As I write this article, we are all experiencing a new reality in the challenge of how we do community and manage Coronavirus (COVID-19). We were told to not meet in groups of more than 250, then 50 and then no more than 10. Now we are told to social distance ourselves and not meet at all. The recommendations are to restrict ourselves from the community and from others. This is the safe thing to do as we attempt to manage the growth exposure of this virus.
However, this impacts almost everything we do. Our Teen Challenge centers historically go to churches to raise support and share testimonies, and now have no services as the churches are no longer allowed to meet together. The monthly support from those same churches are at risk as their own offerings decrease.
So, how do we have community in this environment? How do we serve the community during such a trying time for all? I believe we need to be servants to all as God enables us.
I believe we need to do everything in our power to protect and care for our family, our staff and students, and their families. We need to stay the course in being wise and caring, and following the guidelines for safety. We currently are a safe haven to those in our care, and need to be careful to not expose them to places and or people who are infected. This is difficult I know, so be sure to use the wisdom God has given you.
I have had several directors call with concerns, and some with fears, on how this was all going to play out. Here’s my response, “God and I are on a first name basis; He knows my name and I know His.”
We are in touch with the Lord and this crisis is no surprise to Him. He has it under control. So put your faith in Him first and trust Him to take care of you. Then, use wisdom and precautions to stay safe. As leaders, we must make the best financial decisions we can in such a trying time. God has this and He will help us in the end.
When we think of community, we think of a group of people who share a common interest. That is such a picture of Teen Challenge. We are a large family of believers who care about the same thing. We care about putting hope within reach of every addict. We have shared values and shared goals that keep us close and focused.
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The untapped power and potential in a group of people who are willing to work together and support one another is unstoppable. We know that we can accomplish so much more when we work together. We must lay aside our unique differences and choose to work together. Pride and prejudice are real thieves when it comes to true community.
Can we, at this time, decide to work together with our communities, not blame others or point fingers at government leaders and politicians, and just care for one another? I believe we have a great opportunity to show true community during this crisis. We can care, give, and serve others like never before.
Community is important! Even if we are in smaller groups for a period of time, community is still important. We need each other. We were not emotionally wired to be alone. It is not God’s will for us to be alone and lonely. In fact, Genesis 2:18 clearly says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
We need people with whom we can develop friendships and relate. It’s more than just making friends, we need those with whom we can create a spiritual community. Our dependence on others enables us to grow and sharpen our skills as individuals. We are unified by our common vision, goals, dreams, and desire to serve. As we give ourselves to the community, to be a part of that team, we find family. My experience is that some of our greatest lifelong friends are found in those whom we work with daily.
- It is easier to hear from God in a community.
Teen Challenge must be a place where people can find God, hear from God, grow in their relationship with God, develop rich relationships with other people, and be encouraged in finding their purpose. Do you know that community just doesn’t happen by accident? We all own the responsibility to be people of integrity, people of compassion, and creating an environment where Christ is glorified.
- We find strength in others in a community.
When we face the inevitable trials, troubles, and tragedies of life, God intends that we be supported, strengthened, encouraged, and empowered through the community of believers of which we are a part. As we face the storms and temptations of life, we should receive strength from each other. This is God’s plan.
- We have accountability in a community.
None of us work well without authority, and none of us should trust in our own strength to keep us doing what is right. We are all sinners and, without the grace of God and accountability, we can all fall into temptation. Accountability is not your enemy, but your friend. It is having someone whom you can talk to and share your individual needs. Having someone who can hold you accountable for the decisions you are making is critical to staying the course and finishing well.
These are challenging days we are living in right now. How can you serve those around you? How can you impact your community? Who can you partner with to make your situation better? What price will you pay to expand the impact of your life and ministry in the community? Questions like these cause us to pause, think, and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do in a time like this?“
As you follow guidelines given to eradicate COVID-19 in your country, be careful not to use this time to hide out and keep yourself completely secluded from others, but to reach out. We need one another to press on.
My prayer is that you, your family, your staff and students, are now and will remain, healthy and prosperous.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge