by | Jul 27, 2023 | Calling, Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor, The Church, Transition

Welcome back to Week Three of Putting the Good in Goodbye . Hopefully, you’ve had some time to evaluate the questions we posed last week, specifically: What am I doing here?

If you know beyond a shadow of doubt you’ve been called by God to ministry and you’re currently serving where you’re supposed to be, this post is the next piece of the puzzle: Putting People in Their Place.

Don’t be taken back by the title—we are not talking about giving parishioners a piece of your mind when they upset you. In fact, it’s more about giving them a piece of your heart. 

“Somewhere, the American church began to believe a simple but dangerous lie: ‘The bigger the church, the better, and more successful it is.’ I’m not suggesting bigger is better or worse. However, the things leaders are willing to do to be ‘successful’ can cause incredible hardships to themselves and those around them, as well as cause the church to become something it was never intended to be. This dangerous thought descends quickly, and it looks like this – if bigger is better: 

Then the church I lead is a product to be consumed. 

The congregation and community are the customers. 


We must produce what our customer wants if we are to be successful. 

If our product isn’t enjoyed by our customers, we will soon be out of business.”  ~ Jim Wiegand, Putting the Good in Goodbye: A Healthy Conversation About the Comings & Goings of Church People 


Yikes. As church leaders, we have tried everything that’s worked anywhere for anyone at any time. And maybe it worked for a while. But, if we’ve chased after every church trend, we’ve missed the point.

The wrong perspective of the people who attend your church can become dangerous. If you see them as a means to an end or the embodiment of your success or your failure, take caution. When we see them as a commodity or that they “owe us” because we’ve “invested so much” in them, we’ve put them in the wrong place. They don’t “belong to us.”


God’s people are His people, not yours or mine

The time we have with those who attend the church we lead must be stewarded well regardless of how long they stay at our church. We understand the reluctance you may feel in adopting this mindset: If there is a good chance people will leave sometime in the future, why should I pour my life into theirs?

We do because this is what kingdom-minded leaders do. We are called to build the kingdom, not our kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s tempting to promise whatever it takes in an effort to change departure scenarios. In the early days of lead pastoring, my husband and I picked up the vibe that a long-time family in our church was on the cusp of deciding to leave the church we led. They scheduled a meeting with us to discuss picking up financial support for a mission’s ministry near and dear to their hearts—but outside of the scope of missions’ vision for our church. So, against our better judgment, we presented the ministry to our Missions Board and picked up the financial support, which stretched our church thin during the already tight economic downturn of 2008/09.

And guess what? The family left our church anyway.

Changing who we are and the vision the Lord has given us in a desperate attempt to keep people longer than we should, may leave us chasing our tails in a dizzying exercise in futility and identity blurring. We must learn to work from our identity instead of for our identity. Breaking news: Your ministry is not your identity. Your identity is rooted in your unshakable relationship with Christ.

We can put churchgoers in their proper place when we discover our true self is found in Him, not in our calling. We’re not pastors first who happen to love God. We’re lovers of God first who happen to pastor. 

The departure of some church people is inevitable. Being fixated solely on Sunday morning numbers becomes an unhealthy and (sometimes even dangerous) way to lead. Finding other ways to gauge health in a non-numbers-centric way can be helpful. Some ways we can do this include:

  • Fostering trust among leadership team and congregation.
  • Establishing a clear vision of the future with deadlines for arriving there.
  • Communicating that vision throughout all areas of the organization.
  • Align resources and people around the destination.

When we realize the people God has blessed us with are not a means to that end, we are released into a freeing atmosphere to love and bless those precious gifts He’s given us.

Next week we’ll outline how to behave toward people when they first arrive at your church. With that in mind, please take some time to reflect on the following questions.

  1. What are a few practical ways you can God’s people in their proper place?
  2. What measurements are you using today to determine the health of your church?
  3. Which measurements do you need to add? Subtract?


Cheering for you,

John & Jaime