How long do you plan to be at your church?

An interesting article over at MMI relates a new study that says a full 1/3 of your church members may be considering another church to join right now. I’d encourage you to read the article.

As a pastor, it’s a little depressing. Church membership is done a little differently at Journey in that folks travel through our Discovery Group before they join. During that time, we seek to answer questions and explain the DNA of our church. We talk about why we’re structured the way we are, how we’re led, what we believe, etc. We also devote a segment to discovering the potential members’ stories by giving them personality and spiritual gift inventories. These are not used to pigeon-hole them but to help us explain that God created us all differently and that everyone in our church is expected to contribute and serve in some way (some in the church; but more in the community in which we live).

However, I’m also encouraged by the study. Since we’re a small church, that means if 1/3 of folks leave, then we’re still eligible for another, larger church’s 1/3 joining! Our net result will be a gain. Right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

The bigger question I think, is what keeps people attending a church without participating in the life of the church? It’s way too large and complex of a question to fully answer, but here in our little town, I know there are folks who only attend a certain church because it’s where family goes, or it’s because they wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by “switching” churches. Regardless of whether they’re being spiritually fed or whether they’re growing in Christ (or even know that they should be), they attend semi-regularly and consider themselves faithful. You could rephrase that by asking, “Why are the 2/3 NOT planning on leaving?”

Evaluate your church, I say.

  • Is its fellowship warm and loving?
  • Does it demonstrate and practice its commitment to God’s Word?
  • Are the decisions of its leaders and church body made through prayer and in faith?
  • Are you growing in love with God daily as a result of being associated with this church?
  • Are you held accountable for your own obedience to God’s Word outside the church?
  • Are your leaders men and women of integrity, character and love?
  • Do your leaders show evidence of spiritual growth over the course of time?

These are just a few questions. Come up with your own.

With a dropout rate of over 80% for Christian teenagers, I think it would behoove every parent and family to consider if the traditional church’s methodology is going to be sufficient to keep your child “in the faith.” The penetrating answer to that is simply… No. But it’s not the church’s fault.

When you expect the church (or a Christian school) to do the faith education of your child, then you are immediately investing in the dropout rate. Yep. Just because your sweet, precious little thing can quote a hundred Bible verses to you today does not mean they have at all assimilated what they believe. It’s just rote memory, in many circumstances. If it’s not being reinforced at home by Christlike living, loving time, and evidence of the parents’ commitment to loving personal relationship with Christ, then there’s overwhelming evidence to suggest it will all fade like the mist later.

So where do you find yourself today? Are you a 1/3-er or a 2/3-er? Or perhaps, you’re considering belonging to a church for the first time in a while? What are the criteria that you’ll need to make a wise decision?

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  • TJ Scott has also posted on this article. Great read.

On this day...

4 comments

  1. dean says:
    well, i’m in a rather unique situation… i attend a certain church in town because its part of my job description. talk about stuck! on my weekends off, i do attend the church of my choice, but since we arent off every weekend (in a perfect world, we’re off every other weekend… lately its been one weekend a month)its hard to plug in at either one. i’d like to be able to say i could just give up the struggle and settle in at the church i “have to” attend, but there’s really nothing there for me.
  2. Jeff says:
    Dean, I know all too well of what thou talkest. I feel for you. You know, Bonhoeffer made some deeply convicting observations about Christian community in his book Life Together. You might want to check it out.

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