3 Terrible Reasons To Leave Your Church

leaving church leave

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time I’ve seen my share of people leave our church. Sometimes they go nicely, and for good reason. Other times they leave in a hail storm of controversy and bitterness.

Believe it or not, sometimes leaving a church is the right thing to do. Often times though, people leave for very bad reasons and when they do they cause damage to the body of believers.

Here are the 3 worst reasons you can give to leave your church body:

The Music Is Too Loud

Over the years I’ve heard this one more than a few times. If this is the only issue you have with a church it shouldn’t be enough to cause your exit. In almost every church in America (certainly every church under 300 people), the band and sound team are made up of volunteers. These well-meaning and dedicated men and women are not professional audio engineers. They are usually well-meaning folks trying to do their best on Sunday morning.

If the sound is legitimately too loud then I suggest you do a couple things:

First, volunteer to be a part of the sound team! That way, with your hand on the control knob you’ll be able to make sure the sound is just perfect for you. But be aware, you’ll likely field a number of other complaints such as, “I couldn’t hear my son’s guitar at all” or “why isn’t my daughter’s voice louder?”

Second, you could simply purchase an inexpensive pair of sound reducing ear plugs! I’m being serious. There’s no shame in doing this – especially if you love everything else about your church family.

I’m Just Not Getting Fed

Not only is this a bad reason for leaving your church, it’s not biblical. Actually, uttering the phrase “I’m not getting fed” reveals a lot about your lack of spiritual maturity. Only a spiritually immature Christian would think it’s the job of the pastors or ministry leaders to hand-feed them. As a believer, the goal is to feed yourself.

The writer of Hebrews illustrates this clearly by calling out the Jewish believers for their lack of understanding and for having the inability to feed themselves. He/she says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food… (Heb 5:12)” We all know that babies drink milk while adults eat solid food. Infants are hand-fed, but eventually learn to eat on their own. Spiritually speaking, it’s obvious – mature Christians should be able to feed themselves. In that way, the church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen. The teacher makes the food (teaching) available and perhaps even combines the ingredients (draws conclusions, points out an application, etc.), but the mature believer does the work.

The church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen Click To Tweet

Even if you think the preaching is subpar or if you’re not 100% interested in every topic your pastor chooses, as long as the Bible is open you should be able to get something out of it. You might just have to do some of the chewing.

The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites

Well, that’s just stupid. Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. It’s full of liars, drunks, and cheaters too. Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Sick people belong in a hospital and sinners belong in a church!

Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Click To Tweet

If you leave your church hoping to avoid hypocrites then you’ll never find a church home. Every church is full of men and women who are recovering from the effect of sin in their lives. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he said, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)” Obviously, Paul has to say this because it’s not exactly happening–the people need a reminder. And guess where they are? In the church!

If you feel the need to leave a church because it’s full of hypocrites then the best thing to do is take a good look in the mirror. There’s a good chance you have a plank in your eye! (Matt 7:5)

So, are there reasons to leave a church? Of course! There are several good reasons to leave but they are all Biblical reasons. Stay tuned, I will write an article called, “3 Biblical Reasons To Leave Your Church” next week.

Behind Your Pastor’s Smile

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Alicia T. Rust. Alicia is a writer and an educator and she writes to shine light on the day-to-day struggles of mental health battles. You can read her work at lifesodaily.com. Be sure to sign up for her email list for updates.


Wedding day…baptism…hospitalization…death in the family…emotional or spiritual crisis.  Whom do you contact?  Most likely, your pastor.  A pastor’s life includes emotional events of other people’s lives. They are invariably expected to be on call.

In addition, they attend meetings, write sermons, lead services, support and oversee the running of the church, and show leadership in all they do through their expected higher standard of behavior. The perpetual work of helping others can be emotionally and physically depleting.  Due to such a schedule, ministers generally neglect regular exercise, personal devotions, and relaxation; taking time for oneself is tethered to guilt.

