While leaving a faith community should never be done on a whim, there are good, valid, theological and philosophical reasons for leaving a church. The reasons below are not any of them.
You don’t agree with everything the pastor says in his/her sermon
Join the club. No one is going to agree with what the pastor says all the time. This is especially true if you have a pastor like me who preaches without notes and is prone to go “off outline” and say something spontaneously. Some of the best conversations I have had as a preacher are with people who have disagreed with or are confused by something I’ve said. I discover someone was actually listening, which is always a plus for preachers. I get a better understanding of what people are hearing and how they are processing my sermons. I almost always come away with a deeper understanding of the Word and what it means to us today. So if you don’t like what your preacher says, don’t ditch…discuss!
You have a conflict with another member
Many times, conflict between members is based on a misunderstanding that can be cleared up if the issue is simply addressed. Other times, the problem goes much deeper, but the solution is not for one party to walk away. Unresolved conflict is damaging to the people directly involved and can have a damaging effect on the entire congregation. Try to work it out before walking away, and always know you can ask your pastor for help. We can’t claim to be about forgiveness and reconciliation and then refuse to put it in to practice. Well, I guess we can claim it and not practice it, but that just plays right in to the hands of folks who say the church is full of hypocrites.
They play music you don’t know or don’t like
If I had left church because I didn’t like the music, I would have been gone by age eight. The hymns and anthems that were sung in the church I grew up in didn’t speak to me at all–and didn’t feel particularly worshipful. Worship doesn’t have to have “something for everyone,” but churches that want to provide different ways to express praise and petition and lament and adoration will have different kinds of music. If you’re not getting to sing enough of the songs you know and love, send your top 10 picks to whoever makes the song selections. Get input from church members and come up with your congregations list of “most singable songs.” Ask your pastor/music director to send out Sunday’s songs ahead of time so you can learn the new ones before you show up. YouTube is a powerful tool.
The church is growing
A growing church is a changing church. Growth brings new people with new ideas. There may be a time when a church grows so much that folks who prefer a small church might want to look elsewhere, but if you’re leaving because you no longer know everyone in worship, consider how much of an effort you’ve made to meet the new people coming in before you try somewhere new. After all, you’ll have to meet all new people there, too.
You don’t like the new carpet, color of the Sunday school rooms or something else about the facility
Chances are if you are leaving a church over the color of the Sunday school rooms, you’re really upset about something else. Make sure you own what that is before deciding to make a move.
They put a screen in the sanctuary
If you have ever lamented that your church does not have enough young people, you don’t get to take your toys and go home because a screen has been added to your worship space. You just don’t. Yes, it is true that a number of young people are attracted to traditional, old-school services, but not having the option to share songs, film clips and graphics in worship or at other events will severely limit you in today’s multi-media world. It has also proven a great blessing to all ages at our church now that we are able to show videos of the deceased prior to funerals.
Your pastor doesn’t pay enough attention to you
On any given day, your pastor has about 800 things/events/people/problems demanding his/her attention. But if your pastor knows that you are in need, he/she will make time for you. We want to be there for you and to pray for you and try to be a help to you. It’s why a lot of us took this gig. However, most of us are not able to feel a shift in The Force when you are sick, in the hospital, grieving or in distress. It really helps if you tell us.
Again, there are perfectly good reasons for deciding to leave a faith community, but if you should, don’t just quit showing up. Let the pastor and the session/board/council know that you’re leaving and why. No faith community is the perfect fit for everyone. Give the people where you worship a chance to say good-bye and bless you on your journey.
–Rev. Anne Russ