We’ve all heard the phrase, “We’re all in this together,” with regard to the global community created by the virus. While it’s a good thought in terms of recognizing that none of us are unaffected by this pandemic, it is important to recognize that every individual experiences this global crisis in different ways and to different degrees than everyone else. This is for a host of reasons, including our own personal backgrounds and experiences, our current level of mental, emotional, and physical well-being, as well as how closely or directly we feel affected in terms of impact on our job, schooling, or family. It would be dangerous for anyone to assume that they fully understand what someone else is truly experiencing since circumstances vary so widely.
Taking the time to process all that is happening around us and within us, therefore, is crucial to our survival and ability to thrive in the midst of global chaos.
However, processing the major change in our collective and individual lives caused by COVID-19 will not happen automatically or intuitively. Most people, when faced with drastic, threatening circumstances become reactive, simply trying to figure out how to get through their current situation and deal with what is right in front of them at the time.
This is where we as church leaders can speak into people’s long-term well-being. We can ask questions and listen and support them in ways that they need the most. Helping people to be intentional about processing what they are going through is critical to a healthy outcome. Providing people with the tools and opportunities to work through their thoughts and feelings in healthy ways is a valuable service we can provide.
A specific starting point when intentionally processing the COVID-19 crisis with our church members is discussing the possibility of their loved ones becoming sick or dying from the virus.
Opening this discussion helps them in two key ways:
1) It helps them be prepared emotionally and mentally for this dire possibility, and
2) It helps them understand themselves better in terms of what things like fear and anxiety do to their thoughts and actions.
Taking the time to talk, consider, and process these feelings regarding their loved ones also opens opportunities for spiritual lessons. We can talk about where we look for help, in whom we place our trust, and why it is hard for us to believe God is in control. Asking people what they feel God might be teaching them through this time. Ask them how they see God moving around them. Point them to think about spiritual aspects of what is going on. These are vital questions to explore in times of crisis such as this.
This topic of loss is a huge one as we face this pandemic. The loss of loved ones is not the only casualty.
- Some have lost jobs: jobs they really liked and are not sure they will ever get back.
- Some have lost or are likely to lose the security of regular income, or are recognizing they will have to give up creature comforts due to changing economic realities.
- Students have lost interaction with their teachers, classmates, and friends.
- People used to working in offices find themselves connecting with coworkers virtually as they all work from home.
There are countless ways people are experiencing loss. Each loss can feel like a death. We need to be able to grieve those losses with great intentionality, and often that takes help to be able to grieve well and come out healthy.
So, where does that leave us as church leaders? What can we be doing to help people process? We can start by giving people opportunities to express themselves, but we can do more. Acknowledge that people process in many different ways.
Some ways include:
- Some express themselves verbally.
- Others prefer to journal or to write out their thoughts and feelings.
- Still, others choose various forms of art such as painting, poetry, or music.
- Play therapy in various forms can be helpful for children to find ways to express themselves.
As church leaders, we should be asking ourselves how we can cater our counseling methods to individuals to help them process their experiences uniquely.
So leaders, what are you doing to help people intentionally process all that is going on as a result of COVID-19? Lean into this unprecedented time with the goal of helping everyone within your reach achieve the highest level of personal health possible. Everyone will process their own experiences differently, but they all need someone to depend on in these challenging times. See how God builds connections as you reach out and try to help.