Numerous people feel burn-out within their careers, and pastors are no different.  Inevitably, depression can set in.  Today, an increased number of pastors are on antidepressants. Thom Rainer mentions that most are “reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as … unable to help others.” They are not protected from the stigma of mental illness. Part of this stigma includes believing that those with mental illness have little value. Yet, having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean one cannot be high-functioning.

In order to turn coping into healing, begin with seeking help. Not only can counseling and medication be beneficial, but self-care is of utmost importance. Taking a day of rest makes sense, yet most pastors don’t allow themselves to do so.  Their ministry swallows them up. They choose to serve others 24/7 to their own detriment, and their congregants are unaware of the effect they may be having on their pastor’s health.  They take their spiritual guides for granted…calling upon them only when needed.

Furthermore, pastors often feel isolated even when surrounded by people because these relationships are generally not reciprocal. A sense of social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. A study by researchers from Duke University, Azusa Pacific University and the University of New Mexico found that clergy who are supported in their times of need and are shown appreciation are more likely to be satisfied in their ministry and have a higher quality of life. I find it astonishing that we needed a research study for us to realize this. Is it not common sense? Showing appreciation allows a person to feel significant and loved.

Have you ever had a friend in direct sales who is constantly pushing products on you? It’s a turn off. We start feeling as though we’re no longer being valued as a friend but for what we can provide for their sales.  So, quit endlessly taking from your pastor, and begin to give back.

Make every day Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are a few suggestions…

  • Take your pastor to lunch!
  • Write a letter explaining how God has used him/her in your life.
  • Offer your services (bring a meal, mow the lawn, assist with odd jobs)
  • Support your church financially
  • Remember your pastor on his/her birthday, Christmas, and other holidays
  • Offer event tickets or gift cards
  • Add to his/her personal library
  • Serve in the church
  • Sit up front during a service! (I’m sure a seat is available!)
  • After a service, comment on something specific from the sermon; don’t just say it was “great.”
  • Honor your pastor with an appreciation party!
  • Encourage a day of rest, a sabbatical, or a vacation.

Religiously showing appreciation (ᵔᴥᵔ) (rather than solely during our own poignant life circumstances) lets your pastor feel valued and strengthens relationships. Become fluent in appreciation by practicing it often.

1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

How To Be A Better Listener: 3 Simple Tips

Every ministry leader needs to be a good listener. Unfortunately, listening is a lost art. This is especially true in an era where opinion and individualism are valued over practically everything else. Everyone wants to be heard, but it seems that few want to listen.
 
The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we should be the listeners for our followers and flock. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to be a better listener, and while I still struggle from time to time I have learned a few simple methods to help be a better listener.

Stop Talking

I remember when I was about 20 I was having a conversation with an older gentleman about music outside after church. After 10 minutes of my non-stop talking, he finally said, “Will you please shut up? It’s not much of a conversation if you don’t let me talk too!”
 
That was a wake-up call for me. Suddenly I understood, it’s frustrating for the other person if you don’t let them speak.

So, when you’re listening to someone, stop talking. Completely. And if you do decide to speak, ask follow up questions that allow the other person to elaborate on what they are saying. Even better, paraphrase what the other person is saying back to them. This lets them know that you are listening and understanding their point of view.
 
Perhaps the Apostle James said it best, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)

Body Language

The posture of a listener is also important. If you’re seated while listening, lean forward. This tells the other person that you are interested. Eye contact is critical too. Look at the person that is speaking to you, not past them. Also, be wary of body language that signals boredom or loss of interest. Don’t fidget with your hands, don’t look at your watch, and please, please do not look at your phone.
Good listening is about putting the needs of other people first. It’s really about humility. Allowing another person to take center stage in a conversation is challenging. The Apostle Paul writes about the model of humility in Philippians 2:3-4, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He says this is how Jesus acted toward others and we should too. Imagine what a good listener Jesus must’ve been!

Be Patient

This might be the hardest part of listening. Good listening takes time. The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we feel like we don’t have a lot of time and so we aren’t always the best listeners.
 
