Monday Morning Insights

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    How do you feel when people leave your church?

    How do you feel when people leave your church?

    Scott Hodge is doing a great series of "Leaving Church" over at his blog.  He brings up a great point in part one of his series... how do you feel when someone leaves your church?

    The truth is... some people start coming while you're the pastor (or on staff), and some people leave.

    It's inevitable. 

    It's also inevitable that your natural, human response is to take it personally.  As Scott says, "taking it personally or internalizing it as some sort of failure every time it happens is a miserable way to live. And frankly, it’s also probably a sign that you’re taking too much ownership for something that isn’t yours to begin with."

    How many times have you beat yourself up over the family that left?  Even if you're not sure why they left.  

    As Scott points out... it's ok.  Some people come.  Some people leave.  Your church isn't the only church (or the right church) for everyone.

    In fact... if you're honest... I bet you can name a few people in your church that you WISH would find another place to worship.  You'd actually rejoice if those people left.

    I remember one pastor who said that some people look a lot better going than they do coming.  That is definitely true for some folk.

    But for the people that you DON'T want to lose, but DO... don't beat yourself up over it. Many times, it's wise to do an 'exit' type interview with people who have left to see exactly why they're leaving.  This can give you a good snapshot and help you identify trends.  If it's something that directly relates to you, consider if there's anything that you would've changed, or anything constructively that you would change in the future.  

    Learn from it and move on.

    But don't sit in a puddle of your own tears and self-doubt for days, weeks, or months.  That's a weak leader.  People can sniff that a mile away.  And that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that will actually cause others to become discontent.

    Keep your head up, pastor.  The future of your church and your ministry didn't ride on that one person or family.  Get back to work, and pour into one of the new families got has undoubtedy brought your way.


    You can read more here at Scott's blog...


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    1. Brian L. on Wed, January 19, 2011

      I have run the gamut of emotions when people leave.

      Some have made me very sad, others were what some have called, “blessed subtractions.”

      Right now I struggle with fear that I will be blamed for someone leaving - by those who stay.

    2. Rod Gauthier on Wed, January 19, 2011

      I think that with the current state of church life in North America, most pastors struggle with this. I do. In all of of the churches I have led, people have left, and it causes some serious navel gazing. In most cases, I wasn’t the cause (in a few I was, and while i grieved, I also rejoiced!). While we can’t runimate on this, it must enter our discussions with our leadership. Some departures may reflect a serious issue that the church needs to deal with. Where departures bury us is when we don’t talk about them, then they take on a life of thier own, fueled by misinformation, innuendo and rumour. When we deal with them face to face, we can and will survive all while demonstrating God’s grace.

    3. Jim B. on Wed, January 19, 2011

      I’ve had several pastor friends through the years who claimed that the only way their churches could experience revival is for a virulent influenza epidemic to sweep through their congregations, and promote some of their church members to glory.  Sadly, it’s probably more true than fiction.

    4. Peter Hamm on Wed, January 19, 2011

      Brian writes [Right now I struggle with fear that I will be blamed for someone leaving - by those who stay.] I struggle with this. Also, I just don’t like when people, even people I’m not crazy about… take off…

    5. CS on Wed, January 19, 2011

      I read through all three blog posts that Hodge wrote and found that it was pretty good overall.  I would have liked him to delve into the reasons why people leave and what are legit and illegitimate reasons, along with how pastors should react to someone coming in without having left properly.


    6. Eric on Wed, January 19, 2011

      It’s tough when people leave. My fear is people will blame it on me as that was often the case at my last church. But if I know I am doing my best to represent the Lord I’m ok with it. I try to focus more on the people remaining and what their role is when someone leaves.

      Then there are those people who leave and I rejoice. I’ve had people who have acted as a cancer spreading rumors and lies trying to bring dissension. I’m not sad at all when they leave. I do nothing to bring them back. (Though I still work with those remaining to work out their role.) Not out of a sense of vindication or callousness but rather because I want to work with people who want to grow and bring in new people who would otherwise be put out by the dissenters.

    7. Richard on Wed, January 19, 2011

      This issue gets its hooks in our more neurotic natures.  I don’t know everything that’s been written on the subject, but how about from the perspective of “what’s wrong with the people who are leaving?”

    8. Mike on Wed, January 19, 2011

      Thanks for the blog post…I disagree with the ‘exit interview’ idea.  Been there, done that.  It doesn’t do anything but hurt the whole time, and cause a lot of anxiety on both sides.
      God gives, and God takes away.

    9. Jan on Wed, January 19, 2011

      Well, here we’ve experienced a lot of this with the church hopper types.  It’s gone on since the beginning of this church with pastor after pastor, so we’ve tried not to personalize it.  But it’s been for the most part ugly and mean.
      I feel sad.  I think when disunity happens and people leave angry, for whatever reason, right or wrong, Satan wins.  I know it’s idealistic, but wouldn’t it be amazing if there was reconciliation and for once so called Christians worked it out and stayed?  Then we might see the lost wanting what we supposedly have.

    10. Ron on Thu, January 20, 2011

      I feel different about it when someone leaves who was our target person (unchurched) than I do if it’s someone who goes from church to church. The church hopper we never had them to begin with but the person who came to church, found Christ and then leave, I find that one harder to take.

    11. Pat on Thu, January 20, 2011

      What about when 30 families leave a church of about 600 in a short amount of time? Our church just experienced this, and it has left everyone, pastors and laity reeling. There are numerous reasons. Most left over disagreements with church polity, some left because of job relocation (economic related), and a few felt God calling them elsewhere. Besides cutting back on expenses (tithes are way down), church leadership hasn’t taken that necessary hard look as to why the largest group left. It’s very disconcerting.

    12. CS on Thu, January 20, 2011


      “I feel different about it when someone leaves who was our target person (unchurched) than I do if it’s someone who goes from church to church.”

      So you’re doing church for the unchurched?  What about for Christians?

      “The church hopper we never had them to begin with but the person who came to church, found Christ and then leave, I find that one harder to take. “

      Why is that the case?


    13. Gman on Fri, January 21, 2011

      Reminds me of an old phrase:

      “All of our people bring us joy. Some when they come in ...others when they leave.”

    14. Mark on Fri, January 21, 2011

      How would you feel knowing that after leaving YOUR church they will never attend church ever again.

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