Marc Brown offers ideas for what to do when a group of people from your congregation leave to begin a new work.
As worship pastors, we spend ourselves working and asking God to build a team (a choir, an orchestra, a band) that will help our congregations hear, know and respond to God. As our ministry grows, usually the personnel needed to fulfill our calling increases. The expectation for musical and spiritual excellence also becomes great. If your church happens to be located in an area with high turnover, the need for more personnel and necessity of excellence makes ministry even more challenging.
Regardless of these challenges, everything can be clicking right along, when one day, God breaks in and calls a significant group of people from your congregation to begin a new work. The new work could be a new multisite location, a house church network or other significant ministry initiative, but as far as fulfilling the ministry to which God has called you, it doesn’t really matter. All you know is you are left with fewer people to accomplish the same amount and quality of work. Even if considerable effort has been spent raising up and training leaders, the sudden exodus of so many can leave you scrambling to fill vacancies.
This problem isn’t unique to worship ministries or even churches; it can happen to anyone in any volunteer organization or business. However, when this happens in a church, there can be one aggravating component. Those who are departing may dominate the focus of the church to the point that you are tempted to feel as if your role, and the role of those who remain with you, has suddenly become insignificant. We should never be surprised or bothered when people depart because they see better opportunities to reach the lost, but we also need our struggles to be acknowledged. We need encouragement in the crucial ministry God has called us to continue.
Unfortunately, it can seem there is no way to express these feelings without seeming petty or unspiritual. The necessary role of new works to grow God’s kingdom is beyond question. But, for those of us left to maintain vitality and quality of worship in the mother church, it can be discouraging, especially when it feels sinful to even voice your feelings or point out the challenges you face. What can we do in circumstances like this?
1. Pray for and support the new work and those leaving to be a part of it. I have read several compelling studies that seem to indicate new church starts are significantly more effective in reaching unchurched people than established churches of the same size. These brothers and sisters in Christ deserve our love, our prayers and our unconditional support, not our criticism and resentment. In addition to prayer support, we should also demonstrate a posture of open hands with regard to sharing equipment and other resources.
2. Look to see how God is already filling your needs. I got an email from a volunteer ministry leader informing me of her intention to join the new work just four weeks before the start of the new school year and our annual kick-off for fall ministries. I assumed this unfortunately timed decision was the death knell for the ministry she led. I was wrong. In just a few days, God provided a new leader who was just as capable and even more passionate for the ministry. While all open ministry positions have not yet been filled, several have. Don’t assume that the start of something new means the end of something old. God’s plans involve you, too.
3. Rally your people. If you are feeling this way about your church’s new work, chances are others in your ministry are also. Those who remain with you need to know that there is still important Kingdom work to be done where they are. Prayerfully lay plans for your ministry and cast that vision to your people. Get them excited about what God has in store for their ministry.