Amy wrote me a week ago to ask if I would be interested in a guest post about how to handle friends leaving your church. She has such wisdom and encouragement to offer that I jumped at the chance to feature her writing here today.
Amy is a wife, mom, writer, photographer, and artist, but most of all, as she puts it, “a child of God learning to find the joy and see the extraordinary graces in the seemingly ordinary.” She blogs at Ordinarily Extraordinary sharing what God is teaching her and hopefully encourage others along the way. You can find her on twitter as @amykiane.
There is no easy way to leave a church. I know. I’ve been there. Two years ago I sensed that God was leading us away from the church we attended for thirteen years. For months we struggled to come to terms with the issues that bothered us. Our friends were there and it was the only church our son had ever known. Making a change was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, but it was by far one of the hardest decisions.
Along the way the actions of some friends helped and unfortunately the actions of others did not. When our identity is found in Christ and not entangled in a specific denomination or church we will be able to support and love our friends when God leads them elsewhere.
Don’t Take Offense
More than likely your friend leaving your church has nothing to do with you personally. They may have issues with the leadership or the doctrine of the church, but it isn’t about you. So much of how we identify ourselves can be rooted in a specific church. I have been guilty of this. The danger of this comes when we alienate friends who decide that how we worship or do church doesn’t work for them. When friends leave our church it’s important to realize that it’s not personal.
Leaving a church doesn’t mean your friends no longer want to be a part of your life. If your Sunday School class or small group is close and socializes together outside of church your friends still want to be included. More than that they need to feel included. By including them you show them you still love them. In the midst of making a hard but right decision they need this more than you know.
Ask Questions with an Open Mind
Ask them about their search or the new church they are attending and be open minded. I still find myself hesitant to share about the church we now attend with some friends from our previous church in fear of offending them. The friends I do share with are the ones who ask and are open-minded. They realize that church does not have to be done a specific way.
Be Supportive and Understanding
Leaving a church you’ve been a part of for a while is a difficult decision and your friends may or may not choose to share their reasons for leaving. When we decided to leave it was important to us not to cause dissension or color how others saw the church. For this reason we remained very quiet about what caused us to leave. The friends who were understanding realized that God’s plan for them was not necessarily His plan for us. Their support and happiness for us gave us the courage to move out of our comfort zone into the plans God had waiting for us.
What has been your experience when leaving a church? How did your friends react?