Dealing with Change

by Dr. William B. Knippa

Our pastor recently accepted another call, and it’s been a blow to all of us in the congregation. He’s the most incredible pastor our church has known. We all thought he and his family were happy here. I’m especially worried about how this will affect my 14-year-old son, who greatly respects the pastor. I know this is God’s divine call, but I just can’t believe this is happening.

Your conflicting emotions are understandable, given the high regard, respect, and affection you have for your outgoing pastor. You are experiencing the grief that comes with the loss of a significant relationship. Grief has many faces, some of which you might recognize: Anger at the person for leaving (as contradictory as that seems, it is not uncommon), fear about what changes the new pastor will bring, or confusion about how to respond to this transition. I affirm you for reaching out for help, and I encourage you to stay on this courageous path by talking with a trusted friend or counselor—and taking it to the Lord in prayer.

I offer a word of caution about thinking your pastor’s leaving had to do with his being unhappy with the congregation. You might be asking, “Would he still be with us if we had done some things differently?” The fact is that he received the call and he accepted the call. He may have been unhappy. On the other hand, he may have been very happy with his ministry. There are, no doubt, many pastors who, while content in their place of ministry, felt moved to accept the Holy Spirit’s call elsewhere.

It’s obvious that you are concerned about your son during this significant transition. I recommend that you give him every opportunity to talk about his feelings. While you cannot protect him from his own grief, you can support him in the process. Perhaps there is a way he can stay in touch with this man he respects. This is also a good time to seek out other adults who can serve as a positive role model for him.

You and your fellow saints have played a vital role in creating what appears to be a wonderful spirit in your congregation. You can be assured that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through you as you take part in the exciting process of calling a new pastor.

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