How to Survive Church

For the first time in my life, I felt like giving up on church. Why set myself up for more heartache?

BY: Becky Pamer

Reprinted with permission from Discipleship Journal.

"I finally understand people who give up on church."

My friend Dee was one of the last people I expected to utter those words. Although she had suffered her share of misunderstandings and wounding criticisms during her decades of ministry in the church, she continued to advocate church attendance and participation. Now her pastor's hurtful treatment had left her dazed and disheartened. She didn't seem to have the motivation to bounce back.

Sometimes I think that church involvement should come with a warning label: "Caution: May lead to disappointment, grief, and loss of appetite for church life."


I first grew disillusioned with church 17 years ago when the small church in which my husband and I were youth directors blew apart due to an irreconcilable conflict between our pastors--one of whom was my dad. Through two years of church-wide turmoil, I spent myself providing moral support to my parents while carrying a full ministry load. I organized youth activities, coordinated weddings, and led a women's Bible study--in addition to caring for my young family.

By the time the dust settled, many of our friends had moved to other churches, our congregation was a battle-weary shell of its former self, and I was wrung out emotionally and spiritually. Our recovery process was slow and frustrating, but my husband and I assured ourselves that the worst troubles were over.

Then it happened again.

This time, the leadership crisis was even more devastating. Until then, my husband and I had never considered leaving the church in which we had both grown up. But after a long season of prayer, we sensed God directing us to move on.

To our relief, we quickly found a church that seemed the perfect fit. Within months we were both active in leadership. A few years later, I was hired to assist our women's ministry director. I had found my niche. Life was good. Surely our church troubles were history.

Then it happened again.

During my fourth year as a ministry assistant, the church leaders made a series of decisions that shocked me. Doubts and deep sorrow invaded my heart as I observed how those decisions hurt others, including several of my close friends. Church-related woes, I realized, were neither a one-time fluke nor limited to a particular church--they could hit anywhere, seemingly without warning. That knowledge flattened my enthusiasm for church and ministry, and left me feeling vulnerable. Weekend worship services became exercises in containing my emotions. My job became a list of chores I made myself do. Eventually, the situation grew so painful that I resigned.

For the first time in my life, I felt like giving up on church.

Why set myself up for more heartache?

I reasoned. I was tired; I wanted to quit.

Deep down, though, I longed for a compelling reason


to quit--something beyond grit-my-teeth obedience to Heb. 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together." But how could I find the motivation to stay involved in church after such negative experiences?

I haven't found any easy answers, but I can share how God has helped me weather the storms of disillusionment.

How can we have a positive perspective on pain? Read more on page 2 >>

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