Ask what you could have done differently.
Another thing someone suggested. In addition to listening without defending myself, they said I should ask how I could have handled the situation better from their point of view. When I did this, God convicted me again, and I believe gave me wisdom for how to do better in the future.
I have met with several people recently I knew were offended at me. I know several others I want to contact. But this has been the first step in reconciliation with some folks I had offended, and I’m grateful for their gracious response. Here’s the next lesson…
Reach out to those who are leaving church.
Even if there is no offense there. How many times people left our church—for any number of reasons—and I just never called them. I’m not talking about someone leaving because of major sin that you have confronted them on. I’m talking about leaving because they just weren’t connecting, or they disagreed with a doctrinal issue.
As I have met with a few who left because they felt I mishandled a situation, they said, “And you know what? Not only did you not call me, but no one from the church called me.” Or maybe one or two called to see how they were doing. But it was like they had just ceased to exist. A couple people said something like, “I felt like I had lost my whole world. My whole family. All my friends that I had shared my life with for the last 20 years were just suddenly cut off.”
I was convicted. I was guilty of that. People have left and I never contacted. I guess I figured it was their problem. They were wrong. I tried to help them and they misunderstood. How wrong I was.
So when you notice someone isn’t there or you hear someone has left, reach out to them. And when you do…
Thank them for their participation and serving.
One person recently shared with me, “Yeah, nobody called me. Nobody reached out to me. Nobody thanked me for 30 years of participation, serving in children’s ministry, etc. I wasn’t looking for that, but it was just like…I was gone.”
Even if we disagree with someone’s reasons for leaving church we can still thank them, get them a gift, express our appreciation for their years of serving and participation in the church. Another thing we can do is…
Thank them for being willing to meet and share with you.
It’s not easy for people who are struggling with you to get together. Especially if you are a pastor. Sometimes they are angry with you. But often people who are leaving church are hurting and it’s painful for them to share their offenses. At any rate, thank them for being willing to meet.
Affirm their new church.
If they are going to a church that preaches the gospel, affirm them. There is only one church. We aren’t in competition with other churches in our town. If God blesses them and adds to their numbers, that’s wonderful. We should rejoice. I now tell people, “I just want you to be where Jesus wants you to be. I’m so glad you are prospering there. We’re all on the same team, serving the same Lord. I hope you really prosper there.”
Tell them you love them and they are always welcome in your church.
I now say, “I’m so glad you love the church you’re going to. I just want you to know that you are always welcome at our church any time.” And finally…
Remember, the goal is reconciliation.
And though it might feel hard to humble ourselves and hear where we blew it, remember, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. You can’t go wrong in humbling yourself.
This article about people leaving church originally appeared here.