7 Bad Reasons People Leave Churches.

I wrote a post a few months ago called “5 Good Reasons You Should Leave Your Church.

This post struck a cord with many, but it hit me after publishing that while there ARE many good reasons to leave a church, there are some equally bad reasons, too. My guess (based on experience) is most people leave churches for bad reasons more often than for good ones. So as a counter to the previous post, here are a few terrible reasons to leave a church:

1. I’m not being fed.

Every pastor LOVES this one. If you are leaving a church because you’re not being fed, be prepared to leave the next church you attend, as well. As Christians, we should progress overtime to “self-feeders” and “other-feeders.” If you see feeding as the church’s job, you will always become “full” at any church over time and feel the need to seek out something new.

Just like an infant grows and becomes independent, we as Christians should not rely on the regurgitated food of preachers as our only source of feeding. “I’m not being fed,” is code for “It’s your job to feed me.” And it’s NOT the churches job to feed everyone equally. Most Christians just need to pick up a fork and feed themselves. That’s the best way to learn self-feeding.

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Should Church Be Entertaining?

Is your church entertaining?

If you answered yes, I’m guessing you have received your fair share of criticism. Not from the unchurched, nonbelievers in your community mind you, but from Christians and other churches. For some reason, many Christians and church leaders have bought into the belief that religion must be boring. That church can’t be fun. I guess we’ve associated boring to reverent. Hyper-serious to “spiritual.” Enjoyment has become a line in the religious sand. If you have fun in a religious service, it’s not really religious, and God can’t be pleased, right?

I partially understand. As Christians, we take God seriously. We take His church seriously. Most things we take seriously come with a certain level of seriousness (nobody wrote that down, I’m guessing). It makes sense.

But boring is not biblical. It’s not a matter of truth. It’s just how we’ve positioned ourselves as the church. It’s how we’ve positioned religion.

Here’s my question: Can a church be entertaining without becoming entertainment? There is a difference. Entertainment serves one point: Enjoyment. But entertaining is different. Entertaining is enjoyment with purpose. Enjoyment with a strategy.

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Tip 9. Making Church Easy to Attend (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). Here is the last tip:

TIP 9. Make Church Easy to Attend.

How easy is it for people to attend your church?

If you have a growing church (and you will if you shut the back door and keep people from leaving), odds are it’s getting more and more difficult to attend. Sometimes we don’t notice this as an issue, because when I arrive at church two hours before our first service begins, the parking lot is pretty open! But ask any of our 11:00 a.m. service attenders and they will paint a better picture. Maybe a disturbing picture.

At Watermarke, when we had a few hundred people, parking, checking-in children, finding seats, and all our other church activities was relatively easy. Actually, it was way too easy (more on that later). But as we began to grow, things became more complicated. The more we grew, the more complicated attending our church became.

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Tip 8. FOR People – All People (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number eight:

TIP 8. Be a church FOR people – all people.

Who is your church for?

Not theological. But practically, who is your church for?

I know what all us church leaders would say, but what if you asked people in your community? What if you asked the unchurched in your neighborhood or workplace? What if you asked the golfers teeing off on Sunday mornings?

When we get outside of our church bubble, we quickly discover the rest of the world sees the church differently. They see judgmental, homophobic, and hypocritical. They associate, for good reason, the gathering of Christians with their bad Christian experiences and an angry God.

Unfortunately, people are more familiar with what the church is AGAINST than what we are FOR. For good reason, too. Think of all the things Christians have boycotted: Disney, JC Penney, Lowes, Home Depot, UPS, PBS, Oreos, Muppets, Cheerios, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. Cabbage Patch Dolls. Barbie. World Vision… The list goes on and on.

Now some of these boycotts might be warranted. Some might be even necessary. But from the outside looking in, the brand of Christianity is marked by the word “against.” That’s regrettable, because when we open the pages of Scripture, we see a God FOR people. A loving God who has been pursuing people their entire life. A God that is so for people that he allowed his Son to die for them. It makes me believe if God is for people, His church should be known in the same way.

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Tip 7. Avoiding the Golden Corral (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number seven:

TIP 7. Avoiding the Golden Corral (A.K.A.; Offer something for every segment).

Should a church cater to EVERYONE?

In short, yes, but maybe not individually. Now, this philosophy can easily get out of hand. This thinking is how many churches become the “Golden Corral” – a veritable buffet of ministries and programs; all subpar, all competing for limited resources, most with mediocre leadership, and all advertising a new fondue fountain in an attempt to convince you it will be delicious (ok, the last one might not happen, but I’ve seen it tried!).

So while churches should definitely avoid the buffet (like people should avoid Golden Corral), churches should consider segmentation programming. Here’s why offering programming for specific segments matters: If one family member hates a church, the family will eventually leave the church. And even if the family sticks it out, the children will bolt from the church (and many from their faith) at the first sign of daylight.

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Tip 6. Effective Discipleship (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number six:

TIP 6. Effective Discipleship.

What’s your discipleship strategy?

Hopefully you’re not stumped by the question. If so, you’ll definitely want to read on!

This question is one of a few that must be answered by every church. It’s one of the primary reasons we EXIST as a church. It goes back to that whole “go and make disciples” bit from Jesus!

Within the context of this blog series, we would say evangelism brings people into the church, but discipleship is what grows their faith. Beyond spiritual growth, however, discipleship plays a big part in keeping people at your church (i.e., shutting the back door).

Lack of effective discipleship is one of the primary reasons people church hop. We hear excuses like, “I’m not being fed,” which is often a cop-out, but behind that excuse is often a discipleship system issue.

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Tip 5. Relevant Preaching (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number five:

TIP 5. Relevant preaching.

Preaching is part art, part science.

Every preacher has a style (the art) and an approach (the science). Discovering your style takes time – especially if you listen to specific preachers consistently. It becomes easier to mimic the cadence and style of your favorite communicator than to discover and own your style. Maybe we should address this at some point.

But approach is different. Approach is science. Approach is that intentional side of preaching where you pre-determine what you hope to accomplish in and through your sermon. Often, your approach determines your outcome. In fact, the results you see today are a direct result of your approach.

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Tip 4. Consistent (not boring) Experiences (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number four:

TIP 4. Create a consistent, but not boring, experience.

In general, people resist change. We like knowing what to expect. We enjoy consistency. But only when it’s excellent, of course.

Restaurant chains work hard to create consistent offerings. Even individual restaurants understand that inconsistent experiences drive customers away. Retailers need consistency in their offerings. Consistency is important because consistency keeps people coming back. And in our churches, the same is true.

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Tip 3. Create Memorable Experiences (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number three:

TIP 3. Create a memorable experience.

Take a minute and consider some of your most memorable experiences?

There’s a good chance your best experiences then are the stories you love to tell now. The moments where you were touched. Moved. Wowed. Or maybe you just experienced something better than you anticipated (like Disney!).

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Tip 1. Relationships Matter (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In the previous post, I identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important, but in this post, I want to address one of the more critical back door shutting mechanisms.

TIP 1 – Prioritize relationships.

Consider for a moment the power of relationships. How many churches have you seen (or attended) where people stay in spite of bad preaching and lack of leadership? Why do people stay? I’ll tell you – relationships. While an engaging, relevant environment might attract people, it’s ultimately a relationship that makes them stick.

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