Plenty of times I have sat with people who are sharing challenges and problems in their lives with me. Often, they don’t get to the point right away. In my head, I think, “get to the point so I can solve your problem quickly!” But helping them “solve” their problems is not why they’ve come to see me. Isn’t it God’s responsibility to solve problems anyway? They just want to be heard.
 
Eugene Peterson says, “Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s for only five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.” (Read Eugene Peterson’s article at Christianity Today)
 
The brother of Jesus wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Notice that he is not saying you’ll be forgiven (that comes from God), but healed. There is something very powerful that happens when we talk to each other about our problems, challenges, and sins.

When Communicating, Less Is More

When communicating, there’s an indisputable truth that exists in this world. It’s the notion that less is more. But for whatever reason, Americans are stuck on the idea that more is more.

This leads to all kinds of problems in life. Think about it, your doctor never said, “Well, Bill, I would be happier with your overall health if you added 30 pounds of needless weight.” In most situations, bigger is not better.

That’s one of the reasons that all ministry leaders should have William Strunk and E.B. White’s “Elements of Style” in their toolbox. Yes, it’s an old book, but it contains ageless truths about the lost art of communication. Listen to this,

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

In ministry, brevity is an important factor while communicating. Especially in an age where the attention span is dwindling at an alarming rate. While Strunk and White’s book generally applies to the craft of writing, you can also apply the concepts to speaking. So many times I have sat in a church service listening to a ministry leader verbally wander through an announcement, meditation, or sermon with no goal in sight. Here’s what the authors say about adding needless ideas to communication,

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.Click To Tweet

The book is loaded with helpful suggestions on what it means to make your communication concise and clear. It also contains lots of examples on proper usage of grammatical challenges in writing, for example, where to place apostrophes and commas.

Next year the book turns 100. Considering that it is listed as the #1 seller in all Amazon writing and publishing categories, one can see how the book has stood the test of time.

Grab it and drop it in your ministry toolbox today. It will help you to be a better communicator!

A Better Way To Communicate

Today’s Toolbox Tuesday brings me to one of my favorite ministry tools of all time: Slack. It’s a powerful too to help you communicate.

Slack shortens the communication chain within your organization, tying leaders and volunteers together with a beautiful interface on mobile or desktop platforms.Click To Tweet

The application allows you to create a private “intranet,” complete with discussion “channels.”

Example: Let’s say that I need to share some information about an upcoming Sunday programming change. I can share that information within the #sunday_programming channel. Once I do, only those who subscribe to that channel will be notified of the change. But, if I need to share something with everybody I can post in the #general channel, which allows everyone to see it.

communicate with Slack

Slack permits you to create as many channels as you like, and even to specify who has access. You may lock “private” channels so they are invitation only. This is good for conversations between staff members, your board of directors, or for sensitive topics.

You can share files, and upload videos or audio files. There are also tons of integrations with apps you may already be using like Google Drive, Diggbot, and Paypal.

The application is free as long as you don’t need some of the extra features like voice calling, screen sharing, or priority support.

We have been using the system for about 9 months and have about 25 people using the free version. It works like a charm.

The best way for you to understand how it works is to start using it. Download the Slack iOS app or the Google version or sign up at slack.com.

This is a no-brainer – check it out!

Need more toolbox suggestions? Check out my review of Calendly and Canva

If you want to read more about the founder and designer of Slack, I found this cool article.

3 Solutions For Church Summer Slump

This is going to sound unbelievable but I assure you it’s 100% true.

When I was about 10 years old my family attended a little Baptist church in Detroit. It was a while ago but I’m guessing that there were about 100 members.

Like any little church, the dreaded “summer slump” arrived every June, July, and August as church-goers chose to spend their summer time on vacations, traveling, or at the beach on Sunday.

In an effort to drum up attendance the pastor came up with a brilliant idea. The idea was to make a life-sized dummy called, “Mr. Summer Slump.” Someone in the church made him by stuffing old rags into some second-hand clothes, complete with a head, a hat, and a painted on face. Seriously, it was creepy!

