Clergy with Abandonment Issues

Don't Go

Sitting in a planning meeting yesterday, I referred to Clergy with Abandonment Issues and everybody nodded.  It’s something many of us deal with and it manifests itself in different forms:

  • Transience  – In many of our urban areas and especially with certain age groups, nobody stays in the same place for very long.  I’ve lived in places where people connect with the church in January and move to Topeka by August.  Ugh.
  • The Dones are Jumping Ship – As pastors, we try to equip leaders to serve and build community.  They volunteer to take on key roles.  We love them.  And then they realize they just aren’t connecting with God anymore and they drop out.  It hurts.
  • Everybody’s Dying – There are seasons when Everybody Seems to Be Dying.  Eighty-Somethings pass away after long, wonderful lives.  Thirty-something die – shockingly – in accidents.  Kids lose their lives when childhood diseases strike them.  It’s agony.
  • People Up and Vanish – There’s not even a Post-It note of an explanation.  Great people become part of the congregation.  They connect.  They are wonderful.  And then they disappear.  Did they secretly hate the church?  Did they die in a fiery crash?  Are they mocking you in a Starbucks somewhere?   Insecurities Abound.
  • Too Embarrassed to Face You Again – Someone – perhaps a new church person or a long-time church person discloses a Very Difficult Truth.   Addiction.  Adultery.  Incest.  Manslaughter.  Embezzlement.  And they cannot face you again post-confession.  Sigh.

Yes, there are congregations that remain the same for decades.  Nobody comes or goes much – even if we pray that they would.  But in the 21st Century, we pastors will need to brace ourselves for more good-byes than we were expecting.  It’s a real thing for clergy.  Sometimes we must simply grieve for those who have left us and the congregations we serve.  It’s part of the job.

GIF intended to soothe our pain.

2 responses to “Clergy with Abandonment Issues

  1. Becca Gillespie Messman

    Well said, again, Jan!


  2. Thought provoking. Thank you! I do serve a Presbyterian church in Topeka, Kansas; we would welcome the influx!


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