Pastoral Pointer | Saying "Goodbye" with Grace

Few things are as awkward or as hurtful to a pastor as the unexpected departure of church members for another local congregation. Their decision to leave may cause fear, defensiveness, and anger in the pastor’s heart while clouding his judgment and threatening his peace of mind. Left unchecked, his emotions might even compromise his ability to shepherd the ones who stay. How can a pastor not only manage his feelings, but also sow seeds of friendship and kindness that salvage the relationship and leave the door open that might one day welcome them back?

Pastoral Pointer: Take Some Time and Write a Note

Since caring about people is foundational to pastoring well, then any tangible way to show members or guests that they matter is invaluable. Few things have the impact of a personal note written on distinguished personalized stationery and finished with a wax seal.

Obviously, fountain pens are available at many price points and you can certainly find a hobby (or an obsession) collecting them, but if you are just entering the world of fountain pens or need one that will serve you well without a great expense, I recommend the excellent LAMY Safari with a broad nib, coupled with a robust and eye-catching ink. For the best writing experience and another way to demonstrate a careful attention to detail, invest in some high quality correspondence cards. I found my custom letterpress cards on Etsy. And to make your letter really stand out in the recipient's pile of daily mail, round out your effort with a wax seal, on the envelope.

No matter how well you write or what stationery you use, the most important element of a personal note is the sincere love and concern you communicate. People have an uncanny ability to see the truth of a caring heart and the pretense of an empty one that's just trying to gain an advantage. That's the difference between a true shepherd and a a hired hand. Jesus put it like this:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

(John 10:7-18 ESV)