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One hardly expects to find robbers in the church. But they're there. They don't carry guns, but they're known to wear masks. They are the joy thieves.

Joy thieves appear in different forms but have this in common: They have little fun in life and try to make sure no one else has more. The three most common varieties are the pouter, the more-spiritual-than-thou, and the I-expected-more-of-you.

The pouter

The pouter never confronts, only pouts. We're not aware anything is amiss until suddenly the atmosphere cools. What's wrong? We haven't a clue.

Often the cause is feeling neglected. With the growth of the congregation I serve have come adjustments of my weekly schedule. Recently, I noticed a layman was cool and seemed to be avoiding me. Maybe he's just passing through a rough period, I thought. But when the pouting continued for weeks, I asked, "Have I done something to offend you? Is there something wrong between us?"

"Well, not really, but you know we haven't spent much time together like ...

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