There is an epidemic of forced terminations among pastors. According to Barna Research and Christianity Today, almost 1 in 3 pastors will experience a forced termination sometime in their ministry.
The devastation that occurs is immeasurable. The unthinkable has happened and the debris field is widespread. The pastor is not the only one who is hurt. The pastor’s family can also experience a deep level of personal pain. Even the children are not immune to the consequences of a forced termination. And what about the church, the body of Christ? She also goes through confusion, hurt, misunderstanding, upheaval, and disillusionment. The ripple effects of forced termination are unwanted and unforeseen.
How do the pastor and his family navigate through these unknown waters?
1. Realize that you and your family will experience some effects of the grieving process.
You may experience anger, frustration, denial, depression, and confusion, as well as a myriad of other emotions. There is a deep sense of loss that goes with forced termination. Give yourself room to be human. It is okay to be angry. It is not okay to stay angry.
2. Recognize the anger and hurt that you are experiencing.
Forced termination means that you have been rejected on some level. You may never know what was really behind the termination of employment. It may be of value to write down your feelings, your anger, your hurt, and your questions. Writing things down will help bring clarity to our thoughts at a time when clarity is needed. Address your letter to God. Be honest with Him and then ask for His help.
3. Rethink your present situation.
You should probably give yourself time to process the pain before you make any major life decisions. It takes time for emotions to settle and the fog of confusion to lift. Too many pastors act too quickly and don’t give themselves or their families time to process.
4. Return to trusted counselors.
Close family members, lifelong friends, or respected mentors bring stability to our lives. It is vital to regain perspective from those who know you and love you. Allow these people to speak truth and encouragement into your life.
5. Revisit the truths that never change.
When your world is coming apart go back to the unchanging truth of God’s Word:
- He loves you with an unfailing love. (Psalm 13:5)
- He is present with you always. (Joshua 1:9)
- He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
- He is working behind the scenes for your good. (Romans 8:28)
- He is the God who specializes in healing broken hearts. (Psalm 147:3)
- He is still fully in control of all things at all places and all times. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)
- He will make a way where there seems to be no way. (Isaiah 43:16-21)
- He is good, kind, faithful, powerful, and gracious. (Mark 10:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 1:19; Psalm 145:8)
Pastors, you are not alone. Care for Pastors is a safe place to help you process the pain of forced termination. Reach out to us at careforpastors.org