How to Respond When People Leave Your Church

Member leaving the church, carrying a box.

One of the subjects that comes up often is how to respond to people when they leave your church.

The moment people decide to stop attending your church, for whatever the reason, can be an uncomfortable situation to face. Not to mention, it’s hard not to take personally. We wish everyone could find their fit at your church. But that isn’t realistic.

So, what do you do when a member is departing your congregation? How do you approach people leaving because they didn’t find a “fit” at your church? Below we cover how to respond when people leave your church.

Reasons People Leave the Church

As the church leader, the last thing you consider is members leaving, but it's a very present reality. It can be painful to address people when they decide to seek fellowship in other places. But it's important to know how to respond when people leave your church.

Understanding how to respond ahead of time can help you improve your church community and provide spiritual guidance to those in need of it. We've created a guide with some information to help you deliver a thoughtful response while also finding ways to increase church membership instead of decreasing it.

There are several reasons people decide to leave the church. These reasons might fall under both the spiritual and non-spiritual. Understanding the reasons people leave the church will ensure you can craft a response. This response will help answer the lingering questions of church members. It will help ensure no negative feelings are left behind between you and your past church members.

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Your Church Model Isn't What They're Looking For

The first reason someone might leave a church is that it's not meeting their spiritual needs. This isn't to say that what you're teaching in your church doesn't align with your belief system. It simply means it's not what the church members need at that specific time. They might have reached a point in their spiritual journey where they need a different type of teaching. 

Another reason is that a person might not be ready to receive what you're saying.

If that's the case, they might be leaving the church altogether and deciding they don't wish to attend church anymore. If this is the case, it's not something you can help with because sometimes people aren't ready to receive the message being heard in your church.

You might even find various ideas you can use to improve your spiritual speeches moving forward.

Experienced Hurt in Church

While your intention as a church leader isn't to deter anyone in their spiritual journey, sometimes it can happen. When people experience this type of hurt within the church, it can confuse them about what to do and the steps to take next.

If they cannot process what they're feeling, the only decision that seems right is to leave the church. For some people, remaining in the same place and rising above the hurt they've sustained can become challenging to handle.

Sometimes, members of the church pass judgment on someone or hurt them and make them feel unwelcome. When this happens, people tend to flee rather than continue putting themselves in a situation where they're not welcome.

How to respond when people leave your church in this situation, you do so with the assumption that it's a safe space to bear your faults and be welcomed by others on the same spiritual journey you're on.

Felt Disconnected

When you're in the presence of other believers, you feel connected and want to participate in various parts of the ministry. However, that feeling of connection never comes for some people, and it leaves them wondering if your church is the place for them.

Most people assume it's up to their church to make them feel connected. But it's up to the church member to take advantage of the opportunities your church provides for them.

For example, do you offer Wednesday night bible study?

Are there volunteer opportunities that church members can take advantage of? If so, you're doing what it takes to extend an olive brand to the church members allowing them to connect.

However, if someone operates with the belief that it's on the church to feel connected, they might not ever feel this way about the church. Because they don't feel this way, it may lead them to leave the church altogether.

They've Moved

9.8% of people move every year, which can be another reason people choose to leave their church. For some people, moving from one place to another isn't an obstacle.

They can still attend their church, but this isn't always the case for everyone.

If the commute to the church is too much, they might abandon the church altogether. In the beginning, people might continue to connect and find a way to come to the church.

But when life takes over, they'll become more distant from the church and begin seeking a closer church to where they live now.

We'll offer some remedies for this situation later in the post that will help you provide church members a solution that allows them to continue being a part of your church community even when they move.

How to Respond When People Leave Your Church

Church Member leaving at sunset carrying bagAbove we gave some reasons that people might leave the church. When you notice that church attendance is down, you might panic. But it's essential to remain calm because you never know what someone's reason for leaving is.

Another reason to remain calm is to ensure you can respond to church members in the most positive way possible. As your church leader, you've got to handle even the most challenging situations with grace.

Here are the best ways to respond to members of the church that decide to leave.

