How Your Congregation Can Adapt and Thrive after a Crisis with Karl Vaters

Thanks for listening in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Karl Vaters, a teaching pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship as well as an author and speaker. Karl focuses on serving small churches, encouraging their growth and helping them to be healthy.

2020 has been a tough year between the pandemic, economic stress, social unrest, a record hurricane season and political division, just to name a few. When a person experiences multiple traumas at different times, then they are in different stages of recovery from each trauma. So just imagine what your entire congregation might be experiencing after each wave of adversity over the past 12 months. Listen in as Karl shares how you can help your people recover, adapt and thrive after difficult seasons.

  • Recognize your own trauma first. // As pastors and church leaders we are dealing with our own trauma this year as well as trying to help our congregation get through theirs. It’s critically important that pastors recognize their own trauma first and seek health and wholeness themselves before trying to help others. Neglecting your pain while trying to fix and help others will only lead to burnout and could ultimately result in leaving ministry altogether.
  • Stages of trauma. // People recover emotionally and mentally from trauma and grief by going through five overlapping stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, with everything that has happened this year, some people have chosen one of these stages to stay in rather than pass through. As pastors we have to help our people through these stages of trauma to a place of health.
  • Don’t let your trigger become your truth. // People may trigger on a particular issue, but it doesn’t mean that is what is most important to them. The thing that triggers you may be what’s most emotional right now, but our emotions and value systems are not directly related to each other. As church leaders we need to understand this in ourselves, give grace to others, and help people navigate through the fact that our triggers aren’t necessarily our truths.
  • Unity survives and uniformity collapses. // One thing that has emerged from the trauma of this year is disunity within churches. One of the primary differences between churches who are thriving and others that are collapsing is unity. Collapsing churches might have had uniformity (ie – everyone looks the same – age, race, voting habits, spiritual maturity, etc.) but not unity. Thriving churches on the other hand are united in mission, even though they have varying backgrounds, ethnicities, or political viewpoints and they are being a blessing to their community. They are elevating everyone around them through their unity and growing stronger.
  • Become leaner and more on mission. // As churches look to recover from the trauma of this year, they should pay attention to where they might have been over-programmed. Many churches have had to shut down a lot this year – as you reopen, be very intentional and slow about adding ministries back in. Churches should not aim to go back to “normal” and look like they did before the pandemic. Instead we should look better than we did before. Ask yourself: if you hadn’t been doing a certain program or ministry before this year, would you be starting it now? If you wouldn’t start it now for the first time, then don’t restart it.
  • Adapt and thrive. // For more information about how you can take practical steps to help your church not only survive but also thrive in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, check out Karl’s book The Church Recovery Guide: How Your Congregation Can Adapt and Thrive after a Crisis. It will walk you through how to reconnect with your congregation, deal with the financial repercussions, encourage and support your staff, clearly communicate a fresh vision for the future, and more.

You can learn more about Karl and his ministry at www.karlvaters.com. You can also download the Church Health Assessment Tool at www.karlvaters.com/churchhealth.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.