When People Leave Your Church

Every pastor faces it …

Most hate it. You can’t avoid it. People will leave your church. When that happens, what should we do? In this post I suggest a few tips on how to respond when it occurs.

In my over 23 years as a senior pastor (and a another 12 as an associate), for various reasons I’ve probably seen hundreds of people come and go at the churches where I served.

In one year over 100 people left the church I planted after I gave my infamous “Willow Creek” talk. I had just attended one of Willow’s early conferences and within two weeks I delivered a message about all the changes we planned to make. It didn’t work. In my immaturity I had failed to wisely manage change.

Except for some blessed subtractions (those who leave who have hurt your church), unless you are an emotionless robot, when someone leaves it hurts.

 

 

Here’s how I’ve tried to process
my painful emotions when people leave …

  1. I don’t disparage them to others after they leave.
  2. I reach out to those who had significant roles in the church. Often I will meet with them.
  3. I NEVER burn bridges. I wish them well and pray for them in person if possible.
  4. I don’t try to hide their leaving from other leaders, and neither do I broadcast it.
  5. When possible, I’ve used informal exit interviews to discover why leavers left and if there’s anything we can learn.
  6. When I see them again, I reach out and show genuine interest in how they’re doing.
  7. I don’t let myself become bitter. God has graciously given me short memories about hurtful church experiences. It’s all His grace.
  8. I remind myself that Jesus also dealt with those who left Him. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6.66)

How do you process church leavers?

 

 

 

Wish to refresh-forward
the encouragement of LifeLetter Cafe?

  • Add your comments and questions below
  • Help us build a new Cafe .. LEARN MORE HERE !
  • Bring the encouragement of the Cafe home to your inbox . . GO HERE
  • “LIKE” and comment at the Cafe Facebook page . . GO HERE
  • Come visit my blog . . GO HERE !

 

About the author : Charles Stone

Charles Stone

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015). He blogs at WWW.Charlesstone.com. He is passion about intersecting the latest learnings in neuroscience with scriptural truth.

View all articles