Each Sunday School class was made to keep attendance and the teacher with the lowest amount of people was forced to sit next to Mr. Summer Slump in the front row of the church! I guess embarrassing your key volunteers is the best way to provoke them to action.

I’ve been in ministry for many years and I’ve experienced the summer slump regularly each year. Here are some better ways to handle it.

Decrease Your Worship Services

It seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many churches don’t consider moving from 3 services to 2 for the summer, or from 2 to 1. The great fear is that you won’t be able to regain attendance in the fall. The opposite is true. In my experience, minimizing services is exciting and allows more people to connect. Plus, it’s a nice break for your volunteers.

I know this doesn’t help you if you already only have one service. However, you might even consider moving your regular service back an hour. A lot of people get used to sleeping later during the summer and that extra hour of sleep is just what they need on Sunday morning.

Rearrange The Chairs

Really? Can you do that? Yes! Is there anything worse than that oh-so-empty feeling in the auditorium? Whenever 70% or less of the chairs are filled on Sunday it sends a subconscious message to the congregation: “Where is everybody? And if they’re not here, why am I here?”

Try rearranging your normal chair setup. Okay, this isn’t going to work if you have pews, but if you have movable chairs you can minimize the size of your rows by a chair or two. You can also spread them out a little bit so that whatever space was taken up by 150 chairs is not taken up by 115.

Increase Your Social Media Connections

Many people miss church in the summer simply because they are on vacation. They aren’t really lazy or trying to avoid God, it’s just that they have been planning a family trip in the summer.

Try being really intentional about sharing all of what’s happening in the church family via social media. Obviously, that means uploading the teaching for the week but how about sharing the vision on a regular basis with those who are away? You can also connect by writing to your congregation through email or on a blog. That way it won’t feel like the only way to experience the church family is by attending on a Sunday morning.

And by the way, if you’re worried about breaking people’s routine or stepping on a few toes by changing stuff then good! That’s exactly what the summer slump needs. Something different. In the summer, different is good!

Your Free Graphic Designer

Lots of big churches employ at least one person to produce quality, custom graphics for sermon series, events, flyers, and social media. But if you’re involved in ministry at a smaller level you may be frustrated by the mediocre graphics that often accompany your projects.

In the small church world, one is often forced to accept whatever volunteers are willing to produce (if you’re lucky) or concede to designing something yourself.

If this describes you then put Canva in your toolbox today. Canva makes even the least able designer capable of pro-level designs for just about anything. Using pre-designed examples (not necessarily just templates), Canva is a great solution and best of all it’s almost completely free.

Here are some of the types of graphics you can make with Canva

  • Social Media graphics for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Slides for presentations or sermons
  • Certificates
  • Letterhead & business cards
  • Book covers
  • Album covers
  • Posters and brochures
  • Tons more, too many to list!

Here are some of the graphics that I’ve designed using the Canva.com platform. All are based on existing Canva templates. All I had to do was drag my photos into place and change the wording. Very minimal design was needed to produce these graphics and they were all free.

So give it a shot next time you need to create a graphic for something. I bet you’ll be amazed at the results.

Have Trouble Scheduling Appointments?

You can save at least an hour or more per week by scheduling your appointments through Calendly.com.

So, here’s a scenario that used to drive me crazy.

Someone emails or texts me saying, “Hey, can we get together this week to talk?”

I say: Sure, when?

They say: I can do Monday in the morning.

I say: Sorry, I have Mondays off, how about Tuesday?

They say: Lemme check [2 days later] No, Tuesday is a no go, Wed?

I say: OK, I usually have Wed except for this week, how about Thursday?

They say: Thursday morning is good.

Now, all we have to do is decide on a time! It’s endless.

At first, I dealt with this by hiring an assistant and that worked and still does. But it’s expensive. I still have an assistant, but I have started using Calendly.com, an application that allows people to schedule appointments on their own. It’s effortless and easy.

