9 Ways to Drive People from your Church

Maybe you have some folks you want to drive from your church, but that’s not the focus of this post. My concern here is what churches do that inadvertently drives attenders toward other churches. Based on some legitimate reasons folks give for leaving a church, here are some ways to drive attenders from you:

  1. Preach something other than the Word of God. It’s true that preaching the Word also sometimes confronts and offends in a healthy way, but here’s the point: people who come looking for a Word from God won’t stay if you give them something other than the Bible.
  2. Have a boring, disorganized, irrelevant worship service. Right or wrong, the people we’re trying to reach have little patience for anything that lacks excellence or relevance. Enough churches are offering solid worship that folks don't linger long where it’s not done well.
  3. Provide nothing for kids and teens. I’m not arguing here for always separating families in all we do as a church, but I am arguing for providing equipping and teaching that are life-stage specific. If we don’t walk alongside parents in providing spiritual training, we’ll likely lose them.
  4. Let ministry needs fall through the cracks. If you want to drive people away from your church, have nothing in place to hold them up when life is hard. Let them face difficulties alone, and they’ll look for a more caring congregation.
  5. Ignore people.  Perhaps this wording sounds harsh, but that’s what it feels like when no one pays attention to a guest or member of a church. If folks can slide out the back door without our noticing, something’s wrong in the church.
  6. Provide no growth process. It seems that some churches believe people will grow significantly in their faith simply by attending regularly. When attenders realize their growth is minimal, those who want to mature will look elsewhere.
  7. Judge people, with no redemption offered. The Bible is itself confrontational. A call to repent is not an optional part of our message. If we judge and never get to redemption and hope, however, we’ll likely lose some struggling attenders.
  8. Talk about, rather than do, ministry. If you want to drive away young folks, make sure you provide no hands-on, experiential ministry opportunities. Require the staff to do all the ministry so that no one else can get involved.
  9. Fall in sin. This is where this post gets really personal. Somebody’s watching you, and it’s possible somebody will leave your church if you fall into sin. Your failure can be as influential as your faithfulness.

What would you add to this list? 

14 Comments

  • Jeremy says:

    Dr. Lawless, I would also add allowing facilities to fall into disrepair. Just as with an organized and planned service people are concerned about cleanliness, maintenance and decor. People are used to organizations appealing to their sense of style. Always ask “what are we communicating?”

  • Steven says:

    In my missions experience I have had some of the most meaningful worship services under a tent.

    I think if God provides a building to meet in then we should show hospitality and maintain the building in a responsible way but not so much that it makes the building to be the church.

  • Lynn Gray says:

    Making members feel unwanted by canceling or rescheduling meetings/events and not telling them. For example:

    1. The pastor has a weekly discipleship meeting with some college-aged guys and one day just doesn’t show up. When they call him up he says that he is out of town that afternoon but gives no other explanation.

    2. The church holds a weekly youth fellowship but cancels it without telling one of the youth. He drives 15 miles to the church to find nobody there. Everybody else was told but not this teenage member who is quite active in his church attendance and service.

    3. The pastor cancels the regularly scheduled monthly deacons meeting but doesn’t tell one of the three deacons. He drives 15 miles and shows up to an empty church.

  • Debbie Trent says:

    When you have to seek therapy at a domestic violence center because your church has no clue how to help you .
    The response is we weren’t trained for that in seminary.No one wans to touch this subject.What does the Bible say about this.

  • Annie says:

    I have one. Pay attention to physical disabilities that arise. My husband is in a wheelchair and in the past year, due to back problems, I have had to start using a walker and can barely get around. It has become so hard for us to get to church and we have missed so much. We recently have started to attend an online church that our family attends in another state. We never have to miss, and we enjoy it so much. It has been probably six months since anyone even checked on us. No phone calls, cards, visits…nothing. We recently pulled our tithe and have begun to send it to the online church. We know our home church sends people to other countries to hand our brochures, and to do mission work for a week or so. It seems they could care less about church members who are just a few miles from church and desperately need help, and just need to know someone cares.

  • Sarah Daigle says:

    Cliques in a church. Unbelievable emotional pain for a newcomer !

  • Ken says:

    Would somebody care to define what is meant by “relevance”? That has become a cliché in this day and age. So has the term “contextualize”.

    • clawlessjr says:

      I adapt a definition from a book called Introduction to Global Missions: “contextualization is communicating the gospel, planting churches, discipling others, training leaders, and establishing Christianity in all areas of the world while being both faithful to God’s Word and sensitive to the culture.” As I use the word “relevance,” I’m speaking about showing how the gospel connects to a person’s life. It always does, of course, but good preaching helps people make that connection.

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