Tag Archive | Church

Helping The Hurting To Stay In Church

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Church staff or church members deeply wound or mistreat others or “drop the ball” in a hurtful situation.
  6. After a big grief event or loss, they find it very challenging not to cry in church, especially during worship.
  7. After going through grief or loss, they feel such a strong void and intense pain that they do not wish to  be around others.
  8. 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:

  1. Provide grief classes and care ministries to the bereaved
  2. Provide grief education at least biannually to every staff member so they understand how to better serve and minister to those who are hurting
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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?”
  9. 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
  10. 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,
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!❤️

For more encouragement:

Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

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

❤️

Loving The Hurting, Remembering The Forgotten: An Important Challenge To Churches Everywhere For 2016

This morning, I attended a very special All Staff meeting at my church.

We received phenomenal leadership and encouragement about change from our pastor. It was a great time of worship, vision, learning, and community.

While Pastor Craig was sharing his heart, my mind began to come up with so many fresh, new ideas of change for my grief ministry, as my spirit absorbed the wisdom, passion, creativity, and vision God had planned for me.

I have a huge passion for those who hurt, those who feel rejected or displaced, those who deeply grieve, those who feel life can never be better, and those who have turned their back on God and the church. And I absolutely love that my pastor has a huge heart for these precious groups of people as well!

I’ve felt the sting of each of these situations through different seasons of my life, and none of them were a fun place to be. Because of personally experiencing these situations, God has been good to allow me to gain insight and understanding so I could know how to encourage and help in these areas…but today I wondered “is it enough?…am I doing enough?” 

The answer, if I’m honest with myself, is no, not always. 

So another question came to mind, “what can you change?…what needs to change?

Every church cares. Most Christians truly care.

Every church wants people to feel as though they belong. Many Christians go out of their way to show love and acceptance.

Every church truly wants to minister to everyone. There are a lot of staff and Christians who spend many, many hours in ministry helping and equipping others. 

Every church wants to make a huge difference. There are too many ministries to count that genuinely make incredible impacts.

So what are we missing? Also, who are we missing? 

What changes can we all implement to be more loving, accepting, kind, and effective so we can minister, serve, and encourage to the best of our abilities to make the absolute greatest impact?

There are no perfect Christians, no perfect churches, no perfect ministries, no perfect staff, no perfect people, no perfect anything. Perfection is something we definitely pursue, but Christians fall short…all people fall short—regardless of their religious affiliation. Ministries fall short…just like workplaces fall short.

So how do we bridge the gap between the church and people who are hurting…people who are deeply grieving…people who have given up on—or even reject—God and the church…people who have never and won’t even consider stepping foot in a church…people who feel like life is hopeless?

I’m truly excited by what God showed me this morning and the ideas He gave me!

I look forward to ministering like never before, serving more vibrantly, boldly caring, and writing more in 2016.

As you read this, you may not share my enthusiasm. You may even have already thought of past hurts you’ve experienced.

If you fit into any of the above categories, I hope you’ll closely follow my blog and find encouragement. I am so very sorry if you have been wounded or offended by someone in the church…so very sorry if you’ve experienced deep grief…incredibly sorry if you ever felt as though life was hopeless or made to feel that your life was void of value…so sorry if an event happened that made you turn your back on God and the church. Truly, truly, genuinely sorry. If someone has not sincerely apologized to you personally, then I offer my deepest apologies as a part of the body of Christ!

God has great compassion and incredible love for you! You DO matter! Your life IS valuable! Your heartache, grief, and pain DOES count! God hears your heart’s pain and cries…and if anyone on earth failed to hear, understand, or realize your pain or grief (or failed to make it right), that is NOT okay with God…and I guarantee you it truly broke His heart. 

This year, I want to vibrantly continue to help and encourage the grief community, and I also want to pour into people who have felt hurt and offended by anyone in the church.

I look forward to encouraging everyone in 2016…especially with the vision God gave me today!

Rolling up my sleeves to truly make a greater impact is my heart’s desire this year. If you are a part of any church, please join me in this endeavor. It is desperately needed! 

If you know of anyone who has been through deep grief, anyone who is down in life, anyone who has been deeply hurt or offended by the church—whether by church staff or fellow believers, reach out to the offended and the hurting! 

We need to never be so quick to be offended or put off by a person’s disbelief, mistrust or abrasiveness…instead, we ought to look into their hearts and seek to understand the reason behind why they’re hurt, offended, or bitter. There are a crop of people we need to seek to intentionally love back to life! 

