Posted November 20th, 2011 at 09:07 AM by Lois
You are planning to leave your church, but you don't know whether to write something or talk to the pastor. In a healthy church, this would be easy...but in an unhealthy one, you need to take care.
We are all familiar with people being read their rights and part of what is said is that "Anything you say can, and will, be used against you." Unfortunately, though an unhealthy church doesn't tell you this, the same holds true with them.
For years I have cautioned people against giving details in any email or letter they may write when they leave. If you include anything perceived to be negative, it will be used against you. That would include sharing any thoughts on doctrine being incorrect, how the church is run, problems there, and so on. In an unhealthy church, these things will be shared with others, to put you in a negative light, and to keep people from talking to you. That, in turn, checks others who may be having similar thoughts. The letter, or portions thereof, may be shared with members and you may even find it as a main feature in a sermon.
So if you write a letter of resignation, and I would encourage that (more in a future post on this), keep it brief and simple. Don't share your reasons for leaving, don't mention disagreements or problems. If you can do it sincerely, thank the pastor or church for something that helped you or share that you leave with some good memories. And don't share where you will be attending church, if you already decided on that. By keeping it short and simple, you will save yourself some heartache and won't be giving the leadership any ammunition to use against you or church members.
The pastor may press to talk to you first, but understand that the purpose may be to persuade you to remain and maybe tell you where you have gone wrong. You may not have shared why you are leaving, but sometimes you can give off unspoken signals in the weeks or days before leaving. They may well be interpreted as being backslid, rebellious, unteachable, and anything else negative.
You have no obligation to speak to the pastor if you do not wish to. If you know the pastor is abusive, avoid it. Also, be aware that sometimes they will take the opposite approach and maybe even sympathize with you and promise things will change. This approach has sometimes worked, and the person is holding onto the proverbial carrot on a stick that they will never get.
So- once again, a caution to guard your own heart in how you leave. And remember- anything you say can, and will, be used against you.....
For anyone interested, here is my resignation letter, with names omitted. I would probably write it differently today, omitting the part about changing churches.
Dear Bro. ___:
Recently I have made the decision to leave the ___ Church and attend
another church. I have...