Pastors embezzling money, getting caught looking at porn, having affairs, the list goes on and on. What should church leaders do when a leader falls?
- Tell the Truth to your church family.
People are hurting and talking a lot to one another when a leader has made a bad sinful decision. These conversations can quickly balloon and turn into untruths, suspicions and assumptions that can further cripple the church family. It’s best to have a formal gathering where a statement is read and published for all to read and hear. Too many details do not need to be shared but the sin needs to be named publicly. This is the first step in guiding your church family to healing. Hiding what happened can split churches. Protect your church and tell the truth.
- Minister to the fallen leader, their family and anyone else that was directly involved.
It’s Godly to offer to pay for a series of therapy sessions for the fallen leader and their family. We need to acknowledge that the public exposure of sin is MOST painful to the leader and their family. Give them hope that they can get through this and heal. If there’s another family directly involved, like with an affair or an abusive situation involving a minor and their family, it’s also crucial to minister to these families too. If there’s an addiction problem, offer help and be the kind of church that believes our God restores and heals. You can be clear that offering help doesn’t mean the fallen leader can still have their position of leadership.
- Caution: Do not make rash decisions as a reaction to what’s happened.
It’s ok to step away, pray and wait in moments when our emotions are high. Do not underestimate the value of prayer and asking for God’s leadership.
- Reach outside your congregation for guidance and support.
Most denominations have a consultant that can help guide you through a healing process and help connect your church to healthy people who can fill in for you. Remember the other pastors on your staff team are also experiencing emotions as well and it would be a gift for them not to have to take on everything immediately. Invite an outside speaker that has experienced something like this to address your church family.
- Be clear about the steps ahead.
Be clear about whether or not this fallen leader will have the opportunity to be the leader in the future. Let people know what the plan is to fill the fallen leader’s responsibilities in the meantime while church leadership can regroup and plan the next steps. Communicate these steps as they are taken and this will relieve some stress for everyone.
- Focus on ministry and celebrate what God has done in your church.
Be quick to remind the church family of their God stories! Celebrate what God has done among you. Inspire one another to look ahead and focus on doing ministry instead of gossip and negativity. Lead your people to God. You are still God’s church!
- Lead your church through a process of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is essential for the church to heal and move on. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything is ok and will go back to normal. Forgiveness is a process and we cannot allow what a leader did to define the church. Model forgiveness for your church family and speak forgiving words.
- Later on down the road, the job description for the open position should be visionary, not reactionary.
Many churches hire the opposite personality of a person they had to fire or ask to resign. While this doesn’t seem rational this happens in churches frequently. Hiring should be visionary and about where the church needs to be led, not a reaction to what’s transpired.