What do we do with grief and disappointment when people leave church?
May 17th, 2019

It happens to all of us!

We build for months, years and sometimes decades with people in our churches. We disciple them, we baptize them, we encourage them to date, we marry them, we work through late nights when their teenagers are being teenagers, we even bury some of their family members, and then … without notice … they go.

We put the smile on our face and encourage them to grow in God … the doors always open … but what do we do with what’s left over? … Been there? … Hope this BLOG helps.


1. DON’T LIVE IN DENIAL – It hurts and yes, sometimes it really hurts. Let’s acknowledge and realize it is normal to have these kinds of feelings. Often the awareness of these feelings is a HUGE step forward to the healing of them. In sessions we talk about the ‘Codral Syndrome’ (no it’s not an official diagnosis) … but you just take a ‘Codral and Soldier on!”. Putting on that stiff upper lip and moving forward doesn’t work. Talk to your spouse or a few trusted friends about how you are REALLY FEELING … then go to step 2.

2. WHY – Ask yourself why you feel the way you feel. I like to think in sessions I’m a bit like a sniffer dog searching for truth. Adopt this attitude and genuinely ask yourself why did this hurt so much … why is the disappointment there … what was behind it. Explore the issue, uncover it … look for the truth in it … it’s through understanding “the why” that we should start to zero in on a specific reason why. When we get there you will be at that “Kernel of truth stage”.

3. WRITE DOWN THE WHY – From the kernel of truth comes the healing. At Bible college we learnt about William Booth, a great father of our faith from the Salvation Army, and he had a great saying that “within every criticism there is a kernel of truth”. What is the kernel of “the why” behind the pain … what’s the truth behind your pain. Write it down and tell someone safe.

4. RE-FOCUS – Now shift your attention to the person, family or group that has left. Why do you think they acted that way? What was driving them? Stand in their shoes and see if you can see life through their eyes. Can you help them? Can you gain some kind of empathy for them? When we start to do this we start to move from the ANGER side of the equation to the FORGIVENESS side. In our practice, and working within Christian communities, often the pastors are seen as “mums and dads” in the house and when people have their “mummy and daddy issues” they can take it out on you. This is not necessarily fair or kind, and sometimes the force of these interactions can be strong (key “Perfect Storm” on Netflix), but if you sit back and think about this for a second … the interaction at it’s CORE isn’t ABOUT YOU. When we re-focus on the problem with GRACE and FORGIVENESS, after working through the anger, this begins to bring the silver lining out of what has happened.

5. THERE IS GOLD IN THEM THERE HILLS – When we can re-focus on the disappointment or grief and see it from fresh eyes we can let it go, AND gain some invaluable insight into ourselves and maybe our churches. It’s amazing the gold we can gain through the experience. Research around trauma survivors noticed a significant difference between those who were “GRATEFUL” for the experience and those who just  “SURVIVED”. Let’s not just survive in our churches … lets see these situations differently and thrive. 

Thanks for listening to our blog and hope it really blesses you!

Chat soon.