The Biggest Lesson I've Learned about Leading a Church during COVID

As we surpass one year of COVID mitigation in the United States, there are many lessons I’ve learned about leadership. But this is the biggest one by far:
Communication is key.

Early on, my team and I were decision-making machines. The smallest things had to be planned and nuanced. Everything had to be done differently. We had to learn new ways of doing every basic little thing. I’m so grateful for my coworkers and our Communication Team.

Looking back, I don’t regret any of the decisions we made. But I do wish I had communicated better. I defaulted to only communicating what we were doing instead of what we were thinking. I've learned at this point that people want to know your process, the options that are being debated, and their questions answered; in other words, they want to know what their leaders are thinking. Publicly sharing what you’re thinking about is risky - you could end up eating your words. But not sharing what you’re thinking is more risky.

When you only share what you're doing, and not what you’re thinking, people assume. They assume you are doing nothing. They assume you are making changes they won’t like. They assume you are living in fear. They assume you are caving to left-wing agendas. They assume all kinds of things!

But when you share what you are thinking about - those brainstorming and problem-solving sessions that happen behind closed doors - it establishes trust. When you explain your process for making decisions, listeners become less defensive. When you explain the reasons for not doing it one way, and the reasons you are doing it another way, listeners are more understanding. When you invite people into your space, that space that exists between a rock and a hard place, listeners empathize with you. Most importantly, you create buy-in. Listeners begin to think “I don’t know where that guy’s going, but he sounds like the kind of guy I want to go with. I think I can trust him.”

Here’s what our team has started doing. First, we created a regular rhythm of communication. Every week on social media or other platforms we share updates. Second, we answer the questions that we know or anticipate people are asking. Third, we cast vision for new things we want to try and why we want to try them.

Don’t make the mistake of silence. Before you know what’s next, communicate where your team is leaning. Err on the side of over-communicating. You may feel like you are repeating yourself, but your congregation will need to be briefed more than once. And don’t merely communicate the plan; communicate how you are planning the plan.