First, choose an appointment type (15min, 30min, 60min, etc.) and then apply each to a recurring schedule. Or, if you wish, create custom days and times.

Whenever someone wants to meet, they simply check your Calendly link (it also embeds into your website) for an opening. The app will show them the available days and time slots–then allow them to schedule it. You can specify any information that you need from them, such as meeting location, topic of discussion, etc.

Sample Screenshot

The amazing thing? The app interfaces with iCal or Google Calendar. So, when someone schedules an appointment Calendly spontaneously puts it into your calendar, notifies you by email, and sends them a reminder as well.

It’s brilliant!

So put this one in your toolbox, ministry leader. Save time and ease the hassle of scheduling appointments with Calendly.com.

(note, I’m not sponsored by them–I just love the application)

You can check out my Calendly here

3 Mistakes Ministry Leaders Make

As a professional ministry leader for the past 25 years, I have made many, many mistakes. Some of them I have learned from and some I am still learning to overcome.

Here are three early challenges that I faced in ministry. Perhaps, you can relate:

Mistake 1: A Congregational Constituency?

The church is not a nation, town, or a city, but sometimes pastors fall into the trap of treating their congregation like voters. Rather than teaching the truth of the scripture and proclaiming the gospel of Christ, ministry leaders often make decisions based on trying to gain the acceptance of the church body. It’s the pastor as a politician. In becoming a politician the leader is more interested in maintaining an “approval rating” over bold leadership.

The word pastor means shepherd. As in, the shepherd of a flock of sheep. Remember, God’s people are often described as sheep in the Bible (Is 53:6). Remember when Jesus asked Peter to “feed his sheep?” The pastor’s mission is to care for God’s people.

I can’t imagine a world where any shepherd would need to manage the approval rating from his sheep! Instead, the shepherd knows what’s best for his sheep–even when it’s something that doesn’t seem best at the time.

Of course, I’m not saying that there’s no democracy within a church congregation. I’m pointing out that a pastor should lead God’s people to the truth, even when it’s difficult or unpopular.

My motto: Please God first, if the congregation is happy too–all the better!

Please God first, if the congregation is happy–all the better.Click To Tweet

Mistake 2: Sacrificing The Sabbath

Simply stated: pastors and ministry leaders must learn to take a day off. Too many of us have gone down burnout lane just because we fail to see the value in time away from our congregations.

Being a pastor is hard work and it’s often frustrating work too. Without a weekly recharge of our mind, body, and spirit, it’s not possible to continue to run at a break-neck spiritual pace. Still, many pastors and ministry leaders work non-stop. This always surprises me because taking a Sabbath is clearly regarded as an important part of God’s expectation of all people (Ex 20:8-11).

Remember, it is not critical which day you take off as a minister. But it is important to set ONE day aside each week. Turn off your phone, disregard email, ignore text messages, and leave social media alone. I preached about this very topic in detail…listen here.

After more than 25 years in ministry, I have learned that the church won’t fall apart in a single day. There are very few emergencies that can’t wait 24 hours.

And besides, if God rested on the seventh day, shouldn’t we?

Mistake 3: The Jack of All Trades

The problem with being a new pastor in a new church is that you sort of have to do it all. A small church pastor is often the preacher, the song leader, the media guru, the web designer, the carpet vacuumer, and more.

But eventually, as the congregation grows and as the church matures, more people can and should fill those roles.

Often young ministry leaders fail to give up some basic tasks because they feel they won’t be done well enough. The problem with that thinking is that it’s not sustainable. At some point, the new pastor needs to concentrate on bigger issues.

Andy Stanley says, “Only do what only you can do.” That’s a great mantra. What he means is that the ministry leader should concentrate on doing what they are uniquely gifted to do. This is not always possible in the beginning but it should be the target on the bullseye for every ministry leader.

Follow up questions:

  1. Where are your big challenges in ministry?
  2. Have you made these mistakes in the past?
  3. What mistakes have you learned from and how did you overcome them?

Consider leaving a comment and let me know about your experience as a ministry leader or pastor.