In my last post I talked about the inevitable nature of people COMING and GOING in and out of our churches. And as pastors and church leaders, I think our natural tendency is to be pretty excited when people COME and somewhat discouraged or frustrated when people GO.
And since it seems like (most) people don’t leave well, it can become pretty hurtful when it happens. In fact, I can’t even begin to tell you how many pastors I’ve known who have ended up really struggling with things like anger, bitterness and hurt – and so often as a direct result of PERSONALLY absorbing the “hit” every time someone decided to leave their church.
I can't tell you how bad I want to learn from this and do everything I can to avoid burn out and living in a constant state of frustration over these types of things. So a couple of years ago, I made some pretty important decisions in my life about how I would choose to handle people “leaving” the church where I lead.
Here are a few of those. (And for me, it all starts on the front end…)
- We won’t even TRY to be the right church for everyone.
And that’s ok! In fact, it’s not just “ok” – it HAS to be that way! Because the other alternative is to go ahead and try and be the right church for everyone, which does nothing more than create a confusing, schizophrenic church.
- The clearer I am, the faster I can help people decide whether or not this is the right church for them.
I try really hard to be clear and concise about our church’s mission and values. I talk about it almost every chance I get – from our connections with our first time guests all the way to our weekend gatherings.
There is something very freeing about giving people permission to find another church where they will be able to better contribute and align themselves with. I often find myself saying, “We don’t want you to be miserable here! We understand that this church is not the right church for everybody… And that’s ok!”
And it’s all rooted in recognizing our call to be a missional church – which means that when people join/partner with The Orchard they are first and foremost joining a mission. And a mission is never more about those on the inside than it is about those on the outside.
Being “vague” about the vision or “over-selling” the “programs” that our churches have to offer is probably one of the worst things we could ever do. AND, it’s unfair! It’s unfair to them, to you, and to the culture that you are trying to create. On top of that, it paints a picture that tells everyone that the church exists to primarily meet "MY NEEDS" – instead of helping people see that first and foremost, the church exists for the benefit of those on the OUTSIDE.
Our number one goal is not to “fill the seats” – it’s to create a community of people who are sold out to and believe in the mission of the church to impact our community with the love of Jesus. I’d rather have 50 people who are committed to THAT than 500 or 5,000 who are just there to satisfy themselves.
- Only perfect pastors keep all the people.
And of course, there are no “perfect pastors” – which means that none of us will EVER be able to please everyone. And as a pastor, you might as well face the fact NOW that you will never be “deep enough” or “caring enough” or “articulate enough” or “FILL IN THE BLANK enough” to please everyone.
So please.....STOP TRYING!
The only thing you and I are one day going to be responsible for is whether or not we heard God’s voice in our lives and then had the courage and faith to step out and obey Him. That’s it!
So stop trying to be the next “big name.” Stop trying to sound or look or speak like somebody else. Just be who God created YOU to be and stop apologizing for it!
And then… Figure out what you’re good at and stick to it! Bring great people around you who will help you in the areas you are not as gifted in and then focus on being the pastor/shepherd/leader that God has anointed YOU to be.
I better stop now.
More of my thoughts later on how I try to respond when people DO leave.