I Think I’ve Discovered THE Reason that People Are Leaving Our Churches!

For the last two years, I’ve been praying over, thinking over, discussing and researching the answers to this poignant question:

Why are people leaving our churches (and not going anywhere else)?

Where are all of those friends who used to pass us in the halls and sit near us in the pew? What is causing church attendance to dwindle? Here is one possible reason that people are leaving our churc

I’ve read several books, spent much time on the Lifeway and Barna websites and looked at several other sites of all denominations and flavors.

I’ve talked to hundreds of people both churched and unchurched.

I even spent an entire airplane flight (2 hours) talking to a Catholic nun about why she thought people had left and were leaving her particular parish.

Some of the research blames people leaving on some “fun” and “loaded” topics (that we love to argue about).

They cite things like:

  • Music style differences
  • Leadership style differences
  • Should we preach and teach topically or verse by verse
  • The size of our buildings, parking lots and classrooms
  • The carpet and the wall colors

Other research points to our differences in theology and beliefs as the reason that people leave our churches. They discuss things like:

  • Should we give an altar call?
  • Should we offer a sinner’s prayer?
  • Should we talk about things in church like homosexuality?
  • Should our families sit together, or should our worship times be organized by age group?
  • Should we have elders and deacons or just deacons?
  • Should women be allowed to be deacons and elders (and preachers)?
  • Is the King James Bible the only true version?

All of these things do matter, and we do need to have structure, balance and to know what we believe as a church.

Theology and convictions are very significant.

However, as important as all of these things are, they are not (in my opinion) the main reason that people are leaving our churches.

Where are all of those friends who used to pass us in the halls and sit near us in the pew? What is causing church attendance to dwindle? Here is one possible reason that people are leaving our churc

If I could boil all of my research, conversations, reading and digging for answers into one simple reason, it would be this:

People are leaving our churches (never to return to anyone’s church) because:

THEY DO NOT THINK THAT WE CARE ABOUT THEM!

It is that simple.

And, it is that challenging.

Those who have fallen away, drifted away, walked away and run away from our fellowships have this one thing in common:

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY,

THEY GOT HURT,

WOUNDED,

OFFENDED,

NEGLECTED OR

FELT REJECTED BY OUR CHURCH,

OUR PASTOR AND OUR PEOPLE.

Maybe it’s because we forgot about what Jesus said mattered most.

Do you remember how He responded to the church leaders of His day?

‘When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault.

One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up:

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list.

But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”’

Jesus made it very clear: Love God, and love others as much as you love yourselves.

Those two things mattered greatly then, and they still matter in our lives today.

So, I’d like to propose a very simple formula for reconnecting with the people who have left or fallen away from your community of believers:

C.A.R.E.

Really care about those who have left, gone away or just fallen away.

You and I can care by:

C = Concern

We have to start by being genuinely concerned that these people have left our fellowship.

We have to actually take the time to unselfishly notice that they are not with us anymore.

Think about it…

Can you name 5 people who you used to see that you haven’t seen in a while?

1. __________________________

2. __________________________

3. __________________________

4. __________________________

5. __________________________

Missing church members want to know that we care and are concerned about their welfare!

A = Acknowledge you could have done more than you have done.

This step is hard, but to really start to care, we have to be honest with ourselves and with each other.

We should have, could have, would have called, but we didn’t.

We blew it.

We know we could have done more.

Think about it…

When was the last time that you thought of someone you should reach out to, but then you let the thought pass and you never followed through?

  • Yesterday?
  • Last week?
  • Last month?

For me, it was last week. I thought about reaching out to someone who has been out for a while, but I did nothing. The idea passed me by, and I let it.

How about you? Have you let some people leave without reaching out to them? Could you have done more than you did?

Missing church members want to hear us admit that we should have checked on them, should have called them, and should have reached out to them.

They want us to acknowledge that we didn’t follow through with them.

R = Reach out now. It’s never too late to try!

This is a great day to call, text, write, email or go see that person that God has put on your heart.

Maybe it’s a fellow choir member or a class member or someone you used to sit near in church.

Today would be a great day to check on them!

Think about it…

What 1-2 people have been on your heart that you will check on today?

Person one _______________________

Person two _______________________

Missing church members LOVE it when we reach out to them. 

