What does restoration look like?

Here is our old youth pastor, Adam. Photo by Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My heart breaks for those hurt by the church. Specifically, for people called to full-time ministry, but gravely injured by the people they were called to serve.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t interact with a youth pastor or former youth pastor who was deeply wounded by their church.

The church treated them like a couch. One day they are the centerpiece of the metaphorical living room and the next day they were moved to the curb and left for the garbage truck to pick them up.

When you are called to a church you are applauded publicly. People pray for you. You are brought up front to acknowledge that the leadership feels you have been called to be a central figure in the church. But when they no longer need you? They basically kick you out of community, shame you, and write a small check for your private pain, and pretend you never existed.

While I recognize that there is always another side to their story– it nonetheless paints a vivid picture of what that church really believes.

  • You have to behave a certain way or perform to a certain expectation level or we will kick you out.
  • When we wrong someone, we cover it up with hush money, and we never ask for forgiveness, even when we are clearly wrong.
  • When we wrong someone, we never restore either them or the relationship privately or publicly.

It just leaves me to wonder about the state of the church. We reach less than 10% of the population on a weekly basis. And we don’t think our private institutional sins impact that at all!

It leaves me with three questions to ponder as I begin my work week:

  • What does it look like for the institution to seek forgiveness?
  • What would it look like if we restored people?
  • What do I need to do to seek forgiveness and restoration of both relationship and position in my life?

May we become a church who loves its staff as fellow men and women on the journey.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.


  1. Great post Adam, and it hits a nerve because I know many who have been hit hard by churches who burned them when they weren’t what the church expected, but I have a few thoughts that probably do not apply in many situations.

    What can youth ministers do to help break this cycle?

    Do youth ministry training programs/classes need to teach interviewing a church and matching up right? Churches that throw out youth ministers probably have a pattern, and an interviewing youth pastor has a lot of power if they want you. Questions can be asked, former youth pastors can be interviewed, and if the church is hiding something, you can get that sense early on and determine if its a big or little thing.

    Also – Once realizing something is wrong (or before the sense) are there things that we can do as a nucleus of relationships in the church, to help the healthy parts of the church overwhelm the unhealthy parts. A good relationship with the senior pastor, parents, and the main people in committees may help build a coalition of folks who could challenge misconceptions of youth ministry/youth ministers/church etc.

    I believe that youth ministry is a form of social justice. With a messed up world, and the church coming out of the world, we’re going to deal with issues – but somehow youth ministry as a profession needs to learn from what’s happening and put together an action plan.

    Burned Youth Minister’s Action League. Idk. But something to help get the conversation going about dealing with the issue. There are a lot of burned YMs out there, and we have to expect that there are lots of bad situations we can find ourselves in – but it’s not impossible to conceive of ways to subvert this process from the very beginning and in the process change the church from the inside out.

  2. I knew that about the church from before even feeling called. I ran from my call for a long time because I didn’t want to experience it. God can be stubborn, though.

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