Let’s begin… I believe that there are 3 types of church growth: Biological (new babies), Conversion (new Christians – what Jesus was very interested in) and Transfer (people church hopping).
It’s the third I’d like to focus on. Some transfer growth happens when someone moves to a new town, but most transfer growth happens when people get disgruntled with their current church. Usually this is couched with various reasons – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me”, “I couldn’t find a place to fit in”, etc… Then they move to a new church, it’s the one they have always been looking for – then guess what? Over time that same church becomes the one where they begin to say – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me” and “I can’t find a place to fit in” etc…
Case in point… I received an Email years ago from a church member (we now call them partners at my current church) that listed all the great reasons they decided to join. Then about 4 years later I received an Email from that same person listing reasons why they were leaving. Oddly enough those reasons were almost identical to the one they said were the reason why they loved the church so much. What?
People leave churches, and they always have, and they always will. My prayer is that somewhere we become honest with ourselves as to the real reason why we are leaving.
Real reasons why people leave – my take…1. We fail to be honest with ourselves and think that it’s all about me. It’s not, it’s really about impacting others on Christ’s behalf. A by-product of that, is that we do get something out of it. We must be taught, trained, we must grow in our faith. But many times this is the school we go to with the end goal of impacting others in our community. 2. We fail to take responsibility to get involved in service and small group learning environment. We encourage you to serve both inside and outside the church. This reaffirmsyyour important role as part of the body of Christ – the church. Small groups, not corporate Worship, is where the real learning can take place. This group often becomes a second family. This group is the one that looks after you and holds you accountable to your Christian life – which should be becoming a lifestyle. 3. The grass always looks greener on the other side. It’s that way in all of life, why should the church be any different?
Here is what I know, that I want you to know. Some things are worth sticking around for. Your church community, I believe, is one of them (if you ever contemplate leaving for any of the above reasons). In my experience the majority of those that leave have never really gotten past just corporate Worship. Many didn’t get involved in other events the church offered – never served much, never attended other events, didn’t serve much in the community, etc… But many who leave because they believe the grass is greener eventually realize that all grass eventually has to be cut just like the old. These people, if they’re not too proud eventually find there way back home and are there to stay.
Recently I read some ideas from Sebastian Junger (NYT best selling author – The Perfect Storm, etc…). When asked, “What would your 70 year old self advise your current self?” Here is what he said, “The world is this continually unfolding set of possibilities and opportunities, and the tricky thing about life is, on the one hand to have the courage to enter into things that are unfamiliar, but also having the wisdom to stop exploring when you’ve found something worth sticking around for.”
I think, if we’re honest, most church communities are worth sticking around for. The church I serve now is one of them. This church is impacting our community like no other church I’ve served.
But that’s just my take.