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Top 10 Reasons People Leave Your Church

Here are the top ten reasons LifeWay Research found why people switch churches:

1. The church was not helping me to develop spiritually. (28%)
2. I did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work (20%)
3. Church members were judgmental of others (18%)
4. pastor was not a good preacher (16%)
5. Too many changes (16%)
6. Members seemed hypocritical (15%)
7. Church didn’t seem to be a place where God was at work (14%)
8. Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement (14%)
9. Pastor was judgmental of others (14%)
10. Pastor seemed hypocritical (13%)

SOURCE: The Biblical Recorder… Read more here.

People leaving your church is a double edged sword.

On one hand it can be a healthy thing. Perry Noble say that because the church is a body, and every good body has a back door (I think you know what I mean here!) - it is important for the church not to be constipated. It can be healthy for a people to leave a church. If they are not aligned to the vision or if they are being contentious, then we should allow them to leave.

But on the other hand, depending on why and how people are leaving, it could be a symptom of a troubling systemic issue within the church.

One of the best practices we try to implement at Big Creek Church are exit interviews. When people are in a position and willing to give us honest feedback, we want to take advantage of that opportunity to learn from their departure.

Here are some points about the exit interview:
  • They are usually done over the phone and last only 5-10 minutes.
  • Make sure to listen - don't be defensive or try to excuse - use it as an opportunity to learn.
  • An exit interview allows closure for the church and for that person.
  • Use the interview as an opportunity to bless them -pray for them over the phone as you conclude.


Wow, people leaving the church are excrement and good riddance to them? I can't imagine why people might not want to spend their time listening to you....

Seriously? Wow. Looks like your exit interviews are under false pretenses. Nice respect for the people who leave.

"Use the interview as an opportunity to bless them -pray for them over the phone as you conclude." And then write an article about them where you conclude they are just a worthless bit of excrement that your church is better off extruding than embracing.

It's so funny, how transparent you are about your true intentions, and yet you sincerely believe you are a decent human being. Lolz.

Equating people leaving as 'excrement' is so insulting I don't even know where to start. Perhaps people leaving in droves should alert the pastor that something is out of wack at the church, maybe even him. Exit interviews are useless for the most part, particularly if there are issues in the church with the pastor or board having in place spiritually abusive rules.

Thank you for confirming why people should run from most of the so-called Christian churches in the US. Nice to see your love of Jesus at work here (not)

So, this piece is meant to illustrate reason #9, then?

Also, if we must use crude biological analogies, when a body isn't healthy it vomits a lot of nutrients out the front, which can leave it weak and dehydrated.

Some of us left because we got tired of being treated like excrement by pastors like you.

This little burst of love explains so much. They aren't leaving by the 'back' door. You are vomiting them out the front. 'Spewing' them out of your hypocritical mouth. Check out the wounded. God will tell you where they are. Your little percentages list shows that you have been an insider for far too long.

I'll sidestep the obvious problem of equating some who leave with excrement to get at the obvious blunder of calling this a best practice.

Exactly how is it pastoral care, life affirming, or representative of the Body to conduct 5-10 minute, over the phone exit interviews? Are people leaving so constantly that ministerial staff is unable to meet for coffee or visit a home or invite someone to their office in order to sincerely listen to their heart instead of ticking a box? Sure, not everyone will want to meet. Sure, not everyone who leaves needs to stay in that particular church and sometimes the reasons for leaving are differences that are not in-step with orthodox theology or practice. However, an exit interview is a business model, like when you lose a customer. Church members are not customers. The church is not a business.

Honestly, in what Christian worldview does this make even the slightest amount of sense? Exactly how disconnected with the laity are ministers of the Gospel supposed to be?

Ridiculous! This is shameful. A phone call is about as thoughtful as sending an unsubscribe email. The Gospel is an embodied practice. The best practice is to make your body present to another as much as possible.

Good discussion, thanks everyone...

Really, Bill? "Discussion"? Try just a TINY bit harder, why don't you? Surprise us. Like maybe with an apology for calling us sh!t, for example.

Thank you Elizabeth for your feedback

Wow... Bill... You are SO Politically Correct in your complete avoidance of the issue at hand... I left my church, because it was headed in a direction that I wasn't... I am being led toward a more free understanding of Christianity by looking at what Christ actually taught, rather than living by a bunch of rules and regulations... Choosing LOVE as my guiding force in my life... So... That makes me no better than a turd that gets flushed down the toilet?! I think it is people like YOU that are a cancer within the body... And I am GLAD to no longer be a part of that "religion"... I follow Christ, NOT Christians... And I am happier because of it. Take a Good hard look at what you believe and why... The WHY is the big part... I would be interested to hear what you conclude if you chose to open your mind and consider the possibility that what you have been taught your entire life is a means to control and manipulate people by using fear...

The tone has been hostile in the comments, and I make it a policy not to get drawn into heated debates with people who appear angry. I will bless and thank people that they care enough to read the article and comment, but I don't always think the comments section is a great forum to bring about understanding.

Yet the comments beg of me to simply give this clarification...the comments believing that I said that people who leave the church are shit, is a misunderstanding of the point of the analogy- leaving and exiting is natural, and as pastors, we shouldn't always fight it or worry when people feel called to leave. (too often pastors have their identity tied into others, who is coming and who is going...rather than their identity tied into the gospel). When people feel called to leave, we should bless them, reach out to them as much as possible (or as much as they will allow us to do) and be humble and to be teachable on what the church and leadership can learn from their departure.

