Wednesday, April 9, 2008

13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run

I’ve been hanging out around a few Christian message boards/forums for the last few weeks just seeing what some post and how some respond. I’ve also been thinking and praying about what it is about a church that turns someone away whether they are a member or simply a visitor looking for a new church home.

This list is a compilation of various reasons why people leave a church and while certain points might be evident at a church you attend. I have no specific church in mind. Feel free to comment or email me privately if you think I’ve left something out. Specific reasons are in bold text.

Here is what I found:

1a. The church does not teach Biblical doctrine. Yes, I believe I’d run from a place like that as well. We can only know Him through the revelation of His Word. A study of the Bible is paramount. The main job of the senior pastor is to teach the Bible to God’s people as Jesus said, “feed my sheep.”

1b. Prayer seems forced, and it is not reinforced. I can’t even imagine being in a church where prayer is not a constant activity.

2. The church offers a rigid form of Sunday school organized around the ages of the adults much like elementary school. One forum commmentor stated, “I was invited to a Sunday school class based on age and marital status---not based on what the class was studying, or if I knew anyone in the class. This meant I was not a candidate for some classes. When I attempted to visit a class I thought might fit me better I was told I was in the wrong place and promptly shown the way to the class for my age group.”

3. 90% of the church leadership is over 50. Several younger people (20s,30s,40s) commented they prefer to see diverse leadership (ministers, deacons, elders, committee chairs, etc).

4. The community outside the church walls doesn’t match what is found inside the church. This matches somethings I read here that said….”Change is the only constant thing. Healthy churches adapt! How well church leaders moderate change and a church adapts to necessary changes is a sign of a church’s health.

5. The church has a rigid music and worship style. While many say no to a rock concert type atmosphere several state they would leave a church if the music was of poor quality or focused entirely on hymns from the 1800s. The same webpage referred to in item four states, “People brought up with TV (babyboomers and younger) will not stay around in a church that does not include Christian music [they hear online, on their Ipods, or from their CD collections.]

6. Bible study is stuck to one particular curriculum series-----there were no specialized classes on Sunday mornings for particular studies such as a Beth Moore study or topics like the history of the particular denomination, Christian history as it relates to the Bible, etc. The commentor that mentioned this stated some Bible studies were only offered on Sunday nights not during the morning Bible study time when more people attend..

7. The church has many members that aren’t attending for the right reasons. They are “posers” using a respectable church as an outlet for career and business contacts where friends can be made with the “right” people, children can play with the “right” kids, and donations will be made to the “right”causes.

8. Relationships among members seem fake and don’t seem to be based on the love of Christ. There are several cliques. A commenter said, “Authentic relationships----loving each other as yourself---can’t be faked.”

9. Bible study groups that have been together for years aren’t very inclusive. Visitors found that the groups did have authentic relationships, however, they weren’t very inclusive when it came to adding new people. I saw comments from long time members of certain churches that were discouraged from inviting people to attend their church because they were embarassed regarding how the visitor would be treated. Long term member or not….if your fellow members are an embarrassment would you be encouraged to stay yourself? Churches need to suffer from Xenophilia, a love of strangers.

10. Too many programs, but no real substance. One comment said it the best, “Any church can run a “program.” They go through the motions and do what is needed. Celebrate----yay, for us we did the program. Glad that is done! Cross that off the list, and pat ourselves on the back.”

11.The church has a wonderful campus….lots of space and various facilities yet members are very territorial about “their” area. “Don’t use our coffee maker….this is only for this group…..don’t move our chairs.” Being territorial leads to bickering which leads to….well, you know….missing members and no visitors.

12. There aren’t many children or youth for my kids to worship with. The person who mentioned this stated they were forced to leave the church where they had been members for sometime because without a base of young people the church didn’t seem to have a future.

13. Finally, many people leave a church or visit and don’t return because there doesn’t seem to be any real growth. Adding members is NOT the goal, but when a church is filled with people who love God so much that they want to share that love they are then more apt to get involved with evangelism, outreach, missions, and social ministry. One blogger I read regularly said it this way, “A healthy church is filled with people who tell other people about Jesus---not about the church---no one is attracted to an institution, but about Jesus. Everyone needs Him---not our programs---Him!” AMEN!

What do YOU think? Am I off the mark? Did I leave something out?

If you would like to visit other bloggers who participate in Thursday 13 visit their main page

Related Post: From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift
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Janel said...

It is heartbreaking that there are still many many churches like this.

