Have you ever left a church?
It’s funny to me. As a pastor, when people leave the church I lead, they feel compelled to let me know. Many times they even let me know why – in detail.
In my early days at Watermarke, it seemed every person or family that left the church wanted an “exit interview.” I usually listened, and in most cases, wished them luck at their next church with a smile. Usually my happy demeanor and willingness to let them leave was perplexing to them. I found trying to KEEP frustrated people at the church only cause me frustration, so I smiled and pointed out other great churches in our community.
During these slightly awkward meetings, I always wondered what they expected in return. An apology? A promise to change our church for their preferences? A cookie? Not as much sarcasm?
But seriously…as a lead pastor, when people tell me they are leaving the church, I often find myself excited for them. Or at least excited for me. Sure, there are many bad reasons to leave a church, but there are some great reasons, too. And when I hear one of the good reasons, I smile in return.
If you are considering leaving a church, here are five good reasons to go. Just don’t ask for an exit interview on your way out…
1. You don’t plan to engage.
That’s a great reason to find another church. If you are a Christian, you should have a plan to support your local church with your time and finances. If you a seeking or exploring faith, by all means, you are welcome to attend, sit in rows, ask questions, and soak it all up. But if you are a Christian, there is no excuse for behaving like a non-Christian indefinitely. I believe you should either engage or leave for a church where you can engage.
At Watermarke, we actually INVITE people to leave our church. Why? Because engaging in the local church is a huge part of our growing relationship with Jesus. That is what we hope for everyone, and if engagement is not an option at our church, I want people to find a place where engagement is an option.
Also, we might invite you to leave so we can free up your seat, but I’ll save “carrying around dead, Christian-weight” for another post!
2. You are frustrated with the direction/strategy/programming/lack of programming/etc.
If you cannot get behind the mission and vision of your church, you should find a church where you can. If your church doesn’t HAVE a clear mission and vision, you should find a church who does.
I have left a church for this reason before. I’ve been a frustrated insider. And all I did while trying to change the organization was cause frustration for the leadership, because they were not going to change.
In the end, our family moved on, and it was the best church decision of our life. In fact, it led me to where I am at today. If you are frustrated with your church, you will eventually become a frustration to the church. Sure, you should express your frustration and try to induce change where warranted, but know your efforts may fall aside and your best choice might be a church relocation.
3. You can’t trust the leadership.
If the church is not trustworthy, you won’t be the only one leaving! If you cannot trust the leadership or financial stewardship, you will never fully engage (see reason # 1). And, if a church is misappropriating funds, you should find a church or organization that you can trust to steward the resources you are attempting to steward.
4. The church isn’t growing.
Read this fully before you yell at me. If the church isn’t growing, you should first look in the mirror. If you are not helping it grow, you are part of the problem (and no other pastor wants you to bring THAT problem to their church). BUT, if you are doing your part and the church isn’t growing, the church is off mission, and staying at a church that is off mission and plans to remain off mission isn’t healthy.
Bottom line: If you can’t help the church grow, or if the church doesn’t want to grow (there are churches that actually don’t want to grow), you should leave.
5. You can’t invite unchurched friends to your church.
HUGE red flag. If you develop a relationship with an unchurched friend and don’t feel comfortable inviting them to your church, please explain to me why you attend that church. Seriously. How can any Christian attend a church where their non-believing friends feel unwelcomed?
This will be hard to believe, but in our community, people who attend other churches are CONSTANTLY inviting their unchurched friends to Watermarke! Isn’t that crazy? It amazes me! If your church doesn’t have a systematic way to lean into your unchurched friends and support your evangelism efforts, you should find another church.
Now, there are just as many BAD reasons to leave a church, and we can address that list later. But for now, what would you add to this list? Or, do you disagree with me completely? Outside of moving, is there ever a “good” reason to leave a church? I’d love to you your thought. Leave a comment below, and share this with your friends so we can add more voices to the conversation.