Over my years as a pastor, I notice when faithful church members begin to "fade away" from their consistent involvement and faithfulness.
When I've followed up with them, I've discovered multiple causes for their changed attendance patterns. Here are 10 that I've most commonly heard:
- "I'm having some physical problems." Illness can be debilitating—and some folks are so private that they'd rather avoid people than talk about what they're facing.
- "I'm taking care of my ailing loved one." This cause may be as common as the first one, especially when the ailing family member is a parent, a spouse or a child.
- "I'm mad at [church member], and I don't want to run into them at church." I'm amazed that some people make this call to avoid church altogether, but I've seen it happen when the conflict is hot.
- "The pastor hurt me." As a pastor, I know I haven't always ministered well. It hasn't happened often, but I still grieve losing church members I unintentionally (and sometimes unknowingly) hurt.
- "We're having a lot of problems at home." Sometimes, only God knows what's going on behind the closed doors of church members whose homes seem almost perfect in public. Struggling marriages and wayward children can keep people from church at times.
- "I've changed jobs" or "I've had to pick up a second job to help pay our bills." My experience is that it's the latter one that most people don't talk about. Few people want to admit financial struggles, so they choose to bear the burden without a church family.
- "I'm really angry at God." I've seen this emotion when a marriage has broken up, a child is terminally ill or prayers go unanswered. People angry at God don't usually want to come to church to worship Him.
- "We're traveling a lot." Perhaps it's vacation, work or youth sports that require the time away from church. Whatever it is, I suspect it's happening in many, many churches.
- "I'm not sure I believe the Bible anymore." I'm hearing from more and more young people—including many who've been raised in church—who feel this way. Attending church no longer matters to these folks.
- "We're looking for a new church." We usually learn this information after a family is already looking for a new congregation. Any of these above reasons, however, can contribute to this one.
What other reasons might you add to this list?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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