It is shattering for people to put their trust in a leader and then discover that leader has betrayed their trust. When a leader sins, not only is their life and the lives of their family devastated, but the lives of those who follow them are also deeply impacted.
Below are a few things to keep in mind when helping a church or ministry to recover after the fall of their leader.
• It is important for people to forgive as often as they think about the leader. Lead them in praying for this person. Encourage them to speak out their forgiveness. Speak it out in prayer. Gently guide them so that cynicism and mistrust may not be allowed to find a hiding place in their hearts. Remember, they have been sinned against. They need time to work through the emotions of what has happened to them.
• Help people to recognize the difference between forgiveness and restoration. Even if the leader has repented, there is a necessary season of restoration for them to go through. The greater the sin the longer the period of restoration will be. The character weakness that led to the sin needs to be repaired and made right. If the sin was hidden over a long period of time and was not voluntarily disclosed, the greater the consequences.
• God is more jealous and concerned about the fallen leader’s character than anything that he/she has done for the Kingdom. God will sacrifice a person’s public ministry to regain right relationship with them.
• God will allow His own reputation to be hurt for the sake of bringing a leader to repentance. God will endure being mocked from outsiders in order to bring loving correction to our lives. How does He do that? He will expose a leaders sin publicly if that’s what it takes in order to restore them.
• "Anointing", "fruit" or effectiveness in ministry does not equal God's stamp of approval on any man or woman. God has allowed many a leader to experience His blessing while striving at the same time to bring the person to a place of repentance. Why does God allow that to happen? Because of His mercy. Because biblical truth will bear fruit even when the one speaking the truth may be living in sin. Eventually, a man’s sins will find him out and he will reap what he has sown.
• There are many ways people grieve the loss of a leader. When a leader falls, people go through the normal stages of grief: denial (shock), anger, bargaining, blame and acceptance of what happened. Each stage of grief is valid and we need to make room for people to grieve in their own way while helping them through the process.
• Followers are not responsible for their leader’s sin. Some people will blame themselves. Guide them away from that response. Their responsibility is their reaction to their leader’s sin. It may take some time for them to come to a place of Godly forgiveness and then acceptance that the church may need to move on without their former leader.
• Allow the church family to be a safe place for people to express their emotions, including anger, forgiveness, blame, etc. Some people may react for a period of time by closing down their hearts completely, or just giving lip service to the right action. Guide people to a place of forgiveness and healing and then on to restoration of the church. Counsel them about the importance of choosing to fear God so they can see how sin impacts God’s heart most of all.
• Establish a restoration team for the fallen leader. Give them clear guidelines as to how the restoration should take place and to whom they are accountable. Decide if the leader should be restored to their role within the church or to go elsewhere for restoration.
• Provide regular pastoral oversight and care for the church in the weeks and months after events have taken place. The church also needs a “restoration team” of godly leaders. Sometimes it is beneficial to have people from outside the congregation, help them to a place of complete restoration.