Why do you think people leave your church?
We know there are general reasons people stop attending church. Here are common examples:
- “I just didn’t get anything out of the messages.”
- “The church let me down in my time of need.”
- “My kids didn’t feel like the student ministry was working for them.”
- “The worship music wasn’t the style I like and it was too loud.”
- “The pastor seemed too busy for me.”
Candidly, comments like these come from churched people who we hope in time will consider looking beyond their own wants and desires and begin to invest in the lives of others.
It is true, churches do let Christians down, and it’s important that you and I do our best for those who call our churches home.
But people who don’t go to church much (or at all) typically don’t make those kinds of comments. People who are far from God or disenfranchised from the church aren’t picky. In fact, they want to know what we stand for and respect bold leadership. They come hungry, or hurting, or hoping; maybe a friend nagged them for months, and they finally came. They aren’t concerned about masterful communication of the message. They are wondering if the whole thing will be weird or the people are strange, or if they’ll be embarrassed. They wonder if it will be real and people will care.
When it comes to people who are not highly churched, I think there are three big reasons they leave (or don’t come back):
1. Apologetic Expressions
At 12Stone Church we get many emails every week from people who are considering whether or not they will attend, and from 1st time guests who are deciding if they will return. They want to know what we believe and if we really believe it, if they will be accepted, and they test us about our resolve.
Not everyone will come to our church or yours, but those who come don’t want soft answers or apologies. They are looking for people who really believe what they are offering. They want bold leadership. They want to know if we’re the real deal and if we’ll drink our own kool-aid!
2. Tentative Impressions
First impressions are everything. When people drive into your parking lot, your guest services teams need to be prepared and on their “A” game. One grumpy usher or an ill prepared nursery leader can determine in seconds if someone will return or not.
It should be unacceptable for your first impressions team to falter, be uncertain, or be timid because of lack of training or passion for mission. Your first impressions need to be sharp, energetic and cause people to feel like they made a good decision to get out of bed and come to your church that morning.
3. Insincere Connections
Good first impressions are vital, but they must move quickly from a warm smile and a cheerful welcome to genuine messages about how to connect with new friends. I’m not suggesting that you should be overly aggressive. People need time to find their way. Sometimes the next step is just offering a cup of coffee. But your leaders need to have their hearts ready to receive new people just as much as you need structures like a newcomers class or small groups for the people to make genuine relational connections.
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.