Recently a fellow pastor in another state posted something on social media that got A LOT of pastors attention. Maybe you can relate. Here is the post:
"With a therapist, I cataloged all the folks that have ghosted me (almost 100 over the years).
Spend time in their homes, baptize their kids, cry with them in pain, counsel them through crisis.
Then Vamoosh they're gone. It's a weird job."
A 100 is a lot of ghosts but most pastors have experienced far more than a hundred. It's a phenomenon that damages pastors. It hurts. Causes confusion. Creates anger and much, much more.
So how do we deal with being ghosted so often? In Matthew 11 John the Baptist has some serious questions about his own cousin, Jesus. John's Disciples are "ghosting" him. They're leaving John for this Jesus guy. What John does is what you can do.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE PAIN
In Matthew 11:2 John has serious quesiotns about Jesus. John is in prison and when I read verse two I sense pain in Johns question. That pain is doubt that says, "I've put in all this time for and even with you." Man, does that sound familiar. This is John acknowledging the emotional pain.
Acknowledging emotional pain doesn't make it go away but is the first step in identifying how you're handling it. So identify all the "negative" feelings. Write them down. Pray over them. Then go to step two.
2. TALK IT OVER
In this question John is offering dialogue with Jesus. Though he can't speak to Jesus directly he's having dialogue with his messenger. Once he acknowledged the pain of being ghosted by his disciples (as they go to follow Jesus) the healing begins.
Pastor, you need a friend who is NOT in your church with whom you can share these experiences. Go through that list of feelings from step one, go over them with this friend. Someone you can talk to about the pain you're feeling and begin to process it. If not you will become calloused to those in your care. Overtime it will make you unfit for ministry. It will bring on burn out quicker, and even make you cynical towards others.
3. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
If you've been ghosted go work out. Go rest. Go invest yourself in a hobby. (Pastor, you do have a hobby that's not related to church, right?) Get away from the church for a while. Ask an elder to fill in and take a Sunday off. Also, pray for the person or the situation. Ask God to soften your heart towards them. This literally will reduce the stress hormones your body has created by being ghosted.
Make sure you are eating properly. Enough said you know what needs done here.
4. GIVE GRACE
Maybe the person or family that ghosted you felt it was best to not confront you. Um, however cowardly ghosting really is, give them the benefit of the doubt. They took the easy way out and that says a LOT about their maturity. Your church and ministry has just been blessed by subtraction. We could all use blessed subtractions sometimes. It's likely this person was involved in your church. Is this the type of person you want serving? Someone who ghosts when things aren't "right." It's likely a blessing to you and the person leading the area where the ghost was serving.
5. LET IT GO
Just this morning I told someone, "If that person doesn't want to be in your life, you shouldn't want them in yours." Truth. When John the baptist heard of what Jesus was doing he had to come to terms that Jesus was the Messiah and let the rest go. Even though he was in prison and would soon be beheaded. I'm guessing you're not in prison about to be beheaded.
People are going to ghost. However, the only ghost that really matters is the Holy Ghost. (You knew I was going to mention the "Holy Ghost" sometime.) He promises to never ghost us. Don't expect from people what only God can give, "never" leaving you. "Never" is an eternal word. Only God is eternal and can promise "never" to leave. So rest in the comfort of the Holy Ghost to not leave you and humans to ghost you.
Listen I know getting ghosted is odd but in our profession it's almost a regular occurrence. Don't allow someones cowardice and spiritual immaturity to impact your eternal purpose.
If you're looking for coaching whether it be spiritual, life or your ministry email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In this together.