When People Leave Your Church

Nothing hurts worse in ministry than when people leave the church. You can’t help but take it personally. It’s almost like having your girlfriend break up with you after going to church camp. “It’s not you, it’s me.”


I was attending a funeral this week when the latest break up happened.

“Hey, it feels like I haven’t seen you in forever. I keep missing you at church.”

“Yeah, been meaning to talk to you about that. My girlfriend and I have decided to see other churches.”

“Oh, that’s cool…so, what about this weather?”

Break ups are awkward to begin with. Break ups at a funeral take it to another level.

From my experience it seems that break ups can be either good or bad.

Lady who was always complaining about the music volume: Good breakup.

Man who was a top giver year after year: Bad breakup.

Good break ups take place when it’s obvious to both parties that they’re not right for each other. We had a good break up this week when an elderly couple visited our church for the first time and left before worship was over. We caught them in the parking lot and suggested a couple of churches they should start seeing. No hard feelings, and no one got hurt.

Bad break ups take place when one party can’t see that the other has moved on. Maybe at one time the person or church was right for the other, but they’ve since grown apart. If you’re not careful hurtful words can be said, and bridges can be burned. I’ve been involved in a few of these as well.

The hardest break ups for me are both good and bad. They’re break ups in which good people leave for good reasons. Perhaps, they move away, they get married, or they feel God calling them somewhere new. These are the toughest because they involve the people you truly love and care about the most.

When you love a church, like I love my church, it’s hard to understand why someone would ever want to leave. Yet, they do, and you can either sit back and look for answers or wish them well and look for someone new to love.

What’s the hardest loss you’ve ever had at your church? How did you cope with it? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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