Have you ever been mad at your church? Maybe someone hurt you. Maybe it was what someone said or did or maybe didn’t say or do. Maybe it was the way a situation was handled.
There are lots of ways a church can hurt you.
Truthfully, it’s not a “church” that hurt you it was certain imperfect people. The challenge is that every church has imperfect people so the probability of you being hurt or mad is high.
Of course, it’s not just limited to churches, any organization where you find people you’ll find the opportunity for hurt and misunderstanding.
I will be the first to admit that our church has hurt people. We have tried to apologize and make it right when the offended person brought it to our attention. In every situation the hurt wasn’t intentional although it felt intentional to the individual.
What we have found over and over again is that the root cause of the hurt was primarily a system problem.
What worked to help us care for people at one size of our church ended up hurting people as we grew larger.
Every church, every organization, every person has a system for everything they do. You may have never thought about your systems before because they’ve become so ingrained in your day to day routine, but they are still there. You have a system to get your laundry done but it looks a lot different than the system a hotel uses. You have a system for grocery shopping which is different from a restaurant’s. The goals are the same…clean laundry and fresh meals…but the scale is different and therefore the system must be different.
Recently, we received several nice cards from people in our church who had lost loved ones. They told us how loved they felt and how grateful they were to belong to such a loving church that showed up in their time of need.
I was encouraged to read those cards because I knew we had turned a corner. The care those families were benefiting from came at a very high price.
A couple of years ago we hurt a family that was very important to me and to our church because we didn’t care for them like they deserved when one of their parent’s passed away. This family poured their blood, sweat and tears into the church. They were generous in every way and we dropped the ball in a big way during their time of need.
Up until this point our funeral system, or the way we cared for people, was basically word of mouth. Someone heard about the passing of a loved one and passed it on. We didn’t have a specific system or person responsible for making sure everything that you would think a church was supposed to do during those moments actually happened. The system worked fine when we were smaller.
As we grew and added more staff everything about this word of mouth system became muddy. It wasn’t something we gave a lot of thought to because we rarely had funerals with so many young families. There was plenty to do with Sunday services coming every week and lots of events on the horizon.
Then it happened. I was away on vacation and scrolling through social media and I got a sinking feeling we failed this sweet family in a big way. I made a few calls to the staff and my worst fears were realized. We didn’t show up like we should have during their hour of need. Our system failed us and more importantly it failed this family.
I called and apologized right away, but you can’t go back and make something like that right. It breaks my heart that we hurt this family.
God has since healed that relationship, but I cringe every time I think about what didn’t happen.
A system, our system, hurt someone. It wasn’t a person who intentionally set out to hurt someone, it was a system that was never updated for a changing reality.
The challenge is that you usually don’t know a system isn’t working until someone gets hurt.
It’s certainly true in the church world. Our staff is doing so many different things trying to keep everything moving forward with excellence. There are so many things needing everyone’s immediate attention that it’s not always clear which systems need to be updated or changed.
Recently the propane company who services our building decided to make a delivery on Sunday morning at 10am. The driver parked his truck right in the front of our main entrance during our busiest service and proceeded to do his job of filling the underground tanks. We weren’t out of propane it was just a regular delivery that was made during the worst possible time for us.
He was creating a safety concern, not to mention that’s the last thing you want new families to see as they are walking in. What are the odds that he would pick the worst possible window out of a 7-day week to make a regular delivery? Our concerns weren’t obvious to the guy working in the system. He was just doing his job. He couldn’t see how his priority of getting the delivery completed was interfering with our priorities as a church.
The guy wasn’t trying to be a jerk or to create a safety concern for young families entering our facility. He was just trying to put in an honest day’s work and get his deliveries completed.
We could have told ourselves a different story about the delivery guy, but we chose to believe the best.
That’s the key any time you’re hurt…especially in a church situation, is choosing which story you tell yourself. When we are angry because of a broken system we tell ourselves the worst possible story. Stories like… they only use people, they play favorites, the church doesn’t care about me, or any other story that breaks us off from community. I think the enemy likes to whisper those stories in our ears.
When you find yourself mad at your church ask yourself this question…What system is broken that I could help fix so no one else experiences what I did? If you believe the hurt was intentional it will be hard to ask that question, but chose to believe the best. Choose to believe it was unintentional. Choose to believe they really do love you it’s just a broken system.
A staff member followed up with the propane company the next day and let them know what happened and our concerns. The company was extremely apologetic and put notes in our account so it wouldn’t happen again. We found out the driver was one of their best who was a hard worker just trying to get his job done. He only had the perspective of his system and didn’t see how it affected others. The company was grateful to know their system wasn’t working and so would any caring church.
When you get hurt it’s easy to let that hurt give you a negative filter. Don’t let it. Once you get a negative filter “you see things you never saw before”. You begin to “see” everything a church does in a negative light and that’s hard to shake once you get that filter.
Instead, believe the best. Believe they didn’t know or were just trying to make the best possible decision from their perspective. Don’t let your hurt drive you away, instead lean in and help make the system better.
“Happy are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” -Jesus