“A family from your church wants to join our church.”
The other pastor was genuine in his request, and it’s not a conversation I have often. First, we don’t have many people transferring into our church from other churches. Second, we don’t have many people transferring out either. In this instance, the reasons were noble for leaving our church and going to another church. I’m glad we had a conversation about it.
Transfer growth occurs when a church member moves his or her membership to another church. It’s often called “sheep swapping” or the “sheep shuffle.”
It’s also the case that a few churches seek transfer growth as a strategy—never explicitly stated, of course, but completely obvious. Typically, this unstated strategy is expressed in a kind but pretentious phrase like, We’re the best. Why would you go anywhere else? In today’s consumeristic society, I’m not surprised some churches would use this tactic. However, my missiology leads me to believe that “meet them where they are” refers to unbelievers, not other church members. But, hey, I don’t want to be accused of being judgmental.
There are plenty of bad reasons to transfer to another church. Reasons like “They’re the best.” Or “They have the program I like.” Or “They play music I like.” Or “They have coffee every Sunday morning.” Far too many churches have low standards of membership, and transfer growth tends to bloom like algae in these environments. I don’t want to sound too harsh, but it feels slimy when people jump into churches for those reasons.
But not all transfer growth is bad. Not every person is a church hopper, looking for the next best thing. In fact, there are good reasons to transfer to another church, even one right down the road. I’ll give five good reasons you should accept transfer growth. You can add more in the comments.
- Geography. In today’s transient culture, transfer growth is an inevitable reality. Most churches will experience some transfer growth. When you move to another city, you should transfer membership to another church. Additionally, churches should reach out to believers who are new to the area.
- Theology. When a church makes wholesale changes to doctrine, then it’s time to consider a move to another church. If you believe something completely different than what your church believes, it’s better for you to find a church closer to your beliefs. When people come to your church because of doctrine, then you should consider receiving them.
- Family. It’s best for families to worship and make disciples together. When two families blend together, they should attend the same church. When parents move back in with children in their last season of life, decisions must be made about what church to join. Family reasons are good reasons to transfer.
- Abandonment. This reason is tragic, but cases of abandonment occur. I know of occurrences where one group in a church pushed out another group unjustly. The abandoned group must find another church. You’re not wrong to receive this group at your church.
- Life stage. This reason is broad, but a life stage change could be a legitimate reason to transfer churches. Sometimes you get to an age where you can’t drive as far and you must find another church closer to your residence. You might adopt a special needs child that could require a completely different schedule and necessitate a transfer.
Not all transfer growth is bad. In fact, several good reasons exist to move your membership to another church. Anyone else want to add another good reason to accept transfer growth?