What To Do When Church Leaders Disappoint You
One of the most influential teachings I’ve ever received has been on when church leaders disappoint us. I think all of us involved in ministry of some capacity through the years have been let down, discarded, and overlooked by someone we esteemed, admired, and maybe even served.
Disappointment comes from an unmet expectation. We are all human, so it is unavoidable that we will all disappoint others and face disappointment ourselves. Only the Most High can make the infinite promise of “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” and the additional promise of, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
These are truths that most of us in ministry know in our head to be true, but that we often don’t receive as truth in our hearts. It’s easy to focus on disappointment and think, “But my Life Group leader didn’t ask me to be the intern when I’ve been serving faithfully,” or, “My pastor was short when I asked him if he had read my e-mail, and “My congregation just split, and I’ve just read fifteen e-mails about how terrible I am as a person.”
When faced with disappointment inside their church walls, church leaders often feel alone because their spiritual, social, and professional communities are the same entity.
For my friends in ministry, please know…you are not alone. I talk with candidates on a daily basis who are facing disappointment.
I hope these steps help guide you through the next time you’re facing disappointment.
1. If you’ve been hurt – let me applaud you because you chose to take a risk.
In any relationship, when you decide to invest yourself and commit your time, you’re risking rejection and pain. So to all those who have definable memories when I say the word “discarded” or “overlooked,” feel encouraged today because this means you risked your comfort to try something you felt God was calling you to do.
2. Identify the disappointment.
It’s okay to say out loud, “I was bothered by Pastor Ray’s lack of follow through.” It’s okay to state the fact and your feelings, but that’s where it should end. I submit to you that when we begin to insinuate, put reasons behind other’s actions without the offending party involved, we start walking down the slippery slope of building up a reproach against someone.
The disappointment might not even be a person, but a situation. It’s okay to say, “I’m disappointed that I wasn’t chosen to lead this year’s mission trip to Mexico.” Be intentional about getting to the root of your disappointment instead of immediately blame shifting. Is this disappointment a common reoccurrence that is an unhealthy pattern, or is this a one-time event? Once you can identify your feelings, you can begin the healing process.
3. Turn that disappointment into an opportunity to grow.
I talk with candidates on a daily basis who have faced disappointment. However, I’ve noticed a clear distinction between those who look at disappointment as an opportunity to grow versus those who continue to live in their pain. Seek healing from your disappointment and then learn from it. When we overcome obstacles, we gain confidence to face the challenges ahead.
My heart isn’t to write a blog post of spiritual platitudes. Yet, we cannot separate Jesus in the process of healing from disappointment. In my opinion, the first step to taking steps forward from disappointment is forgiving the one who disappointed us (which might even be ourself).
One of my favorite books with probably the most intense title ever, The Bait of Satan by John Bevere, speaks on the plights of unforgiveness.
On a spiritual level, the word of God is clear about forgiving those who have wronged us, but on a practical level – it’s for our own peace of mind. We must make the choice to begin moving forwards from the past through the vehicle of forgiveness.
How have you healthily handled disappointment as a church leader?