COVID and leadership, one year in

This week marks one year since much of our nation shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the past year we’ve reported regularly on the trends we’ve seen, the data we’ve collected, and the strategies that are working among our clients. This week we share some insights from ministry leaders on their own experiences during this last year.

We asked a number of our clients to answer the following question:

“What is the single biggest lesson you have learned from leading your ministry during the past year?”

Here’s what these leaders had to say:

My biggest lesson this year has been to hold my plans lightly. I came up through the strategy side of marketing and we are planners! With the volume of work my team handles, it’s imperative that we plan ahead so we can be sure to deliver everything on time. When the pandemic hit, we had to completely rework all our communication plans and offers. At the same time, our program teams had to figure out how and what we could deliver, given that we couldn’t get into prison. What resulted were some of the most creative and innovative changes the organization has seen in its history. And all of it was done in real-time with timelines we would have never agreed to under any other circumstances. 

We opened our hands and sought the Lord for guidance, and simply followed where He led us. No surprise, what we’ve seen are (literally) unprecedented results in both engagement and donations. I’ve learned that planning is good but allowing the Holy Spirit space to move and “disrupt” my plans can sometimes be the best thing that can happen.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. 

Proverbs 19:21.

Kelly Friedlander, Senior VP of Marketing and Communications | Prison Fellowship

The single biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stay the course. Even though we expected donations to go down, we continued to ask our donors to support us through our cultivation appeals. We stayed the course with acquisition mailings and digital, with great success. And we kept our Development Officers employed and making contact with donors, even though they couldn’t travel or visit in person. At the beginning of the pandemic, we underestimated our donors’ commitment to supporting our ministry — even in the midst of a worldwide crisis.

Tammy Noteboom, VP of Communications | Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

I learned, more than ever, total dependence on the Lord — due to enormous stress — and a thankfulness for suffering which brings holiness because of Christ.

Rev. Andy Bales, CEO | Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles

The greatest lessons I learned (Yep, there are 3 “greatest” lessons for Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa, Florida) are the need for change, the need for collaboration, and, most importantly, the need to care for your staff.

“To whom much is given, much will be required” doesn’t just apply to stewardship of resources. I believe this biblical principle also applies to the calling of your mission. Our mission is to alleviate suffering, promote dignity, and instill self-sufficiency as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.

To stay true to our mission we had no option but to be present in the middle of the need, actively alleviate suffering in our community, and be prepared to serve more people than ever before in our history. 

Our staff stepped up in a mighty way and I am forever grateful for their servant leadership. We cared for our staff’s physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. I believe that without this key focus, the walk would not have backed up the talk. As a result of our walk, the community responded beyond all imaginable measures in their giving.

I believe last year was a tipping point for our reputation in the community, and therefore, every year going forward, we will continue to live out our mission by continuing to focus on change, collaboration, and staff care.

Tim Marks, President & CEO | Metropolitan Ministries

We are blessed to partner with these organizations in their work to further the Kingdom. We hope these shared lessons provide insight for you as, together, we head into this Next Normal

As always, we thank God for the generosity of Christian donors that we have seen and continue to see throughout this pandemic. Let’s pray for this generosity to continue, even as we pray for the pandemic to end.