One of the hardest moments for church planters and campus pastors has to be when one of the early core pioneers or pioneer families leaves the church. Every leader feels a loss when someone steps away from the vision, but when it is an early adopter, one of those there from the beginning, it is a deeper pain.
I have seen, and if were to be honest, given, two primary responses in these situations: blessing or blaming.
When a pioneer leaves, a leader confident of the vision will bless them. They will recognize their effort and what God has done through that person or family. That leader will celebrate the pioneer’s journey, even if it means losing them to “that” church across town. Vision-confident leaders remember that it has always been about what God wants to accomplish through everyone’s obedience, not just what He wants to accomplish at one particular church. God often brings addition through subtraction.
Conversely, when a pioneer leaves, an insecure leader will blame them. They will downplay the effort and involvement in order to not freak everyone else out. Insecure leaders will immediately build coalitions and create a narrative that they think protects the church, but in the end undermines everyone else’s confidence. The scarcity mindset is subconsciously contagious and begins to infect the organization and stifle growth.
To fight the urge to BLAME and build the ability to BLESS, here are two questions a church planter or campus pastor should ask of that person, of themselves and of the vision when a pioneer or core family leaves.
- After hearing why they feel called away, how much truth is behind their reasoning?
- In light of God’s vision for the church, what kind of response does this truth require?
A small amount of truth could require a large response if directly related to the core vision and calling of the church.
The opposite is true as well, a large truth might require very little response because of a clear calling toward a different vision.
Asking these two questions becomes a practice of developing leadership and focusing everyone, including the pastor, on the foundation of vision. The ability to be a healthy leader, and grow healthy believers, is found in the ability to bless, not blame, when someone leaves the church.