Christian Unity
When People Leave: The Private Pain Of The Small Church Pastor
Even if the church is large and growing, it can be hard when people leave. But when the church is small, each loss is much more painful.

So, to all the church consultants berating pastors for not following up when members leave, we get it. We know we should make those calls. But it’s not always because we don’t care. It’s because we care too much.

5. It Hurts When They Bomb Us with Every Reason Why

This is the other side of the silent departure. The pastor gets a “we need to talk” call.

The truth is, small church pastors want to know why people are leaving. We really do. But that final talk is often a great source of additional pain to us. Especially when the problem is with something we did – or failed to do.

In my three-plus decades of ministry, these have been some of my toughest moments. People who I thought were doing well and were happy in the church sit down with me and pull out a piece of paper listing all the offenses they feel they’ve endured over the last few years. Some are legitimate. Some are really not. All of them are painful to hear.

But the most frustrating thing about the “here’s every reason why I’m leaving” conversation is…

6. It Hurts When They Don’t Give Us a Chance to Make Things Right

I wish people would tell me about their problems when there’s still a chance to make things right!

I’ve been through too many meetings where

  • I didn’t know there was a problem until now
  • The problem would have been fixable if I’d known
  • It was just a misunderstanding that we could have easily resolved

But it’s too late now. They’ve already made their minds up to leave.

7. It Hurts When They Leave for Another Church

It’s especially hard when they leave the long-term, healthy, faithful, smaller congregation for the flashier, new, big church. But it could be worse…

8. It Hurts Even More When Don’t Go to Any Other Church

To lose someone from our church is hard. To know they’ve left the church entirely is unspeakably heartbreaking.

To lose someone from our church is hard. To know they’ve left the church entirely is unspeakably heartbreaking.

9. It Hurts When They Avoid Us Later

Many small churches are in small towns, or in tight neighborhoods where people run into each other in the store or at civic events.

If I could give one word of advice to church members who leave, it would be this. Unless the pastor of the church you left is a toxic, controlling monster, you don’t have to look away awkwardly when you run into us or one of our family members on the street.

Our relationship may have changed, but we’re still members of the body of Christ. We may gather in different buildings on Sunday, but we’re still on the same team.

Pivot is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

January 19, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Join in the conversation about this post on Facebook.

Recent Posts

Read More from Karl

Follow Christianity Today

Free Newsletters

More Newsletters ...