We, as the Church, constantly say and promote, “it’s okay not to be okay”…but then when people aren’t okay, or they later become not “okay,” do we as the whole church truly put our money where our mouths are and intentionally pursue the hurting and also genuinely care when others are hurt, offended, or leave?

Church is a family…ultimately one big family…who will ALL be living together in heaven some day. Is it not going to cause us shame when we see Christ and have to explain to Him how we treated some people as unvaluable or, worse, disposable?

Helping others and conflict resolution can be uncomfortable. It can be gritty and messy, for sure—definitely not all cotton candy, unicorns, sunshine and rainbows. It requires sacrifice and selflessness. People are worth it, though. So very worth it!

Isn’t this exactly what God did for each of us? I am forever grateful to those who loved me back to life and those who intentionally invested in me. Because they took the time to genuinely care for a broken, hurting, mess of a young lady years ago, my life was spectacularly changed! Now, all because of their love and concern, 200 million users on YouVersion have an opportunity to read the Grief Bites reading plans, and people in 110 countries receive grief encouragement weekly on my blog. None of this would’ve happened had certain people not seen me as someone valuable enough to care about. I had plans to be an atheist and reject God and the church…but I saw—and truly experienced—Christianity in the most pure, loving, amazing, kindest form. And it made all the difference in the world!

Who else in the world needs to experience the love of Christ? And what amazing spiritual gifts are hidden behind each hurting or hardened heart?

Sometimes, people have hearts that have had a lot of mud flung their way. Who is willing to accept the challenge to use their Christ-like love to water and nurture these hearts so their true heart can shine through?

People who have been through major grief, life challenges, or tough circumstances in life, they all have hidden treasure locked inside of them…each has their personal life story that can help others. What stories are not being shared due to not being nourished and nurtured? Like Pastor Rick Warren says, “Who better to help the grief community than someone who has been through grief? Or the atheist community than a former atheist? Or the addiction community than one who battled addiction?” There are a wealth of amazing people out there who are being lost in the shuffle and it’s up to the church to love, help and encourage them. If they were once plugged in and left a church…and no one cared…that falls on each of us.

Every person has great value and has the amazing ability to create lasting change inside and outside of their church. Ask God to use you and ask Him to show you where…and with who…He wants you to begin!

We have 11 1/2 more months of 2016 to see what God is capable of doing through this challenge. Let’s seek to obey Him with everything we’ve got!

Make the incredibly important decision to love the unlovely, encourage the hurting and grieving, and to go after the ones who have left or abandoned their faith so they know someone cares…so they know that God and the church truly does care.

I know this will be some of the best time we’ll spend this year in service and devotion to God!

Be His heart…be His hands…be His feet!

So who is up to this challenge?

I hope everybody!

Every single day, ask God to show you someone to encourage, and ask Him to bring to mind those who have left the church or who have abandoned their faith.

May God richly reward and bless you as you love people back to life and shine the brightest light possible for Him this year!

Gratitude and many blessings,
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

If what you read was helpful, please feel free to share it❤️

For more encouragement:

Best decision of your life: http://peacewithgod.net

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
2. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 
3. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 
4. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

❤️

Grief & Holidays—helpful tip #5

Going through grief during the holidays brings many challenges—seen and unforeseen.

Grief, especially during the Christmas season, can feel like a minefield of the soul. Step left, and you’re okay…but step right, and an explosion of memories and heartache can blow right up in your hurting heart.

Today’s holiday grief tip is: Watch out for, plan for, and be mindful of triggers.

While going through deep grief, there usually isn’t much of a desire to do anything at all, but with a few preparations, many situations that can present further heartache can be pre-planned for, contained or avoided.

Whether you have lost a treasured loved one, are going through illness, a divorce or family conflict, or are going through another heartbreaking loss, grief during the holidays can certainly bite. Grief can bring many unwanted surprises and heartache that hasn’t been planned for. It also can be a challenge to balance grief, while also honoring and treasuring remaining loved ones. Hopefully, today’s tip can help prevent further grief so the holidays are more peaceful.

Some people who are deep in grief have the full ability to do all of the usual Christmas traditions and activities they’ve always enjoyed doing…this even brings great comfort to some. For others, doing the usual activities and traditions feel as though their heart is being pierced with an indescribable pain. 

