An alarming trend I have seen — and have also heard about from several pastors — is the amount of hurting people who are leaving the church.
There are many reasons why this happens, but here are a few reasons I have seen firsthand:
- After a person goes through grief, their church family is usually excellent at being there for them the first few weeks, but when the grief intensifies several weeks or months after the funeral, it can feel as though they have been forgotten or abandoned.
- After going through a hurtful or tragic situation, many do not understand how to reach out or know what to say to the hurting person. The hurting person then feels avoided and assumes they’re not important or cared about, so they leave.
- A griever tires of being told unhelpful cliches (“At least they’re in a better place,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” etc) or they may be prematurely pressured to “get on” with life, without anyone truly taking the time to help them through their grief and pain.
- The hurting person’s church may not have a Care Pastor who they can talk to, or their church may not offer care ministries where they can find help and encouragement, so they look for a church that does offer these things.
- Church staff or church members deeply wound or mistreat others or “drop the ball” in a hurtful situation.
- After a big grief event or loss, they find it very challenging not to cry in church, especially during worship.
- After going through grief or loss, they feel such a strong void and intense pain that they do not wish to be around others.
- They feel they are being judged by their situation, or they feel embarrassed or self conscious about their loss.
These are just a few of the common challenges I frequently hear about why those who are hurting leave the church.
So what is the solution? What are we missing?
I believe the more we build the heart and spirit of our churches, the better we will be able to meet the needs of every member — especially when they are grieving or hurting.
People commit (and stay committed) to churches where:
- they trust and respect the church staff and leadership. The church ideally will also have a staff member or trained volunteers who are able to take on the role of being a Care Pastor to encourage and help those who are hurting.
- they are taught God’s Word and have continual opportunities to learn and grow in their faith.
- they are taught how to handle grief, conflict, disappointment, and spiritual warfare from a biblical perspective.
- they are offered the ability to attend strong care ministries, so they can be helped and encouraged during their toughest times in life. It is very helpful for those who grieve to have a place where they can be with like-minded people who “get” what they are going through in life.
- they are taught how to become a genuine community. They truly learn how to rejoice and mourn together.
- they feel genuinely welcomed, accepted and truly cared about
- they understand the value of being a part of a community and learn how to help each other and build one another up — genuinely encouraging and enjoying fellowship with each other.
- they feel they can truly “come as they are,” but are encouraged to grow…and have ample opportunities to do so.
- they experience depth.
- they can see the church has an overall agreed upon vision—without depth, unity, or vision, the people will perish, spiritually die, or leave during hard times.
- they have the availability to serve and help others and they understand the importance of their role in belonging and serving others.
- each member shows – in action – the love, mercy, character, and kindness of Christ.
- the church staff and members are real, genuine, and authentic.
- everybody feels like they belong.
Some more tangible ways of helping the grief community in your church are:
- Provide grief classes and care ministries to the bereaved
- Provide grief education at least biannually to every staff member so they understand how to better serve and minister to those who are hurting
- Partner with a trusted and respected Christian counseling center so you have a place to refer those who need extra encouragement and help. The counseling center can also refer their clients to your church’s care ministries
- Create a Care Card Ministry where volunteers make and send cards to those who have lost loved ones. Send those who are hurting a card once a month during the first year of their loss
- Create a Hospitality Ministry Team that can set up dinners for those who have lost loved ones. Ideally, this team can have volunteers “on call” who can make and deliver dinner each night (or at least every other night) for two weeks after a church member has lost a loved one. This team can also coordinate providing a lunch or dinner to the hurting family on the day of the funeral at the church or funeral home
- Host an annual grief conference at your church and extend an invitation to your entire city to attend. At the conference, have a table set up with information about your various care ministries. Also have flyers available that share details about your care ministries and the days and times they meet
- Be sure to share with your congregation info about the care ministries you choose to offer. Also, there are many free Bible Reading Plans on grief, trials, and hardships on the YouVersion Bible App. Find quality resources and encourage your members to get involved
- Take the time to truly care. Invite someone who is hurting out for coffee or ice cream. Listen to them and be there for them in their time of need. Be a good friend to them. When helping someone who is hurting, ask yourself, “if I (or a family member) was in their position, how would I want for someone to reach out to or be there for us?”
- If you know you have personally hurt, offended, mistreated, or wounded someone…or improperly handled a situation (past or present), have the integrity to reach out to that person and apologize
- If you notice someone who has been active in your church no longer attends, contact them to see how they’re doing and tell them they’re missed
I hope you found this article helpful. I pray that each of your churches are blessed beyond measure as you minister to and help the hurting! All you do for the grief community matters and is so appreciated so thank you for all you do!
Gratitude and many blessings,
©2016 Grief Bites. All rights reserved.
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For more encouragement:
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Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): Click here for book
FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
5. Singing Through The Storm: http://bible.com/r/Sj
Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com