One of the hard parts of pastoring is when people we love (as pastors, don’t we love them all?) decide to leave our church community. I can become discouraged, heartbroken, bitter, or angry. All the panoply of grief emotions! One of our pastor friends offered the following encouragement regarding how to process this grief and think about these people.
Let me share with you how I feel about one of our church leaders leaving. I trained her up and released her into ministry in our church, so I felt a certain morbid responsibility when she chose to walk in sin and leave our church. It kind of felt like she betrayed my trust and the trust of the people we’d entrusted her to care for. I was also pretty mad at her for hurting her ministry partners and abandoning our friendship. I felt pretty close to her because of all we had in common and all the hard times we walked through together.
What helped me get beyond all that was changing how I felt about her leaving. Instead of being mad at her for what she’d done to me and others, I turned to thinking about what a shame it is about what she’s done to herself and what she’s missing out on in our church community. The ministry she started and abandoned was salvaged by other leaders, but she’s still missing out. And that’s sad for her.
It’s the same for other leaders who have left. They’re learning more the hard way than they needed to have and they have less support then they could have simply because they left prematurely. Yes I miss them a lot, but my regret is for them, not so much for me.