I hope this clarifies my point...blessings

I don't remember reading anywhere in the Bible that if you offend your brother, you should take umbrage at his "tone" and refuse to humble yourself. I think I read that you should leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled. True, winning over an offended person can be harder than taking a city, but you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, right?

It's not a misunderstanding. It's beyond plain that you think "some" people need to be excreted and washed out of your fellowship, just like excrement.

Don't apologize like a politician. Man up and just apologize for comparing people to excrement. If you honestly can, that is. If you truly see us that way, then I guess at least you have your personal integrity.

Brilliant and oh, so VERY typical: Blame anyone who doesn't toe your line, avoid the real issue, pass the buck.

You used a rotten, obnoxious, insulting analogy, and therefore you DESERVE heated tone in the responses. The analogy would NEVER be appropriate, EVER. You were wrong. Man up and FIX IT, Oh Experienced Spiritual Leader.

This is so awful, it's nearly funny.

Do you all realize how many people you are turning off from your hateful fundamentalist mindset, and your affiliated churches with this kind of bad PR, comparing people who don't agree with you to sewage?

Please, keep blogging, I want more of this out there online where everyone can see it.

I posted a link to this on my blog, I want everyone to see this.

Sheldon, be sure to also link to his "how to leave RIGHT" post. I'm sure we're all doubly damned because we didn't follow all the "right leaving" rules.

You know Bill, I tried to leave 'right' and the pastor refused to give me a blessing to go, even as I was leaving to follow my husband to another church. My pastor's answer was that I should a) divorce my husband and b) stay because I was sooo important to the ministry.

Sometimes it's not the people leaving, sometimes it's the abuse being flung from the pulpit.

You picked a bad analogy (ha! 'anal') why cannot you admit it wasn't the best choice of words?


I appreciate your comments...the focus or indictment of the analogy is for pastors who are always either insecurely chasing after the biggest and best, and especially numbers, and therefore not allowing people to leave when they need to leave or running them down when they do.

The point of the analogy was not directed at those who leave, and I regret it was perceived that way..I am not wed to that analogy..and will not die on the hill to defend it-and certainly I am willing to make that point to pastors in another way.

I have been on the receiving end of abusive leadership within the church...and I no longer work within the local church and rather do other Kingdom centered I am keenly aware of the pain the church has caused. And I have sensed many of the comments have come out of pain from abusive churches and leadership...and that is why I always try to keep my tone filled with love and grace and don't want to merely react - and I don't mind taking "hits" or not given the benefit of the doubt since my confidence and acceptance is found in Christ's acceptance...and I don't mind being corrected or told that I am wrong..since I am wrong more times than you know.

blessings, bill

So, those who are contentious are excrement (of course, you put a line through the "back door" part, so you could say it without taking responsibility for saying it)?

Jesus was contentious. Not only did many of his fellow Jews want him to leave; they wanted to kill him to be sure they were done for good with the conflict he brought. There were also a lot of contentious Christians during abolitionist days and Civil Rights days, and now during gay rights days. I guess your message is that if a person isn't status quo, he isn't welcome in your church.

Nice try, doesn't fly. If you were sincere about caring about people who've been through the kind of thing we've been through, that whole statement would be GONE and a REAL APOLOGY would be there.

You're so transparent. Do you realize that in the REAL WORLD, a corporate manager could and likely WOULD get fired for a comment like that?

Oh, wait. You don't deal in reality.

And kindly do NOT try the "oh, I've been abused too" line. That's just as transparent.

A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Pr 19:11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Well hopefully I never end up in Bill's church. I surely don't want to be thought of as waste material or fecal matter.

Plain pathetic. No wonder atheists despise us "Christians". I hear a lot of mega churches are part of Kingdom ministries. Good thing I'll never step foot in a mega church. They probably think everyone is worthless. It's funny because not even 5% of those large crowds no a single soul.

Wow! Interesting stats. There are common ground reasons why some people leave churches- or organizations for that matter. Most of it is buried in disloyalty, though not all. Check out Dag Heward-Mills'
"Those Who Leave You". It'll bring understanding that'll stabilize your church!

Thanx John for the recommendation

In every move, whatever move it may be, there will always be to forces at work. A force that pushes and a force that pulls. In the case of people leaving churches very often it is both forces at work.

leaving the church, here is another comment. should you stay at a church where the pastor decides to take away the fund raising things you ministry has been doing and says the church is going to take it over. the pastor decides to stop the ministry you've been doing for several years, says the church is going in a different direction. plus you really haven't felt the power of the Holy Spirit move the church. I feel there is still SIN in the church that the leadership says God will take care of it who are we to judge or try to correct their conduct. It hurts to see this thing go on anonymous

Great post! While Pastoring at our church I have seen the greatest results thru one-on-one mentoring either a man or a married couple to train them. It takes time but it brings results! And, slowly a church can be transformed.

Nice post! I recently exited the church and continue to grieve over it. I was a member of a church for decades and left for a new parish when I maxed out my leadership potential at my former parish. I trained others to do my work and am glad that they are doing well. I was drawn to my new parish by the opportunities presented, the liturgy, and the image they presented. But it turned out to be just an image. The church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement. The website made no mention of the young adults group. I was never invited to fact, I attended a newcomers event because I knew someone on staff, and nobody there was a newcomer. You had to know a member of the clique to get invited. There was no community. The pastor discouraged growth and complained about lack of growth. So I left and don't know if I'll return to that or any church. Incidentally, the only contact I have received since leaving is a form to fill out for my pledge. That form is in my recycle bin now.

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