I'd like some feedback on whether I was too harsh with a letter I sent to a former church member. Here's the scenario:
- Wife is a strong believer. Husband is a non-entity. Says nothing and rarely comes. I'll call her Sheryl and him Fred.
- They've joined and left the church three times in the past 8 years.
- Wife is heavily involved in children's ministry, and is a strong leader.
- I've suspected they've been unhappy for a few months, but they have rebuffed my attempts to meet, have them over for dinner, etc. to chat about things.
Here is the email the other pastor and I received earlier this week:
Dear Tyler and George,
I am writing to let you know that over the past few months Fred has asked that we look for a new church. The time has come for us to do so. While we don’t know where that will be, the Lord does. We continue to be in prayer over the matter.
Of course I will no longer be available for the mission team, the finance committee or the children’s program.
We pray for the Lord’s very best for SKRBC.
After speaking to the other children's ministry teachers, it is now clear she has been unhappy for some time, and has told them she may leave several months ago. She told me nothing. I respond in a tentative manner, hoping for a face to face meeting:
I understand. My crystal ball told me this might happen, which is why I asked to meet with you and Fred a few weeks ago. If you and Fred want to meet to at least clear the air, just let me know. No worries.
She responds after several days:
Tyler and George,
Tyler, forgive me for not getting back to you sooner. I do want to assure you that there is “no air to clear.” The decision to leave SKRBC was not made in haste, not made lightly, nor made out of anger. We have NOT been offended, nor do we have differences doctrinally. It is not about anything that anyone has done or has not done. It is a decision made after much prayer and conversation between the two of us that really boils down to personal preferences. This decision is important to us as a couple in our faith walk and important to our marriage as well.
It has been a privilege and a great love to serve at SKRBC these past few years. I have grown and learned much. I appreciate the trust you placed in us and the support and encouragement provided.
We will continue to be in prayer for SKRBC, for the leadership of the church and those who attend. We desire only God’s very best for the church and for each of you and your families as you continue to lead the ministry.
Realizing that I now have nothing to lose, I decide to tell her what I'd planned to say if we'd met in person:
I understand. I wish George and I had been afforded the opportunity to chat with both of you, together, about your concerns. I don't know what the personal preferences are and, to some extent, it doesn't matter at this point. I'll close by telling you a few things you already know. (1) No church is perfect, and the church you find next won't be perfect either. (2) When you find a new church, love it to death, get heavily involved and become a key leader in a ministry there, and after a few years when you notice small things you don't like, and deal with it for a while, then eventually decide these personal preferences are too serious to deal with anymore, and you decide to leave that church - remember #1, above!
I don't say this out of spite; I genuinely just want you to consider it. According the church records, you've now joined and left SKRBC three times. Church membership is about commitment, and a desire to work together to fashion the congregation into a more Christ-like body, bit by bit, as we carry out the Great Commission. It's also a very messy business, which often has little to do with the lily-white, pious expectations we have in our own minds. It's also a place where we each need to be willing to bear with one another in love (Eph 4:2); i.e. to put up with one another - especially the personal preferences we don't like. There are a lot of things I wish I could wave a magic wand at and fix at SKRBC. But, many of these aren't critical and they can wait their turn. This is different than ignoring them, which, to be sure, some leaders do.
Thanks for your help and ministry at SKRBC. I hope you find a Christ-honoring congregation to attend.
Too harsh? I really don't think so, but I wanted your opinions!