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It’s Not Always You: Why People Leave Your Church and How to Keep Them

leave your church

There are people who think they want to leave your church.

In fact, according to one study, 15 percent of church members have thought about leaving their church in the past six months.

These losses might not sound huge on the surface.

But take a moment to consider what would happen if you lost 15 percent of your members.

Would you need to stop a ministry?

Would you need to reduce your church’s budget?

Would you need to cut staff or decrease salaries?

Losing 15 percent of your members is a big deal.

The reasons people will leave your church range from good, bad and ugly.

There are times you’ll lose people due to life or church transitions.

There are others times when people will leave your church over a difference of opinion.

But there are times when you’ll lose people because your church didn’t do well at keeping people connected—and these losses hurt because you know you could have done something different.

To help make your church “sticky,” I’d love to share with you the best practices in keeping people connected to your church.

In this post, I’m going to cover:

Five unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people

  • The two most common reasons why people will leave your church
  • Four pillars of building Christian community
  • Four key next steps you must provide visitors

Get out your pen and paper, and let’s get to work!

5 unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people and they’ll leave your church.

You will experience change in your church.

Over the years, you can expect your church to go through seasons of growth, times of decline or stagnation, and transitions.

Before digging into why people choose to leave a church, it’s essential to know that some people will leave your church over the years for unsurprising reasons.

Said another way, when life in your church or the life of your church members goes through a change, expect to lose people.

Here are five unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people:

  1. Life changes
  2. Church relocation
  3. Pastoral transitions
  4. End of church programs
  5. Change in beliefs

Let’s take a look at these reasons.

#1 – Life changes

At some point, the members of your church will experience significant change.

When your church members undergo transition, oftentimes, these life changes will lead them to find a new church home and leave your church.

Here are a few examples of significant changes to anticipate:

  • Relocation
  • Divorce
  • Marriage or remarriage

When a member of your church moves to a different community, they’ll leave your church.

Celebrate members who make these life-altering decisions, and help them to find a church home in their new community.

When a married couple divorces, expect at least one partner to find a new church home.

Regardless of what transpires during this difficult season, strive to provide ongoing support and counsel to help them gracefully walk through this transition.

What’s more, when someone gets married or remarried, there’s a chance he or she will leave your church to join the church of his or her partner.

#2 – Church relocation

If your church moves into a new building, you will likely lose some people.

According to research, when you move your church into a new building, you will lose people just because you’re in a new location.

Did you move to the other side of town?

If so, the distance may be too great for some people to travel. When this happens, they’ll be forced to find a new home church closer to where they live.

#3 – Pastoral transitions

At some point during the life of your church, you’ll go through a pastoral transition.

Pastoral transitions are common, and according to one survey, the average tenure for a full-time pastor is six years.

When your church experiences a pastoral transition, you will lose people in the process.

Whether it’s because of the difference in preaching or the loss of a friend in the change, some people in your church will leave when a member of your senior leadership moves on.

#4 – End of church programs

If you stop a ministry, there’s a small chance you’ll lose people.

This isn’t the case for every program in your church.

However, it’s likely people in your church have grown fond of programs and ministries you’ve run for years. So, when there’s a decision to end a long-lasting program, you’ll likely run into tension with members or see some of them leave.

#5 – Change in beliefs

Many churches don’t make big changes to their beliefs.

But if your church goes through a significant shift in your doctrine, then expect to lose people.

According to one survey conducted by LifeWay Research, 85 percent of respondents said they would leave a church if there were a fundamental shift in their beliefs.

Feel free to tweak your style of worship, and perhaps redecorate your worship space. But know that if your church messes with the tenants of your faith, you should expect to lose most of your church in the process.

These are some unsurprising reasons why people in your church will leave.

Now let’s turn our attention to common reasons why you’ll lose people.