Over the past two years at Harris Creek, we have grown at an unbelievable pace. People always ask us what strategies we’ve used to grow so quickly; the truth is this growth is not a result of any strategic plan on our part. In fact, we have been consistently caught off guard by the rapid growth, and we’ve been far more reactive than proactive. And while from an outside perspective growth seems to be nothing but exciting, I think most people in our congregation would confess that it is also very challenging. In fact, there is a part of the growth we have experienced that I did not anticipate being part of the process, and that is the grief associated with growth.
Let me start by saying in our culture we’re not very good at dealing with grief. We don’t always grieve the death of loved ones well, so we certainly give little thought to other types of grief we experience. As human beings we can experience grief over a lot of things. Grief can be part of moving, losing a job, ending a friendship or relationship, not having something you’ve always wanted, the death of a dream, deteriorating health, and even a church growing and changing. One of my favorite pastors, Larry Osborne, wisely says, “Never forget, growth changes everything.” The reality is Harris Creek is not the same as it was when I joined the staff over four years ago; in fact, Harris Creek is not the same place it was even two weeks ago! This can be unsettling because we naturally desire for church to be a place that we go to in order to find stability in our rapidly changing world. When something as important as our church home completely changes almost overnight, we can easily experience feelings of loss. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then this post is not for you.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed comments from covenant church members and even some staff members that imply a sense of loss over “what was.” These comments come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are grieving the fact that we have to go all “Hunger Games” on each other just to find a seat on Sunday mornings. Others are grieving that it’s harder to recognize familiar faces with such large crowds. There are a lot of ways Harris Creek has changed, and change is unsettling. Let me pause to say that our congregation has been incredibly flexible and positive throughout all of this growth. However, this doesn’t remove the fact that there is still pain associated with such sudden, drastic changes. I believe it would be wise to actually take a little time to grieve them with people you trust and not to ignore how you feel about these changes. Anytime we stuff our grief or ignore it, it will show up down the road.
If you do have a sense of loss about all of the changes we’ve experienced at Harris Creek, I would encourage you to do two things: (1) Press into that grief and get it out on the table. We have a long history and God has done some amazing things in the past even during some rough patches. It’s ok to celebrate those “good ole days” and even feel a sense of nostalgia. But don’t stop there. The other part of this growth process is (2) We need to be open to new experiences and what God might have for us in the near future. I have challenged the staff with something that I will now challenge you with: Make sure your grief doesn’t turn into bitterness. What is happening at Harris Creek is nothing less than a blessing from God. We are not smart enough, talented enough, or wise enough to manufacture the growth we’ve experienced. It is clearly a work of the Spirit and a gift from God. So, while you celebrate and grieve the past, make sure that you don’t do so in a way that holds you and others back from embracing the present.