Sometimes, there’s a need for a griever to change things up so they can figure out how to enjoy the holidays once again. No choices need to be permanent or “set in stone”…change may be needed just for this year. 

No matter which you are experiencing, if you’re needing to change things up or keep things exactly as they are, here’s a list of questions to help you navigate through the holidays (and triggers) as comfortably as possible:

  1. Traditions~ What triggers do you think have the potential to surprise you? Is it putting up your usual ornaments or doing your usual traditions that previously held great sentimental memories? Is it baking your treasured loved one’s favorite recipe or a baked good they loved? Will doing these things trigger feelings of fond remembrance…or will they trigger deeper heartache? Also, consider places that are tied to traditions. For example, if you recently lost a spouse, and you always went to get coffee or a meal together at a specific coffeehouse or restaurant, will you feel comfortable or uncomfortable seeing other couples at the same place? Or if you lost a child, please consider if it will be too hard to go to the mall and see children there with their parents? Sometimes, it is hard for grievers to see all of the joy-filled couples or families while out shopping or dining. Shopping online or getting take-out can truly be a griever’s best friend during the holidays. Consider all of the traditions that you treasure and then decide which you would like to do, and which ones to wait until next year to do.💕
  2. Events~ What events do you feel you could enjoy, and what events might prove to be too painful to attend this year? What events do you think can provide you with feelings of love, encouragement, and hope? What events do you feel may no longer interest you? Events should make you feel better, and definitely not worse. Look out for any events that you feel would simply be too hard to attend this year. 
  3. Relationships~ Who has been helpful or encouraging to you in your grief? Are there loved ones in your life who don’t quite understand grief or what you’re going through? Is there anyone in your life who you can ask for extra support this holiday season? Grief, sadly, reveals the depth of majority of a griever’s relationships. Relationships can be a blessing, or they can definitely become challenging during times of grief. Communication can greatly help to prevent confusion and heartache. What if you’re already at a family gathering or a friend’s holiday party and you begin to feel uncomfortable? Sometimes, it can be a necessity to go to a different room at gatherings or events if you’ve tried to communicate with loved ones about your grief, yet they continue to compound your grief and cause further conflict. Ideally, do everything possible to keep and maintain peace, but sometimes, it may be best to distance yourself from additional hurt by preventing relational triggers…and instead, primarily and purposely be around those who will offer you kindness and support at family gatherings or friend events. Avoid conflict, especially with family, as much as possible. And always realize beforehand that emotions can be heightened during times of grief so preparation may be needed. Whatever choices are made, do everything in love.
  4. Usual enjoyments~ There are so many things to savor and enjoy during the holidays…all of the sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes, memories, and joys…but after grief shows up, be prepared that these things can now potentially trigger intense feelings of loss and heartache. What favorite holiday enjoyments could possibly be a trigger for you this year? For example: What Christmas songs can bring sadness this season? You might want to make a playlist that you create to avoid hearing songs that will intensify grief. Think about the things you’ve previously enjoyed and decide which you’ll want to savor and enjoy…or not. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until next year to try to enjoy familiar holiday enjoyments if they prove to be too hard, sad, or daunting this year.
  5. Church~ If you’re used to attending church holiday services, or if you’ve never attended, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. Christmas services are an amazing experience every year! Be prepared, however, that they may be much more emotional this year. When going through grief, feelings can be very intense. If you’ve allowed God to guide you and encourage you through your grief, attending Christmas services will be a much more meaningful experience for you. After my sister’s fiancé passed away, she was surprised to find that heavy tears surfaced out of nowhere as the church band played. Be prepared for possibly more intense feelings during church services this time of year. If you know you’ll feel uncomfortable attending services, check to see if your church offers online services. Many churches do. Saddleback, Elevation, and Life.Church all have fantastic online Christmas services. Sometimes, it is very helpful to go ahead and attend church in person so you can be around others and not feel so isolated or alone. There is no wrong or right answer, so do whatever brings you and your family the most peace.

Being mindful of triggers definitely doesn’t mean to avoid Christmas activities or enjoying your loved ones this year. There are so many wonderful things about the Christmas season that can bring unimaginable joy to your heart! Just being prepared, as well as a little planning, can ensure a much more relaxed, comfortable, and more enjoyable and peace-filled holiday season.

Wishing everybody love, peace, encouragement, healing and HOPE throughout this beautiful season and the new year!

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

For more encouragement:

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

2. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 

3. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 

4. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (book that shares tips on grief and traditions & holidays): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617