This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from The Bored and Apathetic Church Member, by John Savage.
Failure Perception – the constituent thinks or feels that they were failed in some way:
By a pastor
By another participant
The failure may be real or imaginary but is totally important and very personal to the person whose perception is that they have been failed, ignored or slighted in some way. The emotions expressed most often in this instance are anger, bitterness, sorrow, dismay or grief.
Failure Perception – the exiting constituent thinks that they are the one that has failed:
A pastor or others in leadership
Another individual, program or priority
The failure may be real or imaginary but has been known to be so overwhelming to the person that perceived they failed that they can name the day, hour and minute that the mistake, oversight or error occurred. The emotions expressed most often in this instance are shame, guilt, embarrassment, shock, sorrow.
Regardless of the flow if someone does not notice and within the first three weeks acknowledge and act upon a person distance themselves from a congregation that person will likely NOT return.
Another hard concept to deal with is that after the initial three weeks of “testing” to see if anyone notices and nobody does the separating person(s) will not return—UNTIL
A person transitioning out of a congregation either because they were failed or they failed will not return UNTIL. Until something critical (most often something negative) occurs in their life and they feel a stronger need to resume participation than the strength of the hurt or shame that brought about the departure. No amount of begging, pleading, encouraging and bribing or cajoling will speak loud enough for the departing person to actually return UNTIL that significant emotional event occurs in their life and they are drawn or compelled to return. And, sometimes those that exited will return to a community in Christ… but not the one from which they departed.
The key to all of this is monitoring participation and seeking to establish contacts within the very narrow window of opportunity to listen and seek, as appropriate, forgiveness and move toward reconciliation or offer forgiveness and move toward reconciliation.