How to break up with your church, prt. 4 (of 5)
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…continued from How to break up with your church, prt. 3
4. Common characteristics of those who have broken up with my church in a loving, healthy, and classy way
They set up a time to meet with me and affirm their love and respect for me, and that they look forward to meeting with me. Notice that this would be impossible if they had been gradually building up a list of complaints or grudges against me, so it begins with relating in healthy ways to begin with.
During our conversation, they share their “journey,” from coming to Wildwind Church and being excited, to eventually realizing maybe they need to move on. They honestly share their change of circumstances, how their hearts/situation/needs have changed, and then non-critically share why they don’t feel Wildwind is the place for them anymore. Sometimes, though not always, they even express regret for not talking to me sooner, or other mistakes they may have made. The point is, they are honest, but vulnerable and open. I see their hearts and, whether or not I agree with their decision (sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t), I respect both that it is theirs to make and the way they are making it. I am filled both with regret over losing them, and with deeper love and respect for them, and this often becomes the basis for great fondness and affection between us that continues long after they are gone.
They express love for our people (and often for me), and appreciation for the relationships they have enjoyed. They affirm the value of Wildwind Church, and their respect for our calling and our work in the community. No pastor (except very toxic ones) needs to hear that he/she is perfect, or that their church is the best place for everyone. But everyone wants to be spoken to respectfully and lovingly and be appreciated for their work. This is true for all loving people as they attend, and true for all who lovingly leave.
They often share ways in which I, and/or my church, have impacted their lives and express an understanding that, for a certain season, Wildwind was the place for them. Most pastors understand seasons, that they come and go. Remember, most churches are right place only for a season even for the pastor.
Do not be concerned that you may be too gentle, and your pastor may fail to learn whatever lessons there might be to learn in your departure. No matter how kind and loving and reassuring you are, your pastor will probably ache when you leave. Even if you take great pains to assure them they have done nothing wrong, they will question themselves for a while. The sweeter and more loving and gentle you are, the more your pastor will respect you, love you, and miss you when you are gone. The meaner and more angry you are, the happier they will be to see you go. Who wouldn’t feel that way?
Some might think, “But I’ll be so angry. I’ll have so much I want to say.” I would ask whether you’ve had a conversation with your pastor already. If not, why have you waited? There is little point in saying those things now that you have already decided to leave. If you have talked with your pastor already, then your pastor already knows how you feel. Consider that he/she either did not agree with you about the situation and decided not to take action, or agreed and wasn’t able to take action for reasons only he/she knows as the leader, or agreed and is planning on taking action but now isn’t the time, or perhaps is still considering it. There are probably other possibilities, but these are the main ones.
In any case, what value will there be in venting your anger, frustration, or disappointment? Will you feel good about yourself after the conversation? If you see your pastor at dinner in a few weeks, will you be able to shake their hand and wish them well with a clear conscience? Regardless of why you left, won’t you still want the pastor to think well of you and not struggle to look you in the eye? Won’t you want to be proud of the way you conducted yourself, even if your pastor fell into the group of pastors who do not handle this stuff well? Do you ultimately want to leave a legacy of love, or of anger and negativity?