E = Encourage others to reach out too!

Tell someone else that you are reaching out to missing church members.

Let others know that they can help to reclaim some old friends as well.

Think about it…

Who could you partner with on this outreach plan?

~ Do you have an accountability group you could share this with?

~ Do you have a prayer partner who would team up with you in this effort?

~ Could you share this with your Bible study group or Sunday school class?

Missing church members love it when many people are encouraged to reach out to them (it’s okay if more than one person shows concern)!

And so, all of this research brings me back to something simply profound that most of us learned as little children:

Love and care about other people as much as we love and care about ourselves.

Philippians 2:1-4 puts it this way:

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

Where are all of those friends who used to pass us in the halls and sit near us in the pew? What is causing church attendance to dwindle? Here is one possible reason that people are leaving our churc

Maybe today our churches would be filled if we just loved others better, more sincerely and more genuinely.

Maybe the secret to reclaiming our lost members is simply to – CARE!

What do you think?

I’d love to hear from you today~

Some of my research came from these sources:

http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_PDF_Why_Members_Leave.pdf

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/15/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-1/

http://christianmediamagazine.com/worship-leadership/6-reasons-people-leaving-churches-america/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/10-reasons-why-people-leave-church/

http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/04/5reasonsmillennials/

http://thomrainer.com/2013/01/21/the-main-reason-people-leave-a-church/

**And, would you do me a favor — if this article has encouraged you today — would you share it with someone else? 

Maybe you can send it to a friend or family member?

This blog occasionally uses affiliate links and may contain affiliate links.  Melanie Redd is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. For more on my disclosure policy, click HERE.

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© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About helloredds@gmail.com

Blessed wife of Randy for over 25 years, mom to two great college students, blogger, women's ministry coach, speaker and author who is amazed by God's grace-

50 thoughts on “I Think I’ve Discovered THE Reason that People Are Leaving Our Churches!

    1. Friendship has to run deeper than cutting friendship with someone off because we dont like a sin in their lives, which is shallow. God always loves us. Real love is unconditional.

  1. You hit the nail on the head. I agree! I love the CARE steps you gave. We all need action steps to help address this very important issue. thank you for the time and research you poured into this. kim

    1. Thank you, Kim!

      I really appreciate you stopping by today and leaving a kind word~

      And, I do love action steps. I think they just ooze out of my DNA!

      Hope you are doing well and having a great week. Very grateful to have a blogging friend like you~

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  2. Mel – Your posts are purposeful, practical, poignant, and powerful! This one is proof! A great follow-up to your previous questions and apology posts. It moves me to read it. I CARE and I pray that my life and actions will show it. A heart for Jesus is a heart for others! Thanks!

  3. I agree with someone’s post earlier- We fall short so much about reaching to someone whether it is a call, visit or note. We always say we WILL–Thanks for all you do for God’s glory. You both are such a blessing. You mean so much to so many people.

  4. This is so good. As a pastor’s wife, we often struggle with this dilemma — what to do about those who leave. And many leave hoping you’ll notice (not just anyone, but the Pastor and his wife) and when you don’t, they’re offended and mad. Tough stuff. But I love your CARE idea and I will be putting this to work the next time I think of someone who’s not around. Thank you!

    1. Hey Debbie,

      I am a pastor’s wife too, and it is hard to be us! We try so hard and work so much. And, I’m watching pastors and wives get worn out trying to do it all themselves.

      Fortunately, I see lots of churches trying to go back to some “old fashioned” basics to help with this problem: neighborhood fellowship groups, dinner groups and such.

      Care is essential. But we can’t do it all as leadership.

      I’m working on some articles about how we can reach the unreached and the used to be reached. I’ve been doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of ministry folks about this.

      I would love to involve you in this process. Would you be willing to maybe be interviewed or maybe write a guest post about how we can reach the unreached and the used to be reached?? (Just a thought that came to me).

      Looking forward to connecting again in the future. You’ve blessed me by stopping by and leaving comments today~
      Melanie

      1. Hi Melanie, I would love to connect again with you. I’m not sure what I can offer the articles you are writing, but I would love to talk with you more about it! You can connect with me privately from my blog and we can see where it all leads. Pastors wives have much to offer one another, so I’m glad my words blessed you. Happy Weekend!

