It’s hard to leave a church you used to love – and maybe still love.
In previous articles I’ve written from the pastor’s perspective about how hard it is when people leave the church you’re pastoring, and what to consider before leaving a church you’ve been pastoring.
But the pain of leaving a church isn’t limited to pastors. Many church members find themselves facing the heartbreaking decision of whether-or-not to separate themselves from a church they’ve invested a lot of their lives in. And I’m not talking about church-hoppers, bored believers or shallow saints. I’m referring to people who have found themselves in a place they never expected – considering leaving a church they had planned to stay committed to.
If you are facing that dilemma, here are 8 principles to consider that will help you leave well – or decide to stay:
1. Talk it over, first
If you’re considering leaving a church, talk to the leaders and your church friends before making your final decision.
As a pastor I’ve had a handful of frustrating conversations with church members who had already decided to leave the church, only to discover that it was due to a misunderstanding that could have been rectified easily if it had been brought to light earlier. But by the time it got to me they already had one foot out the door and it was too late to change.
On the other hand, I’ve had some difficult, but constructive conversations with people while their frustration level was small, and we’ve been able to fix problems, correct misunderstandings, reverse course and keep good people in our church body – often with a renewed sense of hopefulness and dynamic ministry.
These are not easy conversations to have. But if the church is healthy enough that those conversations are possible, it’s healthy enough to fight for.
2. Leave for the right reasons
In a previous post, I listed 7 Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church. You may want to review that article to be sure your reasons are better than those.
I don’t intend to give a list of good reasons to leave a church. I’ll leave that to each person, their conscience and their circumstances. But some of them might include a church that’s moving toward unbiblical theology, unhealthy leadership or dysfunctional relationships.