Church Drop-Outs

Sam Rainer

April 12, 2007

Every church has its fair share of members who spread the grass-is-greener syndrome. They are usually in the vocal minority, and they usually like to argue about non-essential matters, such as whether the bulletins need to be tri-fold or bi-fold.

They also have a propensity to “drop out” as soon as their needs aren’t being met at their church. LifeWay Research recently conducted a study on why this group of people play church hopscotch. LifeWay dubs them church switchers.

Not surprisingly, the majority of church switchers left not because they were drawn to another church, but rather because they had a desire to leave their current church. Not surprisingly, the number one reason they left was because “the church was not helping me develop spiritually.” In other words, ask not what you can do for the church, but what can the church do for you. Unfortunately, this attitude is more pervasive than pastors would like to admit.

Let me offer my top 6 warning signs of a church switcher:

1. They are often overheard saying, “Yes, but…my needs are just not being met.”
2. They often cite what “my other church/the church down the road” does.
3. They constantly state things need to change, yet they scoff at any suggestions for improvement from others.
4. They do not bring their Bibles to church.
5. They gossip unapologetically.
6. They complain about their previous pastor.

So, what do we do about this group of people? Brad Waggoner offers some suggestions:

1. Some of these church members may be unregenerate. So we need to preach the gospel to them. New members’ classes can also help to add much needed contact for the purposes of discipleship.
2. The leadership of the church must get the vast majority of the laity involved in the ministry of the church. They must equip the laity for this ministry. Those who have been equipped must then be taught to disciple others.
3. Begin the equipping process from the pulpit, but don’t let it end there.
4. Institute change at the speed of molasses. Get buy-in from key members. And eat the elephant one bite at a time.

What do you think? I will readily admit that I am tempted to ignore this group of people and focus my efforts as a pastor on those who truly desire discipleship. But I don’t think Christ would take such an approach. Do you have any further suggestions or want to add a few “warning signs?”

5 comments on “Church Drop-Outs”

  1. DR says:

    Sammy 3,

    This isn’t juicy, but I love Waggoner’s suggestions – I think they are right on. And I, like you, if I were a pastor, would be tempted to neglect the masses to focus on those who are hungry for discipleship, and I, like you, don’t think that would honor Jesus. Thanks for posting this.

    Your cousin,

  2. Brian says:

    I agree that we should not neglect those prone to dropping out. Lead them to water (…Living Water), but if they refuse to drink, don’t use all your resources on trying to drown them.

    …what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
    II Tim 2.2

    Let’s teach ’em how to fish so they can train others to do the same.

  3. J. Bass says:

    I agree with Brian, and in taking it a step further, such incidences should move church leaders to examine themselves. Yes, “ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church,” but is this always the case? Sometimes people, i.e. “Christianized pagans”, appear in and out of church as one of the effects of weak discipleship. No, they can’t blame others for their own lack of involvement in their local church, but in what instances does the church leadership need to pause and examine themselves? Just a thought…

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    J. Bass and Brian – yes, we at times have to leave them at the watering hole. And I agree, we can’t force them to drink. As for the leadership “examining themselves,” without a doubt, they need to be focusing on thier own spiritual development. They cannot effectively lead the body of believers without consistently examining themselves. After all, good leaders lead by example.

  5. Sam Rainer says:

    Cousin DR – I’m praying for you as you venture on your new missionary journey. Praise God for those such as yourself who do not fear “the ends of the earth.”

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