In 1993, Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player who has ever lived, retired from the NBA following winning a third world championship with the Chicago Bulls as well as the murder of his beloved father. Quickly, he announced that he was going to play professional baseball and signed with the Chicago White Sox. As I watched episode 7 of “The Last Dance” telling this part of Michael’s journey this week, I remember assuming back in that day that the transition from basketball to baseball would be easy for this god-like athlete. I did not know until this episode why Michael struggled with getting up to speed in baseball. His personal trainer said that it took considerable time to get Michael’s body ready for baseball. His peak performance basketball body was not the same as his peak performance baseball body. Who knew? It took months of training for this transition to happen and Michael’s baseball stats improved considerably as his baseball body transitioned.
As I watched and listened to this story, I could not help but reflect on the transition that I and my pastor colleagues have gone through since the onset of the coronavirus some two months ago. Our in-person ministry “body” was trained for this kind of work. Our spiritual and relational muscles are tuned for face-to-face ministry. From offering spiritual counsel to sermon preparation, most clergy have the where-with-all to do this kind of work.
Then weeks ago, COVID 19 forced ministry as we have known it fully onto a digital platform. Yes, we knew how to send emails, host Zoom meetings, and send out e-blasts, but that’s where most of us hit our on-line ceiling. Quickly, a whole new set of muscles are being used. New impulses are required in the transition from analog to digital, from face-to-face to FaceTime. Like Michael Jordan, most of us are struggling with not having the “body” for a full-time digital ministry.
Here’s the simple lesson. It takes time to adjust.
Even the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan with all his athletic prowess could not just pick top a bat and hit .305 right out of the gate. The greatest basketball player of all time had to slowly and carefully train his body for a new kind of output.
So, one day a few weeks ago, at 2:30 pm, I did something I have almost never done in my 36 years as a pastor. I was exhausted. I am still not sure why. Too many Zoom meetings? Concern about the future of our church? Not sure, but I took a two-hour nap and awoke refreshed and ready for my assignment. From 2:30 to 4:40 pm on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, I took a two-hour nap when usually in my analog ministry life would have grabbed my last cup of coffee for the day and hunkered down for 3 to 4 more hours of ministry.
Be kind to yourself, my clergy friends.
Maybe take a nap in the middle of the day.
Rev. Michael Beck is South Atlantic Coordinator Fresh Expressions US and North Central District Cultivator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Michael serves as senior pastor of Wildwood UMC where he directs addiction recovery programs, a jail ministry, a food pantry, and a network of fresh expressions that meet in places like tattoo parlors and burrito joints. He currently lives in Wildwood with his wife, Jill, and their blended family of 8 children.