At Special Gathering, we don’t often lose a member. There are many reasons for that. Yet when we lose a member, it is as difficult for us as any other pastor. I meet with many pastors fellowship groups during the month. The one enduring subject discussed is the hurt these men and women of God experience when a member leaves the congregation.
That pain is multiplied when the member is in leadership or has been faithful for many years. It doesn’t matter if a pastor loses a member because of a death, a move to another city or state, or a misunderstanding, the hurt is there. And it is real.
It may appear that rejection could be the overwhelming reason for this pain; and, of course, that is a part of the formula. Another cause may be the finances. A faithful member is almost always one of the principle givers. In one church where I was on staff, two families left suddenly. This left a gaping hole in the budget of over $40,000. The treasurer freaked but not the pastor.
Naturally, these are both burdens; but I’ve found that it is seldom the primary worry of a pastor. The focus of most pastors who lose members is a deep interest in the spiritual well-being of the person or family who leaves. I have often been surprised at the level of commitment found within these men and women of God who shepherd a flock.
At one church where I worked, the laity on staff often joked about forming an Exit Committee–a board responsible for asking difficult people to leave. I noticed that the pastors never joined in the laughter and teasing. They were serious about the spiritual health of all of their members. I suspected that much of their prayer time was spent on the maverick, thereby, binding the problem sheep to their hearts with a greater degree of compassion.
Of course, I am generalizing and there are really bad pastors out there. However, the Elmer Gantry’s are few and far between. While a pastor may not be a great orator, the cry of their hearts in prayer are almost unanimously pleading for the health and growth of their members.
As their hearts yearn for answers to why people leave, there seems to be no accounting for men and women who one day get up and go. At times, they are called away; and that is a situation that the pastors can reconcile. But when the parting has been painful and disruptive, it leaves a deep wound and a longing to bring true closure for the sheep who have wandered away.
In a few weeks, we will be beginning Pastor Appreciation Month. If you are in a church body, remember to pray for your pastors. If you aren’t participating in a church body, maybe you should seek one out. Perhaps, you are a part of a fellowship that ministers to people who are intellectually disabled, during this time of the year, these folks are often overlooked. Be sure to give them a hug of appreciation. No person will care as much about your soul as a undershepherd of the flock of Jesus.