I’m just going to say it.
It hurts when people leave the church. Especially when they are people we have loved, served, discipled, and cared for. We are family and yet, they still leave.
I always appreciate an honest conversation as to why someone leaves our church. I want to understand. If I have failed or offended, I desire the opportunity to seek reconciliation. I want to pray for them and bless them as they go, but many times people simply disappear.
When congregants notice an individual has been missing from church, usually they want to know why. One response can be to blame the pastor for the individual not attending church, because he/she did not serve them well or anticipate their needs. When the pastor is left to explain the departure of those no longer attending, he is not always able to give an explanation due to confidentiality or integrity.
It is difficult when a family decides to leave. They often believe it only affects them. Each individual in the family has their own connections to the church which are being severed.
I serve a church in the city of Los Angeles. Our community is filled with young professionals, and transition is a part of their lives. As a result, it’s a part of my life too. There are some legitimate reasons people leave a church. As pastors we have to understand this.
It hurts when people leave the church, but there are many reasons for it. Here are a few…
Your church is probably awesome, but people are still going to leave. In fact, you probably have members who are thinking about leaving right now. We live in a consumer-driven, options-oriented culture. Christians in America are normally quite comfortable leaving a church behind and going to a new one. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop people from leaving.
So, is there anything we can do? Here some reminders that help me stay the course.
1. Don’t receive their departure as a personal rejection. Guard your heart against bitterness. Pray for them and bless them as they go. Be grateful you had an opportunity to serve them for Christ. Continue to speak well of them. Live by Romans 12:18 - “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
2. Remember you are called to serve people, not build your own tribe. Yes, you want the church to grow, but don’t forget the church belongs to Jesus. They are not "your people." Just because someone left your church doesn’t automatically mean they have abandoned their faith.
3. Be encouraged with the knowledge that someone new will walk into your church this Sunday. As we do the work of evangelism, new people should be regularly coming into our churches.
4. Stay focused on the mission and vision God has given you and your church. Refuse to develop a “bunker down” mentality. It’s disappointing that some people have left, but we must be diligent about reaching our community for Jesus.
5. Don't burn any bridges. Sometimes circumstances change and people return to the church. You don't want to lose the opportunity to minister to people in the future.
6. Pray about what you can learn from this situation. How can you personally grow from this challenge?
The revolving door of the church is a challenge for every pastor. It is a reality we all face, yet we don’t have to give in to discouragement and despair. We are called to faithfully serve God and people. Let’s be obedient and leave the results in God’s hands.
Question: So what do you think? What challenges have you faced in dealing with people leaving the church? What helps you stay focused when people leave the church?
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Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past