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How to Leave a Church

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve watched hundreds of people leave a church for reasons I didn’t understand and some that I did. Churches can be easy to walk away from for people dealing with stress, offense, sin or something else. I want to believe that everyone attending our church will be a part of our church family forever, but rarely does that happen.

Reasons why you might be leaving your church

1. I’m just not getting fed

When I hear this statement, I think about the maturity of the individual. What you’re really saying is, “I’m not mature enough to study God’s word on my own. Therefore, I expect you as the Pastor to force feed me everything I need for life and godliness.” This may not be what you’re saying in your head, but this is how it comes across to your Pastor. The question is, is this really your expectation of your church and Pastor? If it is, then you might want to think about who is REALLY responsible for your spiritual growth.

What you can do is:

  • Press into God’s Word. Daily reading and Bible study is a must.
  • Join a small group. Getting to know people and having discussions about important topics and Biblical study is important to your growth
  • Join a service team at your church. You’ll learn a lot from the people you work with.

2. I can’t follow the leadership

If you are new to a church and you learn something about their theology, management style, or something else you disagree with. Then it’s perfectly fine to leave. What I take issue with is when people have been at church for years and then find something they don’t like, or perhaps they didn’t get their own way. Some get offended and they look for fault with the church so their departure is justified.

If you are offended, confused or disagree with something, I would invite you to:

  • Sit down with your Pastor and seek to understand the heart behind the circumstances.
  • If you disagree, try to leave your emotions out of it. In a disagreement, emotions will further complicate the issue.
  • Be quick to appologize if you said something offensive and if the Pastor says something offensive, be ready to let him or her know that you are hurt by what they said and quick to forgive when apologies are made.

3. This person hurt me or I don’t get along with someone

Speaking from experience, I’ve worked with people over the years that I don’t understand. I thought that avoiding them was the answer but as time went on, we began to work more closely and the issues seemed to get bigger.

If you have an issue with someone in the church, you should pull them aside and talk about your hurt. They may have no concept of what you’re going through. Not every situation will end favorably, but seek to understand and make peace with them. Celebrate your differences. Find the good in them. You may not be a good fit to work together but you can remove some of the tension by talking about your issues and coming to an understanding.

4. If you must leave a church, here are some thoughts

Tell your Pastor and/or ministry leader – It’s better to explain the situation to the leader so he or she understands what’s going on and can help with the transition. You don’t have to be detailed in all the reasons but letting them know is the first step. Oftentimes, ministry leaders or staff Pastors are the last to know when people are leaving. You don’t have to explain the reasons, but letting them know is a good step to moving forward.

Others in the church – When you tell someone who’s not in leadership that you’re leaving a church, they all want to know why. I would caution you to not share the details. People will oftentimes carry your burdens and it will become toxic in the church you are leaving. This has a lot to do with your motives.

Continue to seek relatsionships with people you knew at your previous church – Leaving a church is hard on you, but also hard on the people you leave behind. They mourn the loss of the friendship just like you do. There’s really no reason why you can’t still be friends with people from your previous church. The only caution is to not gossip about the previous church and discuss why you left.

By Chris McKinney

Chris is a Children’s Pastor from the Pacific Northwest with a strong desire to see people live for Jesus in such a way that the world will notice. At a very young age, Chris felt the call to serve families in the local church. That sense of calling led to many opportunities to strengthen families and serve communities in multiple cities.

Chris lives with his wife Katie in Graham, WA.

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