One disappointment I have had in ministry is watching people come to church, get excited for a time, then disappear. You spend energy and heart on people, grow to love them and get excited about them, and suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
The biggest disappointment is not people who transfer to another church. I’m OK with that if it helps them better grow in their relationship with Christ. I’m talking about people who quit going to church altogether. They are in one day—out the next.
What happens to them? Why do they leave?
I’ve found there are often similar reasons that are repeated continuously. Perhaps you have seen this too.
Here are seven reasons people disappear from church:
Burn out—These people came out of the gate too strong in the church. They showed up, got excited and signed up for everything. They got so busy doing church they failed to enjoy being the church.
Injury—People inside the church can be cruel. I hate when that happens, but it’s true. These people experienced some of those people and they couldn’t move past it.
Distractions—These people got distracted by seemingly good things. They were playing travel ball, loving the fast life, traveling every weekend. Over time, their lifestyle of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
Life change—These people had a lifestyle change, such as divorce or remarriage—or they move to a new community—and never reconnect with a church.
Mistakes—These people messed up! They made a mistake that may be public—or at least they feel that it will be known—and the place that should dispense grace appears to either refuse it or they feel that it would. Many times when a person feels that way it is more perception than reality, but the way a person feels about themselves may determine whether they remain committed to church.
Power struggle—These people had an agenda. They were pursuing an issue—or a position—and when their demands weren’t met and they couldn’t overpower the system, they left.
Lack of connection—These people never connected with others on a deeper level. As a result, they never felt really a “part” of the church.
Pastors, have you experienced these walking with people in ministry? How do you address these issues?
Obviously, we need to do all we can to help people become disciples. Knowing why they leave may be helpful. We can’t address some of these issues—maybe most—much of this is out of our control. But the more we understand, the more we can help people as they experience these.
I think there is also a word here to the one who has disappeared or is on the verge. Beware. If you feel the need for the church in your life—or if you understand the biblical mandate to be a part of a Body of believers—then guard your heart for these. And help us know how to be a better church. In fact, come help us be a better church. Here’s one pastor (and I know so many others) who is listening.