A healthy church is like a big family. Members may disagree every once in a while, but overall, you should expect that others love and support you, and you should feel free to offer the same care in return. When church no longer feels like home but rather a group of strangers, however, you may feel like going somewhere else. There are several signs that tell you it may be time to do so.
You Dread Going
Waking up on Sunday morning to go to church isn't always a wondrous joy. It shouldn't be a drudgery, though. When the alarm goes off every week and you find yourself daydreaming about all the things you could be doing instead of getting ready for the service, it may be time for a change. If your feelings of dread persist as you get ready and don't go away even once you walk in the door, that is different from just needing an extra hour of sleep. Talk to your family or a trusted friend to sort out the reasons behind the dread. You may feel like you just don't belong anymore, or you may have doubts that sheer diligence cannot resolve. The answer may be finding a new church or at least taking a break.
You Experience Chronic Burnout
The more you are involved in your church, the less likely you are to notice that it's time to move on. Then the burnout sets in. There are several warning signs that this is happening:
- Increased irritation
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Heightened anxiety or depression
- Excessive anger
- Detachment and apathy
- Poor performance
At first, you may want to step down from your current responsibilities or try something new. When that doesn't work, making a bigger change may be in order.
You Disapprove of Decisions Being Made
Anytime two or more people are gathered, there is bound to be some conflict. Occasionally, you are going to disagree with the other people in your committees or even on church staff, and that's perfectly normal. You can talk about it and listen to each other's side. Most of the time, it's likely that you will be able to reach a mutually agreeable solution by the end of the conflict process.
Sometimes that doesn't happen, though. If your church has made a decision that makes you uneasy about your participation, you may feel it necessary to address the problem with church leadership. For example, if your outreach team has decided that the big fall service project is going to require working with another group in town that has been outspoken in its rejection of LGBTQIA+ people, it is understandable that you and other members of the congregation for whom inclusion is an important value may not approve. When the church decides to go forward with the partnership anyway, despite your concern about how this may affect the LGBTQIA+ members of the congregation, this may be a sign to start thinking about moving on.
You Witness Unchecked Abuses
Whenever someone has power, there is the potential for abuse. The church is not immune to this phenomenon. If someone in leadership is using his or her power to take advantage of others, you may decide you want to leave no matter what disciplinary action is taken. In cases where the problem is ignored or downplayed, though, you may find that the decision to take your membership elsewhere is unavoidable.
Admitting that you want to switch churches may be difficult at first, but once the decision is made, you may be surprised at how relieved you feel. This is yet another confirmation that you have made the right choice, and it frees you to find someplace that is a better fit.