I became a Christian 6 years ago and when I did, I searched hard for a church. Here I had this brand new faith and wanted to be in an environment where I could learn more about it and how to live it out.

I finally did, but it was a frustrating road to say the least.

I think you hit the nail on the head with these 13 for sure.

LaskiGal said...

Your list is spot on! "The community outside the church walls doesn’t match what is found inside the church" is the big reason around here.

I am still searching for a church home . . .

nicholas said...

Some people leave because they realize religion is groundless superstition.

Joyce said...

That was a thoughtful list. I think Biblical doctrine and genuine love for others (including strangers and newcomers) are very important.

Farrah said...

We left for several reasons, a major one being that the leadership ruled with an iron fist. When they found someone didn't agree on certain point of doctrine, they would hammer on that individual mercilessly...ruling like Lord's over the flock. There most definitely was not enough love.

elementary historyteacher said...

Janel, I'm glad that as a new convert you didn't stop trying, and I'm glad you found the right fit.

Laskigal, I pray that the Lord gives you strength to continue to find the right place.

Nicholas, I figured you'd be by. I'll convert you yet.:) Hey, did you read my response to your last comment around here.....the title of the post is Free Willing. You can find it under my March Archives if it's already off the main page.

Hi Joyce, yes Biblical doctrine and love for each other are right up there at the top especially since those are part of the Scriptual ingredients found in Acts. When you get right down to it so many of the points refer back to love and genuine people treat each other especially over differences is key.

Farrah, you make a very valid point, and I'm sorry you had this experience. There are ways to address differences...there are ways to address misinterpretation of Scripture.....and there are ways to discuss how the World can creep into our beliefs without causing someone to flee. Apparently, the church leadership you speak of still have some life lessons to learn. :)

elementary historyteacher said...

Nicholas, I was wrong. Free Willing is in my April posts...not March.

Denise Patrick said...

Excellent list - and right there. We are struggling in our church, but we always make the effort to welcome strangers - sometimes I think we overwhelm them, but that's a post for another day.

DrillerAA said...

As you are probably aweare, too many churches change to match the community and lose their identity. Meeting the needs of the community is critical. Losing your mission, doctrine, and authenticity will cost you more than a few visitors.
Much of society wants to be entertained and not challenged by the word. While I love many of the praise and worship songs that are available to us today, losing the message and the truth of the Hymns of the Faith is just unacceptable. Well, I could do a whole post on this. Maybe I will.
Have a great day. I always enjoy stopping by here, even if I don't always comment.

Cindy Swanson said...

Very interesting list. No church is perfect, but I think there's often room for improvement...and this covers most of the bases!

jquiltmaker said...

Since my husband and I have changed churches a few times, here were the things that were sticking points for us or for others that left before us.
1. Change in doctrine. Non-denomational church with the fundamental beliefs of the Baptist faith, changed over to what has been referred to as Hyper or Ultra Calvanism.
2. Split in decisions if the body should or should not expand, move to a newer building or make an addition to the church.
3. Pastor leaves and members follow or leave because they don't want to take the time to get to know a new one.
4. Church memebers who want you to be involved in every activity. Not everyone is a social butterfly and others have large families or friends that they want to spend time with. They just don't understand because their whole family attends the same church.
5. More and more money used for outreach while memebers are in finacial need. Churches are not reading the fundamental scriptures that teach benevolence to fellow Christians first. Try a search on the web about benevolence and see if you agree or disagree. My search included different demoninations.
6. New people come in but are expected to just fit in when no one bothers to really get to know them. Granted some are shy and just try their best to go unnoticed but many come because they want fellowship. If no one reaches out to invited them to their home for a meal or out for a cup of coffee to have those one on one conversations, they fall through the cracks and leave.
7. Gossip can bring a church down and send members and visitors running!!

Christopher said...

Great list, I agree with most of the thoughts except for number 13.

Church growth via the seeker-sensitive movement for example does not equate to a church that has mature Christians or is even maturing Christians, in the body of Christ.

If you have a church full of doctrine illiterate or unrepentant people entertained by the neat stories or relevant self-help speeches isn't it just another social club?

Grace and peace be with you

Eric said...

While I agree with the observations you make, I think it's also necessary to inform people that, as Cindy Swanson said, "no Church is perfect".

Because no church is perfect, and no human being has complete and perfect knowledge of all doctrines, every church is bound to have some small doctrinal errors. People shouldn't go looking for the "perfect church"; that perfection is not found in people, but only in God.

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