        1. Hey Debbie,

          Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment today! I appreciate you and your visit!

          And, I will send you an email to talk about what we do together in ministry! I agree that pastor’s wives can really encourage each other, and I’d love to hear your ideas.

          Hope you and your family enjoy a nice 4th~
          Blessings,
          Melanie

  5. I think you’re right on here! I know in our case, this was exactly the reason we left – too much hurt and not enough concern. Thankfully we’ll be able to plug in again somewhere else, but this was definitely the reason for our leaving.

    1. Hey Rebekah,

      Thanks for stopping by and having an encouraging word! I appreciate you and your visit.

      Glad you were able to find a new church to plug in to. Hope you are finding joy in this new place!

      Enjoy connecting with you~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  6. It’s actually really interesting to read this. I don’t come from a religious family and am not religious myself. That said, the one thing I love about the idea of church is the community that it brings with it. I recently went to a church that was holding a family fun day and I loved talking to the people and to the minister, it felt like such a wonderful community. I felt like a bit of a fraud being there since I don’t believe but everyone was so welcoming, it didn’t seem to matter. I can imagine that it is not like this everywhere though and surely one of the most important parts is caring? I think in general, we all need to care about each other a little more, we have become a world of selfishness. Yes, lives are busy, we all have a million things going on, but really, there is enough time to show someone a little bit of care and appreciation. I think it gets you a long way in life. Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Hey Lisa,

      Thanks for stopping by to day and leaving such a thoughtful comment. I really appreciate you and your visit.

      And, I think it’s fascinating to hear about your experience at the community church in your area. So grateful that the people were kind and friendly. Many church members are!

      I do hope you will visit there for other events – even if you don’t believe. I pray you will see the kindness of God in the lives of those people.

      I’m enjoying linking up on Twinkly Tuesday. And, I look forward to connecting again~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  7. I enjoyed reading this article Melanie.
    The Church had stopped caring along time ago. If they aren’t after the figures increasing in terms of funds, then they are after setting up a super structure!
    How sad!
    Thank you for sharing I wish more people could read this series you have on this!
    Blessings Melanie.

    1. Hey Ifeoma,

      Thank you for your feedback on this article about the church. I pray that those who need to see this feature will see it.

      We are living in an interesting day in the church. I pray that God will revive the hearts of the leaders and the people, and get us back to doing the work of the gospel.

      Hope you have a blessed day~
      Melanie

  8. I have thought about this as well. I think this is so true. But I also think we as believers don’t realize the privilege we have to honor Him as we fellowship together. We have to be committed to a life after God or we won’t survive or be able to live out our purpose. The church of Acts was such an example we have forgotten about. The church service is to be busy entertaining or trying to follow a program while we have people sitting amongst us with real needs. Funny we are quick to give to all kinds of organizations, but won’t pay a bill for an elderly person sitting in our congregation or the single mom trying to make it, the person trying to stay clean. Why because we think they should suffer the consequences of their choices. We feed thousands outside our walls how about the ones inside?

    1. Hey Becky,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment today. I really appreciate you and your visit!

      And, it does seem that we miss the very people that need our help the most. I pray God will make us more aware and more sensitive to the real needs of those around us!

      Hope you have a blessed day~
      Melanie

  9. It’s EXACTLY why my husband and I left two different churches. It’s been months since we have gone to church. The straw that broke the camels back for me was when we were doing a sign up for a book class that would be held at homes. I bought the book, signed up. Matter of fact I think I was the third one to sign up for the one particular home because it was the nearest, which still was a half hour drive. Anyway no one informed us of the first meeting, not even in the bulletin when the first class was. I found out a week after. Approached the women of whose house it was at, she told me her house was full and did not have room for two more people to come. That was early June, it’s now early September. Haven’t been to any church. I don’t like not being at a church. I pray about it and I know scripture says we should be a part of a church, nota building but the body. I also know no one is perfect and we will not find a perfect church

    1. Hey Karen,

      I’m really sorry that you were hurt at your church. Sometimes people are very careless and rude. I apologize for that woman who uninvited you from the Bible study at her home.

      I will pray that God will lead you to a loving group of Christians in your community – some folks who will love and accept you and be kind to you.

      There are still some really amazing people and churches out there; and, I pray you will find one again.

