After the last six months of journeying to find a new church, and the number of conversations I have had with others that have been in or are going through similar situations, I have to stress an important issue that both pastors and lay people overlook: communication.
If you have ever left a church or been a part of a church community that losses a large amount of people it is likely you have seen a lack of clear communication. In some cases discretion should be used in how much and when information is shared. There should be a system in place that ensures that people are cared for and communicated with.
Unfortunately this rarely happens. I have heard story after story within the last six months from people that have left churches that they attended for years and never received a follow up call from their pastor or “friends” from church. Regardless of the reasoning for the people leaving the churches leadership should, as leaders should, follow up and see what caused the problem.
Below are three tips I would give not only leaders but lay people, myself included, when faced with people leaving a church.
1. Identify The Problem:
If someone is leaving there is a problem. You might not be able to solve the problem but you can at the least identify it. Part of this process is not making any assumptions. Those leaving may not want to talk about it but if approached in a friendly non confrontational way they may be more open to sharing what’s on their mind.
2. Resolve The Issue:
Remember that not all issues might be resolved but it is our job as Christians to try to reconcile the situation and make sure that bitterness doesn’t have a chance to grow. This will mean that though the situation might be very emotional we come at it with a humble heart. Putting our agendas aside and looking for what is best for the church and Gods Kingdom.
3. Leave On Good Terms:
If the issues can not be resolved it is important for both the relationship as well as for the good of the Gospel that the church and those leaving leave on good terms. This step, out of the three listed, will be the step that truly reveals the hearts of all involved. If someone refuses to repent, forgive or reconcile (many times this must be done by both side) then it can be clearly seen that there are deeper Gospel issues involved.
It should be understood that this is a difficult process that will involve maturity and humility from all involved. When people leave a church there are always deep emotions involved that can cause fights and separation for years. Don’t let arrogance and and selfishness ruin friendships taint the Gospel.