Sometimes it seems like everyone is leaving the church. But that’s not the case.
While we’re right to be concerned about church-hoppers and church-droppers, people don’t typically go to a church with the plan of leaving soon. Most want to put down roots and stay committed for the long haul.
There’s always a core group of faithful people at the heart of every healthy congregation. Our lives and our churches are better because of them.
Recently, I’ve written a couple articles about why people don’t go to church, and how to leave a church well. In my next few articles I want to take a look at the opposite, encouraging end of that spectrum. The benefits of a long-term church commitment.
Here are just a few advantages of staying put in a congregation through the good times and bad:
1. You develop deeper relationships
While it’s always nice to meet new folks (and it’s God’s work on earth to help them connect with your circle of friends) there’s nothing like knowing and growing with a group of people over a lifetime, or a major segment of your lifetime.
There are so many life lessons that simply take time to learn. No matter how smart we are or how hard we work, nothing can replace living life with people who know, love and watch out for each other year after year and decade after decade.
There are no shortcuts to deep relationships. You have to put in the time.
2. You’re less likely to repeat the same cycles
If we move from church to church we can stay spiritually stuck and not know it. Everything around us has changed, so we don’t have to.
It may feel like we’re growing deeper, but we may be doing nothing but repeating the same cycles in a new environment. And there’s no one in that new church who’s known us long enough to spot it, call us on it, or help us get past it.
We can also get stuck when we stay put, of course. But the repetition is more noticeable, which might provide an incentive to grow deeper.
Some of the people I most admire are longtime friends who might seem like little more than everyday churchgoers to everyone else, but I’ve watched them grow deeper, wiser and kinder year after year.
3. You can be part of the foundation that others build on
Every church needs a foundation to build on. But it’s hard to do that when the ground either grows hard (through stubbornness) or keeps shifting (through constant coming and going).
One of the reasons we honor the giants of the faith who came before us is because they laid a foundation when they encouraged, supported and even funded our new, crazy ideas. We honor them when we do the same for those who come after us.
4. You can be a great champion for both stability and change
When a newcomer or young person promotes change in the church, that’s expected. And it can be easy to ignore. But when a long-time member champions change, it carries a lot of weight.
In addition to being a landmark of stability, as we saw in the previous point, long-time members can be among the strongest proponents of necessary changes.
Whenever our church has needed to make significant jumps forward, we’ve relied as much on the stability, wisdom and support of our older, longtime members as we have on the enthusiasm, energy and passion of those who are young and new.
There’s so much concern about the generational divide in churches today. When we stick around a while, we can become the glue that helps bridge that divide.
For more on how to do this well, check out my previous article, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now.
5. You can help a healthy church become healthier
The strongest, healthiest churches are the ones that have been around a while, have learned the hard lessons over time, and have adapted to changing circumstances while keeping solid on the essentials of the faith.
That can’t happen when there are no long-timers around, or when the long-timers grow hard and stubborn about getting their own way.
But when a healthy church has a mix of newcomers and long-time members all working together for a common vision of the future … well that’s about as good as it gets.
6. You can spot and help fix problems before they get too big
There’s no substitute for the eyes of wisdom and experience.
If you’ve been around a while and are paying attention, you’re often able to spot potential problems that the younger, busier church members might not see.
Yes, there will always be stubborn old coots who see problems with everything, and there will always be flighty young people who ignore the sage advice of their elders, but that doesn’t have to be the norm.
If you stay steady, supportive, adaptive and kind, young people today are more willing to listen to the advice of their elders than many previous generations were.
The key is to keep positive, be available and pick your battles carefully.
7. You get to see and participate in generational progress
We hear a lot about churches that have grown from small to big in a short period of time. But those churches are few and far between.
The typical church grows slowly and steadily. Over decades, not in a couple years.
If you invest a lifetime into a healthy church, you’ll get to see a depth of growth that few others will ever have the chance to appreciate.
As believers in Jesus, we’re dealing with a timeline that’s eternal.
The best things in life don’t come in a hurry. They take time. But they’re worth the investment.
Copyright © 2018 by the author or Christianity Today.
Click here to read our guidelines concerning reprint permissions.