Leaving Churches: Help for Pastors

Every time someone leaves a church I’m a part of, it hurts. Every time. I don’t have thick skin in that regard—and I don’t think pastors should. Churches are families—a type of family that is deeper than blood yet bought by blood. Any time someone leaves a family, it hurts—even if it is good.

When starting this series, I wanted to address a topic that we don’t talk about but always deal with: people leaving churches. After writing about why to stay, why to leave, and how to leave, I still felt like something was missing. That element: how do pastors handle people leaving?

This post is for anyone, but especially for pastors who have to navigate the weird world of church shuffling.

Continue reading “Leaving Churches: Help for Pastors”

Leaving Churches: How Do I Leave?

I’m not sure who signed me up for a subscription to GQ, but I receive a copy every month. I never asked for it and I never wanted it. Still, as sure as the sun rises and sets, GQ shows up in my mailbox. I’ve also unsubscribed to numerous email lists only to never seem to actually be able to leave them. I just stay stuck—you have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do getting out of these subscriptions.

I hope church membership doesn’t feel that way for you, but it might. You can’t escape no matter how hard you try.

We’ve talked about why people leave churches; we’ve talked about why you shouldn’t leave; we’ve even talked about potential reasons to leave. However, I haven’t addressed the inevitable issue: regardless of reasoning, how do you actually leave a church? Is there some type of protocol? That’s what I hope to address here.

Continue reading “Leaving Churches: How Do I Leave?”

Leaving Churches: Why Leave?

Many, if not most, Christians (at least in the States) will leave a church at one point in time. While they might leave because of one of the unstoppable forces, they will still leave. I’ve done it and, more than likely, you’ve done it. While I would rather people stay at their churches, there might come a time when they will leave. The issue, then, is why someone might leave.

Getting into the topic of why someone would leave a church is not easy. Most people want to address the fuzzy middle. (Can I leave because I don’t like the new pastor? Can I leave because my convictions have changed? Can I leave because I like a new church better?) This post is going to start with issues that are clear and then go from there.

Continue reading “Leaving Churches: Why Leave?”

Leaving Churches: Why Stay?

Staying at a church seems like a no-brainer, but we do not treat it that way. In the intro post I wrote about three unstoppable forces that make someone leaving a church seem inevitable. As I reviewed my original notes on this post, I realized that I swapped one force for another—instead of “personal friendships,” I used “real or perceived needs.” I’ll count it, though. People do have a real need of friendship. 🙂

Before we delve more into leaving, though, I want to delve into the idea of staying.

My personal experience is that the vast majority of church members will not try and ask you to talk them out of leaving. Either they will (1) simply leave (I’ve gone this route) or (2) write, call, or meet with you to tell you they are leaving. I don’t usually run into a conversation that begins with, “I don’t want to leave, but have considered it, help me out.”

This post will be that conversation.

Continue reading “Leaving Churches: Why Stay?”

Leaving Churches: Three Unstoppable Forces

Leaving churches is a common part of church life today. In fact, most people who have been in the church long enough (say, ten years) have likely left a church for some reason and started going to another one in town. (Even I have what I would call a regretful leaving of a church I was a part of years back. )

Now that I am over a decade into pastoral ministry, I can think back on the different situations and scenarios that have come about as to why people leave churches. The upcoming series on this blog will be tackling those ideas in a little more detail. It is my ultimate hope to get people to stay at their current church, but if they don’t, to at least get them to seriously reconsider their approach to leaving.

I wanted to start with this idea: the three unstoppable forces that seem to make leaving a church almost inevitable.

Continue reading “Leaving Churches: Three Unstoppable Forces”

A Shadow Side Addendum: Criticism

I was recently at lunch with a friend talking about leadership, pastoring, and the ways the Lord is always challenging us to grow. This is a friend who I know will be honest with me and he is someone I trust. You need both—if you aren’t trusted but you’ll be honest then nobody wants your honesty. During the course of that lunch I asked this question: Ok, so where do you think I might have an issue in how I lead?

He paused.

I made a joke.

“Well, I was thinking about your posts about your values. One part of excellence is that you can become really critical.

I’m not sure if those exact words were used, but it was close.

I immediately thought of a previous lunch with another friend several months back. “Hans, I’ve been around you long enough know this: you have a tendency to be critical, but you are aware of it.”

Forget it. I’m never having lunch with people again.

The problem? These guys are exactly right.

Continue reading “A Shadow Side Addendum: Criticism”