Have a Conversation

When people leave the church, it's easy to jump to conclusions about why they're going and begin weaving a negative story about why they've left. The first way to respond to church members that are leaving is to sit down and have a conversation with them.

By having a conversation with a former church member, you can gain insight into their reasons for leaving. This is the perfect time to ask questions to help you become a better leader.

For example, if someone is leaving because they feel you're not the leader they expected you to be, this would be the time to ask those questions. Understanding your weaknesses as a leader is just as important as understanding your strengths.

You might find that some of the feedback they give you can help you as you continue leading your ministry. Being curious about why someone left the church shows them you care about each member and want to do what's right for the congregation to move forward.

It's not always easy to connect with each congregation member, but you can build and nourish these relationships by having open conversations with members that stay or leave.

Show Compassion

When people leave the church, especially for negative reasons, showing compassion isn't the first thing that comes to mind. However, in the Bible, whenever Jesus dealt with adversity, he permanently extended mercy and grace, especially to people that didn't understand the message he was trying to convey.

Even if people leave your church with a bad taste in their mouth, you want them to know they're loved, and your church will welcome them back with open arms.

Another reason to show compassion to people is that you never know what people are going through in their daily life. The stress of living up to expectations outside the church can intensify if they feel the congregation is judging them for their choices.

While you might disagree with why someone leaves the church, it doesn't mean you can't extend compassion and understanding for what they're going through when considering how to respond when people leave your church. You never know. Showing compassion could be the deciding factor that motivates them to return to the church at a future time.

Think Before You Speak

When you provide spiritual guidance to church members, you've got to choose your words correctly as a church leader. When you speak without thinking, it can have negative repercussions for people who turn to you as the flock leader.

When addressing people who have left the church, carefully choose your words. You want to speak thoughtfully and with confidence in what you're saying. 

During the turmoil, people don't need more words that confuse them. Instead, they need to hear words rooted in solid spiritual beliefs that will continue to help guide them.

For example, if church members notice an increase in the number of people leaving, they might begin to question their loyalty to the church. During these times, let them know you've noticed the increase in members going, but you're there and open to speaking with members that wish to have a conversation.

It will also help to detail for church members what the word says about dealing with times like these and how you plan to move forward with dealing with the situation. Sometimes before you speak, it's best to take time to look inwards beforehand.

This will help you ensure you speak from a place of love and compassion rather than hurt and anger.

Offer a Solution

Is the reason people are leaving the church because they've moved? Or they're concerned about the health of their family members as the pandemic continues to surge worldwide?

The best way to meet the needs of your congregation without forcing them to choose if they want to continue attending the church is to offer church service solutions. For example, if people are concerned about social distancing, one thing you can do is increase the number of church services you offer.

For example, you might have one church service in the early morning and another in the early afternoon. You might also consider finding a way to stream the service online and provide ways to give online.

A service offered online is also beneficial for church members that have moved but still want to remain participating members of the church. Many churches have begun to use online streaming platforms like Facebook Live to allow church members near and far to continue participating in church services.

Take time to find a streaming platform that meets the needs of your church before using it for streaming purposes. It also helps if you have a team that can handle the video and audio for your church.

The last thing you want to do is stream low-quality video and audio.

Trust in God

You might lose your faith when people leave the church because you don't know what's going wrong. However, you need to trust the one you believe in during these times and know how to properly respond when people leave your church.

You might not find the answers you're looking for right away, but it'll be on time when it's time for the answer, and you've got to believe this. As a person of faith, you think everything serves a purpose, even if that means some people leave your church.

Ensure you take some time to pray and determine what steps are the best when moving forward. Praying can also ensure you respond to church members leaving in the most appropriate way possible. 

Remember, you've got to respond with care, compassion, and thoughtfulness. By doing these things, you show your power as the leader and continue to build the trust your congregation places in you moving forward.

Vanco Payments can help you achieve all your online church service goals. Remember, redefining the way you reach out to your congregation will help you retain church members that might be on the fence about leaving.

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