Scott Hodge


In and Out (Part 2 and long….sorry!)

Jul 6, 2007

In my last post I talked about the inevitable nature of people COMING and GOING in and out of our churches.  And as pastors and church leaders, I think our natural tendency is to be pretty excited when people COME and somewhat discouraged or frustrated when people GO. 

And since it seems like (most) people don’t leave well, it can become pretty hurtful when it happens.  In fact, I can’t even begin to tell you how many pastors I’ve known who have ended up really struggling with things like anger, bitterness and hurt – and so often as a direct result of PERSONALLY absorbing the “hit” every time someone decided to leave their church.

I can’t tell you how bad I want to learn from this and do everything I can to avoid burn out and living in a constant state of frustration over these types of things.  So a couple of years ago, I made some pretty important decisions in my life about how I would choose to handle people “leaving” the church where I lead. 

Here are a few of those.  (And for me, it all starts on the front end…)

  1. We won’t even TRY to be the right church for everyone.

    And that’s ok!  In fact, it’s not just “ok” – it HAS to be that way!
    Because the other alternative is to go ahead and try and be the right
    church for everyone, which does nothing more than create a confusing, schizophrenic church. 

  2. The clearer I am, the faster I can help people decide whether or not this is the right church for them.

    I try really hard to be clear and concise about our church’s mission
    and values.  I talk about it almost every chance I get – from our
    connections with our first time guests all the way to our weekend

    There is something very freeing about giving people permission
    to find another church where they will be able to better contribute and
    align themselves with.  I often find myself saying, “We don’t want you
    to be miserable here!  We understand that this church is not the right
    church for everybody…  And that’s ok!

    And it’s all rooted in recognizing our call to be a missional
    church – which means that when people join/partner with The Orchard
    they are first and foremost joining a mission.  And a mission is never
    more about those on the inside than it is about those on the outside.

    Being “vague” about the vision or “over-selling” the “programs”
    that our churches have to offer is probably one of the worst things we
    could ever do.  AND, it’s unfair!  It’s unfair to them, to you, and to
    the culture that you are trying to create.  On top of that, it paints a
    picture that tells everyone that the church exists to primarily meet "MY
    NEEDS" – instead of helping people see that first and foremost, the
    church exists for the benefit of those on the OUTSIDE.

    Our number one goal is not to “fill the seats” – it’s to create a
    community of people who are sold out to and believe in the mission of
    the church to impact our community with the love of Jesus.  I’d rather
    have 50 people who are committed to THAT than 500 or 5,000 who are just
    there to satisfy themselves.

  3. Only perfect pastors keep all the people.

And of course, there are no “perfect pastors” – which means that none of us will EVER be able to please everyone.  And as a pastor, you might as well face the fact NOW that you will never be “deep enough” or “caring enough” or “articulate enough” or “FILL IN THE BLANK enough” to please everyone. 

So please…..STOP TRYING! 

The only thing you and I are one day going to be responsible for is whether or not we heard God’s voice in our lives and then had the courage and faith to step out and obey Him.  That’s it! 

So stop trying to be the next “big name.”  Stop trying to sound or look or speak like somebody else.  Just be who God created YOU to be and stop apologizing for it! 

And then…  Figure out what you’re good at and stick to it!   Bring great people around you who will help you in the areas you are not as gifted in and then focus on being the pastor/shepherd/leader that God has anointed YOU to be.

I better stop now. 

More of my thoughts later on how I try to respond when people DO leave.

8 Responses to “In and Out (Part 2 and long….sorry!)”

  1. I think in seminary there should be a class called “Practical Ministry” and this kind of thing should be taught…with this post as a text for this section. Great thoughts, Scott, very helpful.

  2. Scott, I think this is exactly right. The leadership team often gets constrained or hung up by thinking they have to be everything to everyone, whereas actually the responsibility is to communicate the vision that God has given them and then communicate that clearly (which is often where things fall down). I would go as far as to say it’s unhealthy if no-one is leaving the specific church for another one. What do you think?

  3. Jeff Leake says:

    excellent. very helpful to pastors and leaders.

  4. Palmer says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m a pastor all the way out in Hawaii. I got turned on to your blog via Dan Kimball. Thanks for this series (and this part in particular). We are currently transitioning a dying old church into a more missional-minded, culturally relevant body. It’s a bummer to lose people, but your’re right, it’s a reality. We have to head in the direction that God has called us to, and we can only be who God has made us to be. Unfortunately that means that some will not be on board and for them, we’ve got to trust God’s sovereignty and know that there is probably a better place for them to be, where their needs can be met and they feel connected. Anyways, good thoughts. Mahalo (that’s ‘thank you’ out here).

  5. Scott says:

    We “left” a church about a year ago. We left because we felt strongly that God was calling us to serve somewhere else. He had been doing it for some time, but we were ignoring him.
    It turned out to be the greatest decision we have ever made as a family.
    I think you are right-on. In most cases, people leaving is a win-win. They will find the church home that God envisions for their lives. At the same time, the church can focus its energy and resources on reaching those who are connecting with the methods (probably a better word, but that’s all I have right now) you are using to present God’s Word.

  6. Having pastored 27 years before coming to IHOP, I’ve certainly had to work through this stuff. You are dead-on right. One pastor responded one time to “How is your church doing?” with: “Great, it’s dying slower than any other church I’ve ever pastored.” Of course, I was always perplexed by how I could have MORE LEAVE my church than ever came!!! It was an exodus multiplication. Wow.

  7. Chilly... says:

    keep it coming, Scott!

  8. Thank You Scott! I’d love to read more from you on this subject. It is very helpful and right on the mark!!

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