      Maybe you can ask the Lord to give you some encouragement towards a new group/church/gathering of believers…

      I’m praying you’ll be encouraged this week~
      Appreciate your visit and your story,
      Melanie

  10. For the past three years I have not even been able to attend our church due to high physical pain (I was just diagnosed yesterday with Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Spondylitis in my Spine and Osteoarthritis in my SI Joints and a Bone Tumor in my Left Hip) and to this day not a single person has even called, emailed, written, or even visited to check up on me. What makes this so bad is that five people even live in the same apartment complex as me.

    Not long ago I visited someone who I thought was a friend from this church and was explaining how I was feeling like noone even cared about me and all I got in return was to, “Do not even go there”. I have not been back to this church even though my husband still attends the Men’s Group.

    I want to go to another Church that has been very welcoming to me and kind to me. But my husband does not want to go to the one I want to go to so what should I do? I want to obey God and be submissive to my husband but I do not want to go to a church that does not even care about me.

    1. Hey Karen,

      I am so sorry to hear about the pain you have been living with for the past 3 years. And, I am even more sorry that the folks in your church have not reached out to you.

      Your situation is challenging and made more difficult by the fact that your husband’s desire to stay.

      I’d love to be able to tell you to move on, but I can’t. As hard as it may be, I encourage you to stay under your husband’s protective authority. Express (kindly) that you would rather not go, but let him know that your will attend out of honor for him.

      Then, go back and try to find a new group, class, friends.

      Likely the church is big enough that you can plug in somewhere new. I will pray that God will bless your obedience and send you some new friends and a great new place to serve and get involved.

      You CAN do this!

      One other truth I’ve been taught and found to be true in my own life – “Give to others what you need.”

      When you go back, be friendly. Be kind. Be nice. You may find another sister that needs your kindness just as much as you need hers.

      Keep me posted on how things go~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  11. There is so much truth to this! I don’t think we all will see eye to eye on EVERYTHING a church can offer but when we LOVE people and truly care for them…. that is what the love of Jesus is about. I’m reading 1 John and Christ’s love for us helps us to love others!

    1. Thank you for stopping by to leave a good word today!

      And, I’m with you – what if we focused on genuinely loving others rather than focusing on our differences? What might take place in our churches?

      Love the book of 1 John. Think it has such great reminders of how we are to treat each other.

      You have blessed me with your comments today. I’m so glad you visited and took the time to share.
      I hope you have a wonderful day today~
      Melanie

  12. One of the things we do in our chuch is the womens group is, I send greeting cards. “Thinking of you, Get well cards, Smpathy cards, Concrat, and Happy Birthday cards and Missing You” Signing them “your church family’ This seems to help and when people find out i’ts me sending the cards they are so thankful and express it, I always remind them i’t from all of us. Anyway Other ladies let me know who nees a card so we are all working togeather. It works. In our church Directory the Birthdays are listed so that is how I know when to send
    birthday cards. This may help other churches.

    1. Hey Gloria,

      Thanks for some wonderful suggestions! I love cards!! And, I think everyone really enjoys getting cards in the mail.

      And, can I ask a favor? I’m not able to send the article to Dan because the email address is coming back as “undeliverable.” Would you mind double checking his email and sending it to me?

      Thanks so much,
      Melanie

  13. I love this and I completely agree. This is the reason my daughter left church and won’t return. Many people equate church with the people and often it can happen inadvertently.

    1. Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment today, Alison.
      I know a lot of kids have left because of this problem.
      One thing I do with friends and family who’ve been hurt in church is to pray that God will place into their lives some loving believers who will LOVE them back into church and into fellowship.
      I pray that God will do this for your daughter~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  14. As a mature woman of God, I left my home church after 14 years of sitting in the pews, asking for help in an abusive marriage, and before that and even during that time, offering to help in the areas of gifting…only to be shut down. IN the end I was tired…dejected and and felt like I no longer belonged. It has been over 5 years since I’ve been going anywhere, and that due to chronic illness which I received only one offer of help for. Only 2 days ago , I cried with a dear friend about the hurt I am now feeling re the lack of care my children and I received. I’ve had to work through this process with the Father and this one true friend. I’m pretty disgusted! I’m not sure if I should say something to the leadership about this or not. Bless you for the article. ..Suzi

