May 262020 6 Responses

What I Like About the Shutdown

It’s been just over two months since I attended a funeral at our church and realized we needed to shutdown in-person gatherings in response to COVID-19. Watching people hug and interact even while being warned to socially distance made it clear to me that drastic action was needed. We canceled that weekend’s services and by the next week, the entire nation was shut down in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Over the past months, our church and staff have done what every other business in America has tried to do–figure out how to best operate even while not having any in-person interactions. Personally, I have moved my office to an apartment above my garage, filmed sermons in front of three people in a thousand seat auditorium, learned Zoom, and sent more text messages than I care to count.

While I miss many things as we shelter in place, there are some things that I truly enjoy and some ways that I hope things never return to normal after the shutdown.

Caveat

Before I get to the list, it’s important to understand three things.

  1. We have not been hard hit by COVID-19 in my hometown. It might come later, but as I write, we have 5 active cases in the county. I personally don’t know anyone with the virus. So this article comes from a very privileged position and I recognize that.
  2. While we have been affected by the economic downturn, we have not suffered nearly as much as others. I continue to receive my salary from the church (primarily because of the government’s bailout money). Jenny’s job may be busier than it was before the virus hit. It might impact her down the road as companies cut back their advertising, but so far the downturn has been minimal.
  3. It’s also important to remember that one of my four old-man activities remained an option–golf. While tennis, pickleball, and the gym have closed, I’m still able to be on the golf course on my day off. This has given me plenty fo social interaction with friends as well as exercise. (See: Why Can I Go to Wal-Mart and Not Church?)

With those being said, here are the things I like about the new way of life.

6 Things I Like About the Shutdown

The holistic approach to life. Life often feels like an hour of family followed by nine hours of work then five hours of family before sleep. It normally feels very segregated. Yet over the past month, it has felt much more holistic. It’s a continual weaving in and out of work and family. I’ll take a conference call and then go on a walk with my kids. I’ll prepare a sermon for a bit and then go downstairs to check in with my wife. The traditional hours have disappeared. Now I do whatever I need to do at the time. If I need to parent at 10 am, I do. If I need to work at 10 pm, I do. To me, it’s an easier way to operate.

Having my wife and children nearby. Speaking of family, I love having them nearby. My wife, who normally works out of the house, may not feel the same way since my office (upstairs above the garage) is much more difficult for the kids to find than her office in the sunroom. However, I greatly enjoy having lunch with them, having them pop in and visit me while I work, taking a break from work by taking them on a walk, and having them ride with me on an errand just so they will get out of the house. I recognize the window of them being with me is closing and this has been a great gift to spend these weeks together.

The simplistic schedule. We work hard to intentionally keep our family’s schedule much less crowded than others. However, our schedule had slowly become too crowded. All of that suddenly stopped in mid-March. It has been a nice change of pace. I don’t greatly miss the ballgames, school drop-off and pick-up, shuffling kids from event to event, etc. I like that we go several days without leaving the house. It’s nice how much the kids look forward to lunch out, which consists of going through a drive-through and finding a deserted place to eat–sometimes just in the car. All of this has reminded me how much more people matter than things. We don’t need to spend a lot of money to create great memories for our kids. A simple lunch at a new spot can be enough. My guess is that they will never forget it.

Sundays. If you were to ask me before the shutdown how I felt about Sundays, I would have said I enjoyed them. But now, I enjoy them even more. While it is not as fun to preach to a camera as a live crowd who can react to a story, it is really nice not having the pressure Sunday after Sunday. Since we pre-record our services during the shutdown, I sleep in on Sunday mornings, wake up, have breakfast, log onto our website to interact with people for two services, and then go get dressed after lunch. While I love people, as an introvert being around so many people on a Sunday is physically draining. I never understood what “easy like Sunday morning” meant until now. I guess Lionel Richie was never a pastor. (See: Churches, Love Your Governors)

Elimination of Busy Work. One of the hard things as a pastor (and I assume any profession) is knowing what deserves your time and what doesn’t. While I often felt like many of the things I was doing were not the most important things to be done, I often fell into the trap of doing what others expected me to do. It’s been nice during this time to see that some of the things I was doing simply don’t matter. And some of the things I wasn’t doing–spending a good amount of time on the phone with people–can be greatly rewarding.

Forced Change. I’m a person a great routine. Even when I want to change things, I often do not until I’m forced. I have enjoyed how the shutdown has forced a change in my life. For years I’ve said I needed to work more from home, but I haven’t. Now, I doubt I go back to my office full-time. I’m too productive in the quiet of the house. While it has been difficult, it has also been greatly productive to reconsider how a church should operate during this time and to learn new ways to do ministry. Our church should never fully be the same because of this time. Hopefully, we have engaged new people and learned new ways to operate. Disruption is a great change agent.

What Have You Liked?

While there are many things we have not enjoyed about the past few months, my guess is that there are some things you want to hold onto even while we begin to re-emerge from the shutdown.

What has been your favorite thing about the change in how we have done things?

 

6 Responses to What I Like About the Shutdown
  1. Lori G Reply

    This is good. Relatable. I’m curious though. What do you think you will “add back” when things return to a new normal? That’s what I ask myself as I prepare to return to work 6/1.

  2. FN Reply

    I want this as my new normal. While my company didn’t shut down and I actually had to really fight to work from home even part time to allow me to help with the homeschooling. I found that my stress went down. I was actually more productive at work, I got things done in my home without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. I am not a social person really and not being around people has made me very content. My breaking point was running out of my favorite hot sauce and not being able to find any in town. Of course then the fella’s dad found it for me so lives were saved.

  3. Glenda Kuhn Reply

    Cooking every day would have been a burden before the shutdown. Now, I am enjoying trying new recipes. Serving meals to my husband has been fun. I love being home with no pressure to do anything quickly so I can cram in some other chore. If it weren’t for missing my grandchildren, I would have enjoyed it very much.

  4. Kim Shankle Reply

    I’m glad you have been privileged enough to not worry about the economic downturn, but as a small business owner, who does not qualify for unemployment, I am not enjoying the shutdown.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Kim, I’m not enjoying the shutdown either. The pain and suffering of so many is overwhelming. My hope in the article was to find some things that are good even in the midst of the struggle. God often uses disruption to create change. I was seeking the change we should embrace. I’m sorry if the article came across as careless. That is not my heart and has not been my experience over these past 12 weeks.

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