A healthier way to say “goodbye” to people who leave your church starts with a healthier way of saying “hello” when they arrive.
Today I’d like to share a brief excerpt from a new book I coauthored with Jim Wiegand, Putting the Good in Goodbye
Jim: Few things are more rewarding than when a new person or family looks a pastor in the eyes and says, “We have decided to become part of what God is doing here.” In that moment, the costs fade and pastoring becomes so worth it. They get it! They see what I see! I’m not crazy! They value what I’m pouring my life into and they are going to share this burden, this dream, and this life with me!
John: But if we’re not thoughtful and careful, we can get overinflated by the arrival of people to the church we pastor. In this post we’d like to share three parts of a healthy “hello.”
Jim: The fastest way (in my personal experience), to see God’s blessings leave what I’m doing is to take credit for what He’s doing. A blessed AND humble leader is one of greatest balancing acts in the world. When everything is going wrong and people are leaving, no one needs to remind me to stay humble. But when God is blessing in visible and tangible ways, it is tempting to believe I am the “secret sauce” to that blessing.
John: The apostle Paul wrote: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). The most accomplished missionary in the history of Christianity, and the most prolific writer of the New Testament, never forgot where his success ultimately came from. His mantra? All I did was plant—God made it grow. It’s humbling to be used as an instrument of God in a person’s journey—and humbling to be reminded I’m only one of many instruments God will use to help them grow.
Jim: When people arrive at your church and connect, always remember the honor God has given you in being a small part of His huge story in their important lives, and be thankful to serve both God and them. Your job is to gratefully lift Jesus up high enough so He stands out in the crowd and can be clearly seen by those who pass by.
When Jesus picked me to play on His team, I couldn’t believe it! Not only did He choose me but He gave me abilities to communicate. This was noticed by my teachers in school, but not encouraged because it usually happened at the same time they were talking. Through the years, doors opened to speak in prisons, churches, school assemblies, to business leaders and military personnel. Each time I was able to connect with others and felt grateful to be a small part of some rather huge things He was/is doing in their lives.
Jim: It takes a special heart to reach so many and still hurt for the few. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables revealing his heart for those who don’t yet know Him: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son. Each time, Jesus shows us a glimpse of God’s broken heart for those He loves and the incredible value He places on “the one.”
When you love the lost and value them the way God does you will escape the two biggest traps waiting for everyone when people arrive at their front door. The first trap is to feel successful and satisfied. The second trap is to quit. Believe it or not, a growing church, even a healthy one, takes an incredible toll on those who serve it. The work is endless and can suck the life out of your soul, tax your family, and exhaust you in just a matter of a few good weeks
When you are in pain for those who do not yet believe, there is a much better chance you will stick to what you’ve been called to do even when it gets painful. Or better yet, you’ll learn how to rescue them without destroying yourself in the process.
John: God’s people are His people, not yours. When they arrive, remember to be humble, grateful, and broken. Always keep in front of you this: you are but a link—an important link—in a long chain of God’s work in their lives. This approach sets you up to better handle the part of pastoring every pastor deals with—when people say goodbye.
Learning to say “hello” in a healthier way will help you say “goodbye” in a healthier way.
Jim and I are rooting and praying for you!
P.S. You can pick up a copy of the book here: Putting the Good in Goodbye: A Healthy Conversation About the Comings & Goings of Church People