Local churches affected by post-pandemic burnout

Local churches affected by post-pandemic burnout

By Trevyn Gray


COVID-19 has affected many things, and it seems that churches are no different. However, here in the Columbus area, pastors are keeping their churches afloat through the trying times. 


“We’re being patient and encouraging,” said Rev. Johnny Flakes, who has been the pastor at Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church since 1961. 


A recent nationwide survey found that there has been a decrease in congregation size across the nation since the pandemic. 


The same is true for Fourth Street Missionary: A third of the congregation has stopped attending consistently. 


Flakes attributes the decrease in attendance to the pandemic, but he also said there are other potential contributing factors. He cited health and convenience as two examples.


Providing a virtual option for the congregation is one of the solutions he has attempted to combat the decrease. One motivation is understanding the emergence of digital media in today’s society.


“We’re giving people the option but encouraging them to reconnect, connecting generations,” Flakes said. “We’re emphasizing the importance of fellowship and the importance of connecting and engaging in the community.” 


Even so, Flakes said things are more complicated when it comes to a full-fledged fight against the pandemic’s effects on congregation attendance. 


“For us, I don’t think there’s any [specific] trick that’s going to actually bring people back,” Flakes said. “There has to be a love for God, a love for worship. 


“We are encouraging people, whenever they feel comfortable and the Holy Spirit moves them, to come back,” he continued. “We don’t try to guilt trip people for not coming back.”


Nevertheless, Flakes said the dynamic of church services won’t be significantly affected by the decrease. Delivering the word of God and fellowship with others — the main goals of church services — doesn’t change based on the number of people within the congregation. 


“Whether you have two people, whether you have 100 people, whether you have 250-300 people, the worship experience is the same,” Flakes said. “The numbers will not dictate or impact the experience.”


That same survey on congregation size also mentioned an increase in the number of pastors who experience feelings of burnout and have considered quitting their positions. 


Flakes said he hasn’t experienced those feelings himself, citing a few specific reasons for that and suggesting others use those reasons as well. 


“A love of God, a love for the people and being clear on what my assignment is from God while taking care of my mental health,” Flakes said. “I take time off and spend time with my family.


“We also have to know that we’re not called for comfort. This is a wary journey. We have to make sure that we remember that even Jesus rested.”

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