Today e-newsletter from 2003-2013 and has served as a pastor in Tennessee and Hawaii.