Five Healing Steps to Take After Your Pastor Falls
By Christine Hammond, LMHC
The news is out. Your Pastor did something completely out of character. Perhaps they had a physical or emotional affair, stole money or misappropriated funds, secretly abused a family member, or hid an addiction. Whatever it was, it has devastated the church, shocked the community and perhaps destroyed their family.
Understandably, you will experience conflicting emotions and racing thoughts as you process what has happened. This is a normal response as you begin to grieve over the loss of your Pastor. Here are some of the possible reactions that might occur.
“My Pastor couldn’t have done that.” Usually the first initial response is to disbelieve that your Pastor could have done anything like this. After all, who wants to believe that any Pastor is capable of such a thing? Nothing makes sense. The person you know and trust doesn’t match with the accusations. So, you refuse to acknowledge the evidence. This is why denial is a powerful defense mechanism because it allows you to disregard information that is contrary to your belief system.
“How could my Pastor betray us like this?” Once the realization of the truth has settled any remaining doubt, you become angry. There is outrage that a Pastor could do such a thing, irritation that others did not foresee it, frustration that you trusted, and infuriation that God seemed absent. It is not uncommon to experience feelings of wrathful vengeance. While some anger is normal, don’t allow it to take over and control your behavior. If it does, you could act in an equally inappropriate manner as the Pastor.
“If only I said something sooner, this wouldn’t have happened.” When the anger simmers down, the “If only…” game begins. In a desperate desire to control the outcome, you begin searching for ways the problem could have been prevented. You relive the past hunting for warning signs that could have signaled the trouble. But all the deals you make for the future cannot change the current situation. Your bargaining is in vain.
“What’s the point of going to church?” The frustration that there is nothing you could have done to change the outcome quickly leads to sadness. The once joyful church becomes gloomy as members disappear. Hopelessness begins to settles in as you become more aware of the vulnerability of believers. Positive outlooks are replaced with melancholy as the whole thing seems like an illusion. The entire church including the individual members suffer through depression.
“I guess the verse, ‘All have sinned,’ really means all.” Ironically, it is only through a storm like this that the full meaning of the Gospel becomes transparent. If sin did not exist, then Jesus would not have needed to die and no one would need forgiveness and mercy. It is the fullness of the Scriptures that transforms lives, not just the bits and pieces that are more palatable. True acceptance acknowledges the susceptibility of all church members to sinful behavior, including yourself and Pastors, and supplies ample grace.
Most importantly, be gracious to yourself. These steps take time to process and healing should not be rushed. Each needs to go at their own pace; this is not a time to compare journeys. Rather it is a time to show love for one another through patience and kindness.
There is hope for your exhaustion. Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you need more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 or send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.