Church membership numbers wax and wane. When people become less involved or stop attending altogether, it's easy to take it personally as a community leader. You may feel the need to analyze their reasons to see if there is anything you can do to bring them back. While self-reflection is vital to the health of any organization, it's possible that their reasons for leaving may not have anything to do with how the church operates. Understanding this may help you maintain a sense of peace when people stop attending.
Most church leaders view an uptick in membership numbers as a good thing. There are many reasons why people may start flocking to your church:
- New building in a better location
- Exciting programs for people of all ages
- Intentionally inclusive strategies
- Convenient service times
While the new growth is encouraging overall, some members may not feel as comfortable in a large crowd as they did when your church was smaller. They may prefer a fellowship where they can easily build relationships with everyone, and that's less feasible the larger your membership number grows. Releasing them with your blessing is in your mutual best interest. It communicates that you hold what is best for their spiritual growth in high regard, even if that means they start attending church elsewhere.
Change in Life Circumstances
In the ideal world, the church would always be a haven away from the stresses of the world. For those who are in the midst of struggling to balance a demanding work schedule with quality family time, church responsibilities may start to look like just another thing to put on the to-do list. The pressure of the traditional 40-hour workweek doesn't always serve busy families well. Add to that the social calendar and extracurricular involvement of children as they get older, along with civic commitments family members have made, and time to rest may be nothing but a daydream.
Many families go through phases in which church involvement takes a backseat to everything else that's going on. Assuming that work and school responsibilities only encroach on time during weekdays, that just leaves two days a week for everything else. If Saturday is full of chores and various sporting events or lessons, Sunday morning may be the only time the family has to sit down and share a leisurely meal together before everyone has to start getting ready for the next week. You can extend grace by accepting this reason for their hopefully temporary departure from church activities.
Time and money are two of the main resources members supply to their churches. Sometimes, other commitments take priority, though. Perhaps members who significantly reduce their financial support are redirecting money where they see a greater need in the community. Maybe they need to pull back on the time they spend volunteering at church when they undertake a bigger role in another organization. To insist that they maintain their obligations to the church too is a recipe for inevitable burnout.
A change in tithe or time does not necessarily mean that they no longer value what the church has to offer. In fact, it may be proof that the lessons of social justice and peacemaking have truly taken hold in their hearts. They are branching out beyond the confines of the church to be a positive force in the community as a whole. Instead of lamenting their withdrawal from the specific programs your church directs, encourage them to continue to spread God's love by serving your city in other, broader ways.
Just because people leave your church doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong. In fact, the fact that they feel secure enough to stand on their own, at least for a little while, is an indication that you're doing some things very well.