4 Ways to Lead as a Pastor During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Aaron Buer on April 9, 2020

Does anyone else feel like the pastoral playbook has been thrown out the window?

So much of what we usually do as church leaders has changed because of the coronavirus...physical church meetings, small groups in homes, in-person devotionals, shaking hands at the door, etc.

So, how do we lead our church when most of our usual methods of leadership are not an option?

While I’m not an expert in this area, as none of us are experts in leading a church amidst a global pandemic, I’d love to share four things that I’m focused on as I lead church members, staff, and family in this season.  

1. ) Focus on Connection and Vulnerability 

I believe what’s resonating with people most in this season is connection and vulnerability.

What people need right now is to connect on a meaningful level with others in the body of Christ. 


They also need to know we as leaders are with them.

This is why filming church services or devotionals in homes is so powerful right now.

It sends a clear message that we are all in this together.

There’s a reason Jimmy Fallon is doing his show in his house right now and it’s connecting with people. 

I also believe it’s crucial we open up more than usual.

People need to see that we are struggling with the constraints and pressures along with everyone else.

This can be as simple as providing people a small view into your world—house, kids, etc., or as significant as an appropriately vulnerable conversation around how everything is impacting you personally—anxiety, financial strain, etc.

The truth is, this season is incredibly difficult and we are mourning the loss of things we love.  

2.) Walk with People Through Loss

Speaking of losing things we love, I believe walking with people through loss is perhaps the most important thing we can be doing right now.


We need to help people lament.

I love the people I work with and I can’t physically be with them right now.

I love our in-person church gatherings, which are not happening.

I love that my kids attend a great school, yet they aren’t able to go right now.

Next month I was scheduled to go to Israel, which has been canceled.

I treasure Friday night dates with my wife at our favorite restaurants.

Last weekend we ate Chipotle in our van...not the same.

While I am mourning the loss of some great things in my life, my family–gratefully–has been healthy and not directly impacted by the virus.

Our people are also mourning the loss of things they love, and potentially, people they love.  

They need pastoral leadership to help them navigate their grief.

I’m talking about your staff, volunteers, congregation, family members and friends.

One of the most significant things we can do in this season is walk with people through their grief.

Listen to them, pray with them, give them permission to be real about the loss.  

I would encourage you to reach out to your people through FaceTime, text, Zoom, or other means and ask them questions about how they are doing until they open up.

This is what’s needed of us right now. This is leadership in a crisis.   

Some churches are having to make hard financial decisions right now.

If you are forced to cut hours, pay, or lay people off, the most important aspect of those transitions will be how you walk with your people through the loss.  

3.) Constraint Leads to Creativity 

Now, with all that said, there is work to be done. We must move forward.

It’s possible to be paralyzed by grief and we can’t go there right now.  

There is a mantra that has helped our leadership team in this season: constraint leads to creativity.


Yes, we were good at leading our people through our usual methods of ministry, but they are on the shelf now.

We have a choice, wait until we can do what we do again, or get creative and forge ahead, blazing a new trail toward new practices and methods of effective ministry.  

I firmly believe our churches will be more effective, more resilient, and more vibrant through and after this season.

Let’s figure this thing out.

Let’s work together, sharing ideas of what is working because our communities need Jesus, and we have been entrusted with the life-giving message of Christ.  

4.) Point People to Jesus

This brings me to the last way I’m focused on leading right now.

People always need Jesus, but there seems to be a greater awareness in this season.

Online church attendance is way up, people recognize their need for a rescuer, and many are actively seeking God.

This crisis is awakening a spiritual hunger in people.  

I challenge us to actively seek ways to connect with people and point them to Jesus.


Let’s be intentionally caring and bold with the message of Jesus in this season.

Wrap Up

Easter is right around the corner.

Let’s jump into this opportunity to be the Church and clearly communicate the life-giving message in Jesus to many who have a fresh interest.  

Thanks again for reading.

Please share your ideas and thoughts, especially concerning practices that are working for your church right now.

We’re all in this together.

Topics: Advice

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