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How Not to Be Discouraged With Church People

Most people, pastors and laypeople alike, become disappointed with their church, especially with church people. It’s inevitable. People are flawed and since churches are made up of people, churches are flawed. If we’re not careful, though, this disappointment can turn into discouragement, frustration and anger.

So if disappointment is inevitable, how do we avoid the awful emotional turmoil that often follows when dealing with church people? One word: expectations.

The reason we become discouraged is due to the mental expectations we set for church people. Let me ask you a question: In the deepest recesses of your heart, what do you expect from the people in your church? Do you expect them to behave properly all the time? Do you expect them to always act spiritually mature? Do you expect them to never offend others? If we’re honest, we often set higher standards for others than we do for ourselves. We give ourselves leeway because we judge ourselves by our motives, but we judge others by their actions.

I was recently telling a friend about a person in my church who disappointed me. I took it very personally and was becoming discouraged. Then my friend asked me, “Is the church a gathering of saintly people, or a hospital for the spiritually sick?” That question frankly reminded me that my expectations of church people are sometimes unrealistic.

When I am disappointed by church people I think things like:

  • “How dare he ______________?”

  • “He should know better than to _______________.”

  • “What was he thinking when he _____________?”

This line of thinking was quickly causing me to spiral downward from disappointment to discouragement. But my friend’s question helped me remember that church people are flawed people. And flawed people blow it sometimes.

The bottom line of my post today is simple: if your expectation is that the church is a hospital for spiritually sick people , you’ll be emotionally ready for disappointments. But if you always expect the church to be a gathering of saintly-mature-people, you’ll be emotionally vulnerable to discouragement.

This doesn’t mean we let people off the hook or never hold people accountable. This certainly doesn’t mean that we should not disciple people to maturity. That’s another conversation altogether.

The point of today’s post isn’t to address the spiritual growth of others. Instead it’s meant to address our own emotional readiness for disappointment.

Remember:  People will let you down, but don’t let it get you down.