Dealing with Disappointment in the Church

Dealing with my Own Disappointment by griping less and getting more involved

Kate sent me this article after we had had a good talk about how often we (people in general) gripe about churches, specifically here in the UK.  It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and feel unwelcomed or not a part of the group.  Josh and I talked last year about me feeling not at home at our church.  I was quick to add that I blamed myself.  I knew that most of the problem was me not being able to be around for church functions or even just after-service fellowship.  This was a result of the kids needing their naps- and quick.  Luke would be red in the face and about to burst by the time the service was over, and we rushed home to feed them and get them down.  So, I told Josh, once Luke is a little older and we can get more involved, I’ll let you know if I feel the same way.  Even then, I started volunteering for creche once a month, and Josh helped start a young adults group, which we attended as a family.  I also started attending the church’s play group on a Friday morning, which put me in contact with a variety of the women from church, as well as some unchurched moms.  We also just went on the young adults retreat a few months ago.  The result is what I imagined- we feel much more a part of the family, and Josh is even going to start working for the church in the autumn.

So, I don’t mean to be too bold, but if you find yourself unhappy with your church (here or otherwise), ask yourself what YOU have done to remedy the situation.  I’m not trying to brag, but it made a huge difference when the parishioners saw that we were interested in getting to know them, too, and not just doing the standard “putting in our time while he gets a PhD.”  I also know that your schedule can make it tough to get involved- whether it’s work or the kids’ needs.  So, you may have to punt on intense church involvement for now.  I will be so bold as to say that it’s not really fair to blame the church or its staff for your own scheduling conflicts.

This is the article Kate sent me.  I pasted it below:

1. Did I ever ask for help? Pastors and elders are not omniscient. Even with the best shepherding strategies people will fall through the cracks. So if you really need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. I know everyone wants to be noticed. But it’s hard for a dozen guys to notice five hundred or two dozen to notice two thousand. Help your leaders help you.

2. Have I overlooked opportunities to fit in and get to know people? Before you complain that you’ve been at the church six months and still don’t know anyone, think about ways you could get known in the next six months. Is there a small group you could join? Could you attend the smaller, more informal evening service? What about volunteering for the nursery next time the sign up sheet goes around? Have you tried the potlucks and picnics and prayer meetings? Giving love and being loved is 90% just showing up.

3. Is it realistic for the leaders to give to every person in this church the kind of care I expect? It’s easy to think “All I wanted was one visit. You can’t tell me they were too busy to set aside one night for my family.” But remember you aren’t the only person at the church. If the general level of care you expect from your leaders cannot be multiplied by the number of people in the church, then you may be hoping for too much. If you expect everything, you’ll always be disappointed.

4. If I really wanted to be loved and noticed why did I stop showing up? On the one hand, church leaders should know when their members have drifted away. Good shepherds keep an eye on their sheep. But on the other hand, if sheep want to be cared for by the flock, they shouldn’t stay from it. People get hurt when their church absence isn’t noticed. But I have a hard time feeling too much sympathy, unless you’re dealing with a shut-in or someone whose absence is not voluntary. Don’t run away if you want to be found.

5. Am I willing to consider that I may be at fault more than I realize? If it feels like your leaders can never do anything right, maybe you’re the one making life miserable–for them and for you.

6. Is it possible I’ve overlooked ways the body has cared for me because I was hoping a different part of the body would care for me? Sometimes church members will say, “Sure, my small group sent me cards but the pastor never called.”  Or, “Yes the pastors were very friendly to greet me after church, but no one my age ever said hello.” Or, “I know the elders care for me, but that’s their job.” Or conversely, “True, my friends prayed for me, but I never heard from my elder.” Before you get angry, remember the goal is for the body to care for the body, not for the shoulder to always get a special backrub from its favorite hand.

7. In general have I found this church and these leaders to be unloving and unsupportive? If the answer is yes, and Question 5 is dealt with too, then you may need a different church. But if the answer is no, consider giving your church and your leaders the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just botched this one. We all get it wrong sometimes. I know I have. Maybe they were too busy and dropped the ball. Or maybe you don’t know the whole story. In any event, don’t let one misstep color your whole impression of their ministry.

For both sheep and shepherds the indispensable requirements for living together are love and humility. Love to treat others as we want to be treated. Humility to consider how we may be at fault. Disappointment in the church is bound to happen. But it doesn’t have to destroy the unity of the body. The Lord can use our hurts to make all of us slower to speak and quicker to listen.

Comments

  1. Great article. You were wise to acknowledge that your feelings could change once you were able to spend more time/energy wiry the people of your church. I keep saying, “this is a season…soon we won’t get called out of church every week due to Joy’s meltdowns…” ha!

  2. Great post!! I’ve had points where I’ve felt like my church wasn’t “reaching out” to me enough. Which is weird, since we go to a house church of about 10 adults (including me and Jon). Anyways, when I really evaluated my feelings/thoughts I saw that they were selfish and unrealistic. I find that if you’re willing to get in the thick of it, people are willing to get in there with you. You just have to step out and keep on going.

  3. Whew! Thanks! True, but a hard truth to swallow. Who wants to humble themselves enough to admit they may be at fault? =) We have been there and God had a lot to teach us during our time in that church.

    I appreciate that the article also left room for the possibility that sometimes the church is just not a good fit, because we have been there, too. And, again, God taught us a lot at that church.

    And now we are here and I’m sure God has even more he wants to teach us on the topic of His Church and on being the body of Christ!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. been meditating on these truths- thanks for the wisdom!

  5. insightful post