HELP! I’m a pastor and someone just left my church. [Part I]

No matter what you do as a pastor, people will leave your church. I have regular conversations with pastors who experience this type of loss. Every pastor has key people leave. It always stings. Oddly, there is some comfort in knowing that we’re not alone.

My favorite pastor to listen to is Andy Stanley and I have friends who were at North Point Community Church for a season and left. I have friends who were at Passion City Church with pastor Louie Giglio and then left. Chris Sonksen, Church BOOM founder, has had people leave his church. Chris is one of the best leaders I have ever been around! I have even left several amazing churches to go to something different. Most likely you have to.

The truth is people will leave.

Jesus was perfect and had a disciple betray him, another deny him, and almost all of them fled from him when times got tough. You will be surprised with who stays and with who leaves.

So what should we do when we find out someone from our church has left?

What Should You Do When People Leave The Church You Love?

  1. Believe the best. Believe the best about anyone who leaves. The immediate response when someone leaves is “ALARM!!!!,” “FREAK OUT!!!,” and “PANIC!!!” There are lots of reasons why people leave churches. Before you assume all hell has broken loose, choose to believe the best. Change can be difficult.
  2. Be realistic. Have you changed churches? Have you changed jobs? Have you dated multiple people? Have you changed your favorite restaurant? Things change. You have changed lots of things, lots of times. Change doesn’t mean we stop caring for the people who have transitioned off. But we must be realistic and know that as time goes on people will change.
  3. Don’t live someone else’s story. It’s easy to get caught in the drama and to search out what is going on. When someone vents it’s easy to take their perspective. The problem is it is not YOUR story. If you love the church God has placed you at, be realistic and know it’s not perfect – but don’t let someone else’s experience become yours.
  4. Pray. There is a spiritual enemy that wants to divide the Church. Pray for the church staff. Pray for wisdom. Pray for protection. Pray for the person who left.
  5. Stay in touch, but set boundaries if you have to. I’m friends with people who do not go to my church. You should be as well. I’m also friends with people who used to go to Next Level and have transitioned to a new church. Some transitioned well and others did not. For some, the healthiest thing for our friendship is to not talk about church. Set a boundary to help protect the relationship. Do not freak out and remove them from your friends list on social media.
  6. Care for the people and not about the situation. If you call someone who has left just to get the scoop you are in the wrong. If you call someone who is left to check on them or let them know you care you are being a good friend.

The truth is that some people will leave, but if you handle it right some of them may come back. The way you handle someone’s exit will either open or close the door for a possible return to your church.

Next week we’ll begin to talk about when we SHOULD be concerned when people leave.

Showing 4 comments
  • Brett Kindig

    Man I needed this!

    • Rob Shepherd

      Brett, sorry you are going through it. Please know, you are not alone. We hear you.

  • Robby Neyland

    I have been pastor now for 10 months, I’m a Baptist, and I was elected by 100% of the membership. In December when I was hired, I was running about 22 to 25 in worship service, I have lost about 11 people but still running between 22 and 25. The majority of my church is in the age range of 50+. I’m not worried about the ones who left, because I believe God was separating the sheep from goats to make room for new growth. I’m enjoying your article and it helps me to understand that I’m not alone.
    Just recently Iost an older member which really bother me, so went and visited with her and after the visit I fully understand her reasons, nothing she has against me or the church but being 93 she felt alone in the church. We are still friends and brother/sister in Christ. I will continue to call her and visit her which she said would be great. The church she went to has a group of ladies in her age range, so I understand her reason for leaving and I continue to pray for her. I was hired to help the church to grow again.

    • Rob Shepherd

      Robby, that’s an amazing task. I pray you have God’s strength to continue to love the church to health.

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