I can remember fishing with my grandpa when I was a little boy. Fred Flowerday, one of nine boys and a girl born to a farmer in Nebraska. Fred knew how to fish. Grandpa taught me about “keepers”. Those of you who fish know that “keepers” are fish worthy of…well, keeping. If the fish was too small or looked sickly, Grandpa would say, “Throw it back.” All others were keepers.
Now if we apply this metaphor to newcomers at your church, it’s easy to sound callous and disinterested. But the fact is that some people will be right for your church, and some won’t. Some will be keepers, and some should be released to go swimming in another pond. It won’t do you any good in the long run to encourage someone to stay and get involved in your church if you know the church will not be a right fit for them. Save yourself, and your new fish, a headache. Be comfortable in saying, “I don’t think this church is a good fit for you.” You’re not being mean (provided you speak caringly), you’re being a good leader. You’re being good to them and good to your church.
If you sense that your new catch has a different agenda than yours…let them go. If your fish is pushing for a different style of worship than you want…let them go. If they want you to be more charismatic than you are or less charismatic than you are, if they want you to be something other than what you are, they will be frustrated with you and eventually you will be frustrated with them. Express to them that it’s okay for them to leave, no hard feelings.
Now I understand that you want to grow your church. You don’t want people to leave, you want them to stay. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to feel you’ve got a “keeper” because they seem so excited about the Lord, so talented, so experienced, and they believe in tithing. Sure you might have a small check in your gut about them really fitting in, but hey…they tithe. All people have worth, but not all are worth the energy of trying to keep them happy when your church is simply not right for them. It’s not going to be worth it to you to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. You will either damage the square peg or damage the round hole to make them fit. Either way you’ve got damage.
Maybe you’ve been struggling with someone in your church for a long time. They always seem to be kicking against the goads. Maybe your church is not a good fit for them. Have enough integrity and courage to suggest they try someplace else. Be kind, choose your words carefully, and then show them the door. You barely have enough energy to care for those who are a good fit for your church, let alone those who aren’t a good fit. Keep the keepers and be willing to stock someone else’s lake. Who knows, maybe there they will be happy and flourish because they’ve found a church better suited for them.