10 Things that Make Church Members Cry

Our consulting teams at the Lawless Group have interviewed many church members over the last decade. Sometimes, the grief (even tears) we see is difficult to bear. Keeping in mind that we most often work with churches that are struggling, here is a look at some of the most common causes of pain we’ve seen. 

  1. They love their church, but they know they’re in trouble. Few believers want to see their church struggle on their watch. Coming face-to-face with the reality of decline (and even impending death) is tough.
  2. They’ve lost relationships because of church conflict. Again, few people think that strong friendships today might someday be broken. When internal church battles turn friend against friend, that anguish can be almost indescribable. 
  3. Their teens and young adult children no longer want to attend their church. Historically, church was one place that brought the family together. When next generations now no longer like their parents’ and grandparents’ church, church struggles then become family struggles.
  4. They really do miss the good ole’ days. Perhaps that’s because they prefer a different worship style or a smaller church – but sometimes it’s because they long for a day when life itself was simpler. Their concerns may be directed at their church, but their grief is often more about life in general.  
  5. They love their pastor, but something’s not working. This pain is some of the most intense we’ve seen. Church members who adore their shepherd never want to hurt him, but they recognize a problem when the church is no longer following him.
  6. Their good friends are now attending another church in the area. Churches become “families,” and nobody likes it when family members move away – even down the street. If they move away because they see the remaining family as dysfunctional, the pain is even deeper. 
  7. They’ve been guilty of sowing discord.  It’s not often, but occasionally church members use our interview time for confession. They know they’ve been part of the problem rather than the solution. Seeing our team on their campus can be a reminder of how serious the problem has become.
  8. They’re exhausted. Everything they’ve tried thus far has not solved their church’s issues. They’re working even harder because the church has lost workers. Still, nothing’s changing. Frustration then gives way to fatigue – and heavy weariness can become tears.
  9. They’ve been spiritually depleted. They’re “hanging in there” with their church, but they feel like they’re not being fed from the pulpit. They survive because they listen to other preachers on the television or the Internet. 
  10. No one has given them opportunity to share their concerns before. Our interviews sometimes reveal pain because church members have sensed no other safe place to be heard without appearing disruptive. We open the door, and the emotions take over.

What other things would you add?


  • Jim Watson says:

    It is heartbreaking to see your church in an inward and downward spiral, watching the leaders make superficial changes without addressing root problems, and knowing that you are no longer permitted to address those problems.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Indeed. Praying, Jim.

  • Doug MIller says:

    Really goes back to the issue of discipleship doesn’t it? I’ve taken the church here through “I Am A Church Member.” I’m now reading “I Will” with the intention of taking the Wednesday night group though it. I may even use both books as discussion starters as I disciple a man who recently accepted Jesus as Lord. The attitude of “How can I serve?” rather than “How can I be served?” seems to be at the heart of revitalizing churches before they get to the point of inward collapse. Even as pastor, I have to continually renew myself so that I don’t become stale, or even stagnant. Lord fix my eyes on You, that I would follow Your leadership in my life, in this church, into the world.

  • Linda Greenwood says:

    I may seem selfish to some, but I cry at the “death” or “fading away” of the genres of church music. Being trained as a musician and serving over 40 years as a church musician and wife of a music minister, I cry when the “young-uns” leading music these days believe that every piece done in a worship service MUST require the congregant to enter in and sing. Cannot a congregant worship and participate internally when an choir anthem is sung or an orchestra piece is played? That’s when I cry. Buckets and buckets of tears.

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