    1. Hey Suzi,
      Thank you for stopping by to leave a comment today. I really appreciate you and your visit.
      I’m so sorry to hear how hard it has been at your church. I do think you should talk to one of the leaders to let them know. Sometimes, they just don’t know. I don’t think the pastors or staff “intend” to hurt you, but sometimes they inadvertently do.
      I will pray that you will have the time and the chance to speak the truth in love to these leaders.
      Each time God brings you to mind in the coming days, I will pray for you.
      Thanks for letting me know~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  15. Amen. I loved your article. I am all for reaching out to others but some of our churches are so busy reaching out to every one in the community and around the world while forgetting to minister to those within their own church.

  16. In my experience, people usually leave because of the judgmental nature of many churches, or just boredom – you hardly ever find anything intellectually interesting or new at all.

    1. Hey Anne,
      Thanks for stopping by to leave a word today. I really appreciate you and your visit.
      It sounds like you haven’t had a very good experience with churches. I’m sorry to hear this. I know that this is true for a lot of people.
      However, I must respectfully disagree with you on this… to really know and fall in love with Jesus is the most intellectually stimulating, interesting, and amazing thing in my life. There is nothing sweeter, better, or more satisfying.
      I pray that you will come to know Him in this same way.
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  17. right in some ways for sure.
    our church has been around over 125 yrs, we are a small congregation with about 200 on the books. there is every denomination in our town of about 2500..
    the last two that contacted our pastor about why they were leaving one was doctrinal,
    the gal said she believed in abortion on demand & gay marriage.
    neither had been talked about in SS or church service to my knowledge.
    the other lady said she was looking for a different type of church.
    So as far as I am concerned , those are good reasons to leave. we certainly aren’t going to change on abortion & also have learned over the many years that we can’t be all to all people. perhaps she will go back to her Catholic roots.
    in the bigger picture more & more Christian friends are leaving their mega churches for a smaller home church, where they feel apart of something.

    1. Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment today, Lesa.
      I really appreciate you and your visit.
      And, you are right… sometimes people are going to leave over theological and moral differences that they may have with our churches.
      My prayer is that we continue to share the love of Christ with everyone – no matter if we agree or not.
      Hope you have a very Happy New Year, and I hope you will stop by again.
      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  18. This article really piqed my interest. Other than basic survival, the need to feel a sense of belonging is a primary psychological/emotional need. From my own observations, I see too many cliques in the church. Examples: the teacher clique, the clique of parents with students in a certain school, the clique of folks that live in certain types of neighborhoods, and the list goes on. I see this somewhat less with the older members. For a new younger married couple or one trying to get back to church, being excluded is hurtful. Conversations revolve around the outside of the church activites of the clique. These people are often less than friendly outside the walls of the church . I even had a family member who was a deacon and had been in the family for years comment to me at a family function after hearing me talk to someone else, “I did not know you did not have any brothers or sisters.” The person had been in the family a decade. I am too old to be offended, but was surprised as it showed that people can live in their own small worlds and really not try to get to know others. It takes more than a smile, a hello, and glad you are here to truly make others, feel a sense of belonging.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment today. I appreciate your visit and your ideas.

      It sounds like you have been involved in a lot of church and family relationships that are challenging. And, I agree, we can be so stuck in our own circles and our cliques that we don’t reach out well to others.

      My prayer is that more of us will get out of the cliques and genuinely engage those around us.

      Please stop by again~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  19. I am one of the church members that left. My reason is God opens peoples eyes to see the truth. That’s all.

  20. In the near 24 years that my husband have been married, the past 5 months is about 4.5 longer than we have not been to church, mostly for the exact reasons you have listed. My perspectives differ from those of many, influenced by 35 years of nursing. Church members don’t have the answers for everyone, and they are quick to ostracize those brave enough to vocalize what they think. So, so sick of being excluded because I am not believed to be Christian.

    1. Hey Joy,

      It’s so good to hear from you today. Thank you for stopping by to share your story.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had some tough experiences with churches and with other believers. We are really HARD on each other, aren’t we?

      My prayer is that you and your husband will enjoy some sweet fellowship with other believers – no matter where you get together.

      And, please stop by again. It’s great to connect with you~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

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