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Download the #PandemicPastoring Report
A New Era of Ministry: Download the #PandemicPastoring Report to Learn More
You can download the #PandemicPastoring Report today by completing the form above. In the report, researcher and author, Eileen Campbell-Reed documents findings from her 22-month qualitative study of over 100 Christian pastors and lay leaders (2020-22). She found church leaders experienced profound grief, loss, and conflict, as well as resilience, grace, and lasting change. She presented key findings of the #PandemicPastoring Report in a Webinar on September 1. The replay is below.
Campbell-Reed, visiting associate professor of pastoral theology and care at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, says, “Leading U.S. churches through multiple pandemics has been both challenging and bewildering, demoralizing and encouraging, marked by grace and grief. Pastors and lay leaders alike are experiencing suffering as well as resilience as they navigate changes to church life that are here to stay.”
10 Significant Findings Addressed in the Report
1. A new era of ministry
We are living in a new era of ministry. In March of 2020, the world changed, and church leaders responded, improvised, and innovated. Thirty months of pandemic pastoring ushered in new ways to practice of ministry, including hybrid worship and gatherings, tremendous loss and grief, greater awareness of multiple pandemics, amplified conflict, and widespread needs for renewal.
2. Loss and Grief
We lost a lot. Pastors and church communities, and all people really, have so much grief work to do. It is sacred and holy work and needs the best of our tradition and new rituals to hold lament, rage, depression, and grief. Losses of mentors, embodied knowing, and future stories are especially hard to recognize and define, yet they leave us with a sense of ambiguous loss.
3. The need for ministry as a spiritual practice
The world and the church profoundly need ministry as a spiritual practice. We need it to resist capitalism and consumerism, to attend to all of life, to be present even on virtual platforms, to find new ways of healing the broken-hearted and re-imagining the broken systems. We need to embody new ways of becoming the beloved community.
4. Financial gains and losses
Many, but of course not all, stable and wealthy churches remained stable, and some got wealthier. Many churches that struggled financially before the pandemic are still struggling. The church on the whole could use a lot more collaboration — even financially — between communities, across neighborhoods, and by learning from each other.
5. Differences in clergy and lay leaders’ experiences
Ordained clergy and lay leaders experienced self-care and spiritual well-being in different ways. They also experienced different aspects of the multiple pandemics in different ways. They need to learn from each other and understand how capitalism and consumerism are shaping their realities, defining labor for hire, and working to resist together.
6. Ongoing racialized injustice
White leaders and churches were provoked by the summer uprisings of 2020. They are quieter now. The churches of leaders of color that I talked with remained more willing to talk about the disparities, but in general they continued to focus on the needs of their communities and how to meet them.
7. Delayed conflicts
Conflict in many churches was delayed or deferred during the intense months of lockdown and meeting virtually only. This conflict is often related to subtle or more overt decline. The declines are not inevitable, however. And the possibility and opportunity for renewal and reimagining church for this new era is not only possible but holds a powerful moment to lean into new future stories.
8. Theological Education needs to catch up
Theological education has some catching up to do in order to prepare the next cohorts of ministers for the new era of ministry rather than the old ones that are passing away. Of course, many forms of ministry will coexist, and new pastors and chaplains, ministers and priests need knowledge, skills, and pastoral imagination for all these ways of leading.
9. Intersectional Concerns for leading the church
Sexism and homophobia are alive and well and they have impacted the work of ministry in particular ways during pandemic season, including numbers of women who left their ministry jobs.
10. Remarkable Resilience
Pastors and leaders are remarkably resilient. They are perhaps far more powerful than they know and churches are one of the few remaining lifelong institutions to support human beings and deserve our greatest efforts to re-envision.
Webinar | September 1, 2022
Who is in the Study?
- 108 total pastors and lay leaders participated in the study
- 102 surveys
- 80 interviews
- 66% pastors and ministers and 34% lay leaders
- 20 states in all regions of the U.S.
- more than 20 denominational affiliations
- nearly equal numbers of men and women
- adults from their 20s to their 80s
- pastors, military and healthcare chaplains, campus ministers, lay leaders in every area of congregational ministry
- We gathered all data in the report between June 2020 and April 2022