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About Tara Barthel

Tara Klena Barthel formerly served as the Director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation. As such, she oversaw hundreds of conciliation cases (including conflicted church interventions) through the international network of trained conciliators. Tara also provided oversight and leadership for all advanced conciliator training. Currently, she serves her family as a homemaker while occasionally accepting cases as a mediator, arbitrator, and conflicted church intervention team member. Currently enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and pursuing her Master's Degree in Religion, Tara consults with businesses and ministries on the legal risk management issues attendant to conflict; designs and presents custom training on biblical conflict resolution for churches, missions agencies, and parachurch organizations; speaks frequently at women’s conferences and retreats; and is currently working on many new writing projects. Tara is the author of the Living the Gospel in Relationships video series and co-author of Peacemaking Women—Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict (Baker Books, 2005), and Redeeming Church Conflicts--Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care (Baker Books, 2012; second imprint Hendrickson Publishers 2016). Prior to moving to Billings, Montana to join the staff of Peacemaker Ministries, Tara worked as an attorney and business consultant in Chicago. Tara earned her law degree and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her B.A. in psychology from Augustana College (Illinois).
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5 Responses to

  1. Jeff Fartro says:

    Can you provide some general advice for church leaders who want to recover church members who have left the church, particularly those who have left for unbiblical reasons? Whatever you could offer would be appreciated.

    • Jeff,

      This is an excellent question as it deals directly with church leadership’s perspective on pastoral shepherding. Since you use the term “church members” I am assuming you practice formal membership at your church which would involve the taking of member vows. When members take a vow to the church (which is a vow to the Lord of the church) they are making promises. In the same way, the church as a body makes either implicit or explicit vows to the member; we are your shepherds and we accept care for your soul. When a member becomes disenchanted with the church for whatever reason and decides to walk away violating their membership vows, it is the time for the church to remember its vows to the member. That is best done by asking the member directly “What situation led to your decision to abandon your vows?” Following up with a wandering member is first a quest for understanding from the point of view of the member. Asking questions like” Why are you unable to find joy in worship at the church?”, or “How has the church become a place where you no longer believe you can use your spiritual gift to build up the church and serve your fellow members?” Demonstrating pastoral care for the member communicates the seriousness with which leaders take vows and should open an opportunity for discussion. Of course, the best time to set the right expectation for this exchange occurs at the time a person is getting ready to take their initial membership vows. Saying something at that time like “If you decide you have a problem with the church and are contemplating leaving the church you have a responsibility to initiate contact with the church’s leaders before you leave and we will seek you out if you don’t do that in order to determine what may be done to help you reflect on the seriousness of your membership vows and our shepherding role with you.” This may be a paradigm shift for the church and for members because we live in a culture which generally doesn’t consider vows of much importance. God, of course, does consider such vows important as we see in the nature of God’s character when he made his covenant with Abram (Genesis 15). May you and other church leaders be blessed as you seek these wandering sheep so that there may be great rejoicing when they return (Matthew 18:10-14). Remember, too, however, if a member for whatever reason feels they cannot return, seek to assist them in finding another church where they can find joy in worship and a place where they can use their gifts for God’s glory and the building of the kingdom. The more difficult aspect of your question concerns the use of church discipline when a member abandons their vows. We address that in the book and accountability for such an abandonment is warranted, however, only if you have a regular practice of redemptive, corrective discipline and members have come to know that such a course by the church is one not of persecution or shame but one of loving pastoral care. Please see my booklet “God’s Search and Rescue Plan – Church Discipline” available from Peacemaker Ministries. I hope these comments will prove helpful to you. In the Lamb, Dave

      • jtfgpts@aol.com says:

        Dave:

        Thanks so much for those helpful thoughts.

        Actually, the issue has come up in a very big way with a church that is considering me to be their new pastor. In the last two years, they’ve lost over half of their membership due to disenchantment (I’ve come to see that there are 4 Ds to membership loss: death, discipline, dislocation, and disenchantment). The fourth D (i.e., disenchantment) is the one that the leaders of a church can do the most about.

        I’ve been grateful, too, in the last few years to be able to get some Peacemaker training and hope to become a Certified Conciliator in the next year, as well as a Relational Wisdom instructor.

        Of course, I will recommend Redeeming Church Conflicts to the session of the church considering me.

        Do pray for my situation and that of the new church possibility, if you can.

        Peace,

        Jeff Fartro, Pastor Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church Cleveland-Parma, Ohio 440-887-1644 (home-office)

  2. Jeff, I like your four “D’s” but it is very sad that you include “discipline” as one of the reasons people have left the church. If done right, church discipline is a blessing of great grace and yet one most misunderstood by leaders and members.

    May you be blessed as you consider this call and I will pray it prove to be an opportunity to help God’s people learn the truth about member vows and the care of loving devoted leaders.

    Dave

    • jtfgpts@aol.com says:

      Dave:

      Thanks for that reply.

      Yes, I wish discipline wasn’t the cause of departures, at least as much as it is. But, at times, as you know, people do have to be put out of the church formally. I wish the redemptive part of discipline could work better and more consistently.

      By the way, Dave, I just heard last night from the chairman of the search committee of the church that I previously mentioned. It looks like that opportunity will be a no-go for me.

      The interview last week bordered on bizarre. It was really more like an interrogation than an interview. At the end, for example, I was asked if I had any questions for the pastor search committee. I asked, “What will the stated duties of your new pastor be?” The answer: “We’re not sure yet.” Nothing more. Then I asked, “Do you have any idea why those 50 or so people left your congregation in the last year?” The reply, ” We don’t know.”

      Perhaps this wouldn’t be a good place for me to serve. And I did sense an incredible amount of politicking going on. Apparently, they are going to disregard their “final four” candidates and start again from scratch?!? Quite frankly, it probably would be better for me to be in a more stable congregation for a change.

      But I really need another call. Soon. Please pray to that end.

      By the way, would you mind if I added you to my prayer partner list? I could use some more, especially at this time. And I am willing to receive and pray for requests just about anytime.

      Peace,

      Jeff Fartro, Pastor Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church Cleveland-Parma, Ohio 440-887-1644 (home-office)

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