“Everyone Welcome!” I can’t count the number of times I have seen a sign like that at the entrance of a church. It’s an encouraging sight. For pastors, the spirit behind those signs is genuine. We want you here! We want everyone here! (and you want church attendance to increase.)
But here is the hard truth I learned many years ago: One of the reasons there is more than one church in nearly every town in America is because none of us is capable of being everyone’s pastor. Furthermore, while we should do all we can to “close the back door” so that we are doing an adequate job of keeping up with those we disciple, there is nothing we can do to close that door completely.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, people are going to leave. In my experience, there are five types of individuals who are most likely to not stay very long. I’m afraid there is nothing in this article that will help you keep them. But perhaps, if you have advanced warning, their departure won’t hurt so much.
Short-Timers Who Don’t Really Help Church Attendance
1. THE “BIG FISH”
The Big Fish is the man or woman who comes to you from another church, usually nearby, who felt their position and influence at their former church was no longer welcome and decided to take it elsewhere. Often, the Big Fish was a board chairman, or a deacon, or a prominent Sunday School teacher, or maybe all of the above! While in some cases a person with this kind of background is someone to be excited about adding to your roles, or even increasing church attendance,be wary of anyone coming into your church who cites their credentials in the first conversation.
The best way to discern the true motives of someone like this is to quickly assign them something that requires a servant’s heart. Once while planting a church, I had a gentleman and his wife visit us. On his way out the door he informed me that he had lots of skill and knowledge about how a church should operate, and would love to help us out. In response, I literally handed him a toilet brush and asked him if he’d be willing to help our volunteers clean the bathrooms. We never saw him again.
If the pastor is any kind of genuine leader, the “Big Fish” will likely swim off.
2. THE “RECOVERING PATIENT”
Hurting people are everywhere, and many times the source of their injury has been a church. When these people find their way through your doors, they should also find an opportunity to heal. But once that healing takes place, don’t be surprised if they head for the door again.