By Thom Rainer
On occasion a church leader at Church Answers will share with the community that he or she received an anonymous letter. The leaders are inevitably hurt, and they are frustrated because they have no way to respond.
Over the years, I have seen a common theme with anonymous letters. I can best delineate it as seven considerations.
- Most all church leaders will eventually receive an anonymous letter. It goes with the job and the ministry role. Even though it does not take away the sting of the letter, knowing others have gone through it makes it more bearable.
- The typical content of an anonymous letter reflects a hurt or mad church member who has unmet and/or unrealistic expectations. Some church members have weird ideas about what church should be like and how church leaders should act. The cowardly church members will express their frustrations anonymously.
- The toss-it principle is still good counsel. It has been common for church leaders to dispose of anonymous letters as soon as possible. Some pastors and leaders have an assistant who reads letters that come to the office. That assistant may be instructed to dispose of anonymous letters before the church leader ever sees it.
- The best way church leaders handle anonymous letters is to pray for their own hearts. These evil letters can be an incredible source of distraction and discouragement. The pastor or other church leader must pray for his or her own heart. God can certainly handle the situations we think are nearly impossible to handle, such as dealing with the pain of these letters.
- Many church leaders make a point to pray for the author of the letter. It’s hard to stay mad at someone if you are praying for them, even if you do not know them. Though their actions are cowardly, they are obviously people who are hurting, angry, and disappointed. They need prayer.
- Where possible, some church leaders are making it known that anonymous letters never get to them. This communication can be tricky. If done in a corporate worship setting, it can distract from the act of worship. It can also be seen as petty or vindictive. But a number of pastors have found ways to get the word out they never see the letters. That usually stops future letters written in anonymity.
- Healthy leaders move on quickly after they get an anonymous letter. They know it will hurt them and their ministry if they dwell on it. The best way to move on is to focus on the ministry God has given them and forget about a letter where you can’t respond.
Anonymous letters are common. Anonymous letters are painful. Healthy church leaders deal with the pain (if they see the letter), and then they move on.
There is simply too much good work to do for God’s congregation to be distracted or discouraged too long from such a cowardly act.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 20. Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.