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

The two most common reasons why people leave your church

Not every time someone leaves your church is natural.

There are other times when you could have influenced whether or not someone stuck around.

To help the people you’re reaching in your community to stay connected, you have to know the two common reasons why they’ll leave:

  1. Relationships
  2. Service

People will visit your church and become a member for many reasons.

But they’ll stay long-term because of the relationships.

According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, having friends or family in the congregation is a huge deciding factor for many people choosing a church. For people 65 and older, it’s 45 percent, whereas for people 18–29 it jumps to 62 percent.

Your outreach efforts will connect with people in your community.

Your preaching, worship and children’s program will be a draw for other people.

But first-time guests will be inclined to get connected if they build friendships with people in your church. Without these connections, your church will be a slippery slope—not sticky.

Another big reason why you may lose people depends on whether or not they feel needed.

Your church is a living organism, and there’s a lot of work that goes into making it work.

If someone doesn’t feel like they’re a part of your church or needed to support what’s going on, then they’ll be more inclined to walk away.

Resolving these problems takes more than doing something differently.

You have take a step back and really take a look at what’s going on.

To help you keep people connected, let’s take a look underneath the hood of your church.

Four pillars of building Christian community

There’s more to keeping people connected to your church than tactics.

You must establish four foundational pieces:

  1. Supportive church culture
  2. Clearly defined church membership
  3. Define next steps
  4. Get a tracking system

These steps may not sound tantalizing, but they’re necessary.

Let’s take a look.

#1 – Supportive church culture

The most significant component of keeping people connected to your church is a supportive church culture.

In other words, you need to build a church culture that values reaching people with the gospel and building relationships with first-time guests. If your church embraces these tenants, then the tactics you employ will be adopted, and your church will make an effort to help people get connected.

You might be thinking:

What do I do if my church doesn’t possess these values?

First of all, don’t rush to make a change.

It takes time to change the culture of a church.

Take coal, for example.

On the one hand, a piece of coal is transformed into a beautiful diamond through the application of pressure over a long period of time. On the other hand, you will shatter this same piece of coal if you were to apply an intense amount of pressure through a single blow, like hitting it with a hammer.

This analogy isn’t entirely applicable, but there’s an element of similarity.

To make a significant change in the life of your church (structure, programs, values) before your church is ready to accept the change could cause a big problem, whereas taking time to prepare your church can create a more positive acceptance of anything new you do.

Take the time to lead your church to care for the lost and build community.

In time, they’ll embrace these values.

#2 – Clearly defined church membership

One key to encouraging people to stay connected in your church is putting in place a high-threshold for church membership.

In short, church membership is more than a census. It is an attitude, it’s a state of being. It’s belonging to a covenant community of faith where talents are stewarded alongside other members of the body of Christ.

Talk about the importance of church membership from the Bible.

Let people know what church membership looks like.

Provide your members with clear expectations and clarify expectations for your church and church leadership.

Participating in your church’s membership isn’t enough for most people.

They want to be a part of something much bigger than themselves.

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