Church Leavers’ Main Reasons

Ruth D. Adamson

The concept of the church “backdoor,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church, has been studied by a number of gifted persons and organisations. A relocation or personal crisis is always a likely theme. Though we can address the former more than the latter, it is important for us to recognize those issues.

I am aware of nothing that explains the exodus of church members other than a sense that some need isn’t being met. They leave because they are not being provided with what they expect from a local congregation.

Unfulfilled expectations are certainly legitimate claims by church members. The congregation’s leaders and congregation can undoubtedly be to blame.

Church members often leave local bodies because they feel entitled to them, probably more often than we would like to believe. In my opinion, most people leave churches because of entitlement mentalities instead of servant mentalities.

Take a look at the following direct quotes from exit interviews of congregation members:

  • Despite my requests for songs and music, the worship leader refused to listen to me.
  • “I wasn’t fed by the pastor.”
  • My church did not visit me.”
  • The building program they wanted was not something I was willing to support.
  • “I wasn’t called for two weeks.”
  • My schedule was messed up when they moved the worship service times.”
  • He never visited my cousin even though I told him to.

Listen carefully to what I have to say. A certain level of ministry and concern should be expected from church members. Our church membership has become a country club membership for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this article. Certain benefits are available to you if you pay your dues.

According to Scripture, church membership has a biblical basis. The Apostle Paul even describes what every member of a local congregation should be like in the “member” metaphor. Rather than describing church members in terms of what they should receive, Paul describes them in terms of what they should be giving to their local church.In order to close the back door, at least a major part of the solution lies in moving members from entitlement mentalities to servant mentalities. I can write about it easily, but executing it is much more difficult.

Then, may I suggest a few practical steps for closing the back door by changing the membership mentality? Five things to consider:

  1. It is important to inform church members. More than half of church members lack a biblical understanding of membership, though I do not have precise numbers. By providing this information in a new members’ class, an entire congregation can be influenced toward a servant mentality.
  2. Expect more from yourself. In many congregations, church membership has become meaningless. Make sure members know what to expect. It is also a great idea to begin with a class for new members.
  3. Members should be mentored. Make two or three members into biblical church members by mentoring them. Once they have mentored two or three, ask them to mentor two or three more. Growth should be exponential.
  4. Provide training to members. Most pastors agree that they are responsible for training and equipping their congregation. Three-quarters of these pastors do not plan to train them (see Ephesians 4:11-13). My blog next Wednesday will address this issue in greater detail.
  5. Small groups should be encouraged. Small groups and Sunday school classes are more likely to produce informed and functioning church members. Therefore, members with a servant mentality are more likely to be in small groups.
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