Leading Through Covid and Learning From It

Billy Phenix has been walking the halls of North Point Ministries for a little over 20 years.


He has worked in student and family ministry, served as a campus pastor, and, for the last year, been NPM’s first Executive Director of Staff Culture—a big job given the more than 600 staffers who work across eight Atlanta-area campuses and the central office.

At the macro level, Billy is responsible for maintaining NPM’s organizational culture. At the micro level, Billy’s got his ear to the ground—listening for common tensions across teams and creating tools to help leaders develop, teams thrive, and staff be healthy.

Under normal circumstances, this is a big job. But in the middle of a global pandemic with staff teams working remotely to overcome challenges we’ve never faced before . . . well, Billy’s busier than ever.

Billy, let’s go back to March for a minute when the world came to a halt. What were you thinking as it relates to the staff and, more specifically, your role in supporting us?

Pretty quickly after our offices and buildings closed, we put together an online staff survey. We waited a little while before sending it so folks could really feel what their new normal would be. The survey was just a few questions, primarily: What's the hardest thing for you right now?

Three common themes emerged in the responses. Many staff told us they were struggling to balance work and home life. This was especially true for people who were homeschooling their kids. Number two: many leaders shared how they were having a hard time leading their teams since everyone’s time and attention was split differently. And three: a lot of staff were struggling to stay motivated and disciplined without the structure of standard work hours and office space.

We heard from staffers who suddenly felt marital tension after being cooped up at home. Some single staffers were feeling lonely and isolated. Parents with little kids were exhausted. Parents with teenagers had a whole different set of concerns.

We found that the tensions even changed by job description. For those with roles attached to Sunday services, work as they knew it had changed in an instant. They weren’t sure what to do anymore. Conversely, our digital team and creative services team were inundated with work as everyone tried to pivot to digital solutions. And our Care ministry was overloaded with requests from people in our communities who were struggling.

After reading all of the survey responses, we quickly realized: As staff, we’re all in the same storm, but not the same boat.

That phrase has become a kind of North Star for us through the pandemic. Everyone is experiencing the effect of the season in their own unique way. I mean, 2020 has thrown a lot at us—the pandemic, the racial tensions, the election. It’s no surprise that our staff cited anxiety, stress, and anger as some of the most common emotions they were feeling.

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