Social Distancing Without Disengaging

By Send Relief Staff

You can learn how you can respond to urgent needs in your community at Send Relief’s upcoming webinar on November 12:

Needs are everywhere: How can my church respond?

Webinar hosts and missionaries Taylor Field and Andrew Mann sat down with Send Relief to give us a preview.

Q: You have been in metropolis ministry work for over three decades—what inspired you to want to discuss this topic surrounding the church’s response to pressing needs?

Taylor Field: Originally, we had 2,000 pages of training on this, but the webinar is going to be our condensed version that revolves around four main words that capture the essence of what we do: meet the need first. We want to imbue other leaders who are trying to meet needs with courage—that word “courage” comes from the French word “heart,” and Jesus says over and over again “Do not lose heart.” Pastors and missionaries can get so overwhelmed with their communities’ needs when they compare it to the resources at hand, and Satan is an accuser who wants to dis-courage us. We want to remind them that they are important and that they only need to focus on the three “in” words: investigating their neighborhoods, involving other people and living incarnate. Just be in the community and model your actions after the apostles.

Andrew Mann: My inspiration was deeply rooted in my upbringing and spiritual background in small-town Missouri. I was a part of a great church, but when I left for college and became involved with Graffiti Church and Taylor and his wife Susan’s ministry, I realized that what happened between Sundays was just as important as what happened on Sundays. In the past, church was always a mid-week meeting and Sunday activity but, at Graffiti, it was a daily lifestyle: I was serving food to homeless men at the park and tutoring kids and living out my faith. Since that experience 15 years ago, I’ve been living in the South Bronx and continuing the work through after-school programs, addiction recovery meetings, ESL classes, and just using it all as a means for building relationships with people.”

Q: What makes the upcoming webinar’s topic particularly pertinent this year?

Taylor Field: This year has been such a hard reset for pastors, but COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to follow the Joseph Principle from Genesis; when you can’t change the season you’re in, take advantage of it. It’s not like Joseph enjoyed the famine but he prepared for it, so our mindset right now is “How can we bless people more right now?” The context is different now with the pandemic, but the actual call to serve is the same so we are evaluating how to adapt to our new environment.

Andrew Mann: I think during COVID-19, the key to ministry is a holistic approach because while the initial urge is to rush to respond to physical needs, there are actually a wealth of physical resources for people in New York. The real need currently—and what is often missing—is the mental, emotional, social and spiritual issues people experience in isolation. We want to abide by the social distancing guidelines but not disengage from our community and really “double up on the follow up” by focusing on deep relationships that aren’t numbers-based. We want people to know we’re going to keep walking with them until they find the stability they need.

Q: With ministry work particularly, many mercy and compassion-based jobs can be exhausting, especially during this year of uncertainty—how do you avoid compassion fatigue?

 Taylor Field: We work a lot with people who struggle with serious mental health issues, so this has been of concern during quarantine. People often get cynical or implode when a national tragedy like this is ongoing, so we really want to focus on how to encourage our community in the long-term. My biggest piece of advice is to take a breath. Isaiah 7:4 says, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid.” Pastors really have the opportunity right now to strengthen their own personal devotion and walks with the Lord. There is also value in what Christian neurologists say about putting your brain on paper—journaling promises and prayer requests throughout this time can be helpful, kind of “stopping to start.” We’re often so action-oriented in meeting needs; but if Christ is really our leader, it doesn’t mean doing 100 different things; it means doing the one thing He has told you to do well. The example I use is the Grand Central Station information booth: the attendant often has a crowd of people trying to get their attention, but they will lock eyes with one person, calmly answer the question and then turn to the next person and do the same. So, start with one person—in what Mother Theresa referred to as Jesus’ non-statistical view of life, He left the 99 for the one.

Andrew Mann: Practicing selfless self-care through Sabbath and creating margins within your day, week, and year to recharge is maybe one of the most helpful things I’ve found in combating compassion fatigue. Get outside the frame, so you can see the picture. Especially right now with COVID-19, finding mentors and mentoring others as a means of human connection is also helpful. We want to be able to do the work we’re doing for a long time, and our work is often taxing, so self-care allows us to be lasting, non-anxious presences. We want to be light not lightning that’s gone in a flash. There are two acronyms based off of Elijah’s model in 1 Kings that can be useful in remembering this: SEEP—sleep, eat, exercise and pray and SOAP—social interaction, outdoor activities, appearance tending and projects.

Q: What do you hope attendees come out of this webinar understanding?

Taylor Field: I want them to walk away feeling courageous and relentless. We really need to re-instill that bulldog tenacity of not giving up—like Jacob wrestling with the angel and not letting go until he got his blessing. We want these leaders to realize that they’re not alone and that there are people and resources available to them.

Andrew Mann: I want people to understand the needs around them better and to feel empowered and equipped to address them in a sustainable way that points toward the gospel. We’re going to be giving direct action steps to take the next day, week and month that will open doors in their communities.

Published October 9, 2020

Send Relief Staff