First, you’ve got to know that for a southern gal, that’s about as angry as it gets. I just heard from the second Children’s Pastor this week, the fourth since the new year, who had to leave their position or will be let go soon. These are servants who did not spend too much, paint over a mural from 100 years ago, or even offend a saint of the church. Because I know too many of the details, I could just spit!
Yes, God will turn it all for good. Yes, God did not do this to them. Yes, leadership is stewardship and He’ll give it to whomever He pleases. But the cuts from stained glass go deep and wide. Having experienced this heart-wrenching trauma of leaving a local church without a ‘celebration’…what can and should we do?
First, please don’t be silent. They not only lost their job, but their church, their support system. They feel they’ve lost their closest friends in the Lord, and their spiritual history with that local church has just taken a huge hit. And so has their family. Call them. Text them. Love on them with a note, a card, a gift card, flowers, dinner. You may not know what to say, but please don’t act like they never existed. It is heartbreaking for the phone to stop ringing today when they had to answer 75 emails about an upcoming event just yesterday. If and when they don’t answer the phone, keep loving on them in ways you’ve loved on them before. There is no disloyalty in extending the hand of compassion, sharing a word of encouragement, tying a balloon on their mailbox, or even dropping off flowers on their front doorstep. Please don’t be silent.
Also, if they’ve had an impact on your life and your ministry, write them a letter. Tell them of their influence and share a story or two. Words on paper can be re-read often. As Dr Phil shares: even though the ‘meeting’ took place once, it repeats itself in a recurring loop, along with every relative conversation that comes to mind. Then they end up hearing and experiencing it hundreds of times. They need new words, encouraging words, to record over the loop running repeatedly in their head. They lost their job, not their life, not their calling. They need to hear that mantra….a lot.
And for goodness sakes, pray for them…and their spouses…and their kids. Their spouses are angry. Their kids are lost. If the kids are really young, they don’t understand why they can’t be at the only church they’ve ever known…essentially their second home. If the kids are older, they will struggle between being loyal to their hurt parent or their small group that helps them set the world aright each week. The professional Christian educator feels guilty for bringing this grief on their family. Ugh!
Oh, and their heart is also broken for the kids they’ve left behind…who they’ve known since before the kids were born…who visited them at the hospital on diagnosis day….who came to school and had lunch with them…who has nurtured each child into the call God has on each life since they were in the nursery…who was Jesus with skin on every single day.
Professional networking groups are pivotal relationships at this time. If a colleague is now ‘a ship at sea,’ BE the church for these folks until they dock at their new harbor. Invite them to your church. Remind them that they lost their job, but not God’s calling on their lives. Speak truth of how Jesus redeems, repairs, restores, and remembers what betrayal, loneliness, and hurt looks, feels, and sounds like. Provide a lunch of laughter, share a trip to the mountains, and hold their hand as they grieve and seek to become whole. Be the instrument of peace, the salve of comfort, and share the journey.
When people lose their jobs, their family of faith surrounds them with support, encouragement, and fills their hope-tank until they can fill it on their own again. But when it happens at church, it’s just different. And I’m so angry, I could just spit!
“If you can extract the precious from the worthless, then you can be my spokesman.” Jeremiah 15:19