How To Leave A Church

exit signThe other day it struck me that there’s a lot of talk about how to get people to come to churches, but very little talk about how to help people leave. This is a shame.

Most Christians do not leave churches well. Neither do their pastors. Most leave for the wrong reasons, and in most cases their departure definitely doesn’t happen in a remotely healthy way.

I’m going to do a series of posts called “How To Leave A Church” and probe around a bit to see what I can uncover.

Tentatively I’d like to answer the following questions:

  • When should a Christian leave their church?
  • How should a Christian leave their church?
  • When should a pastor leave their church?
  • How should a pastor leave their church?
  • What should every Senior Pastor do before they let a staff member go?

My prayer is that this series will help fuel discussion and make church departures a more God-honoring process.

Any suggestions or ideas?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Jon Stolpe

    Interesting series topic.  I’d like to think that we left our last church well.  Our departure was mostly for geographical purposes which may have made it easier than if we had left over some major disagreement.  As it turns out, we found a great church that has STRETCHED us and challenged us in many ways.

  • Jim

    Very interested in what you have to say on this subject. I’m afraid I have very little to offer on this … only a handful of horror stories –my own & those of others– but you’ve probably know enough of those!

  • Paula Calvert

    A few immediate thoughts come to mind… First, there should be follow-up with those who left suddenly, by pastors or other leaders in the church – assuming those who left were involved at some level (obviously it would be hard to follow up on someone who never interacted).  My dad claims no one ever followed up with him when he decided to stop attending church and it seems to really bother him, especially when he sees those people around town.  Second thought… if you have children who are old enough to have an opinion, don’t switch churches without discussing it with them and fully understanding how the change will affect their lives.  My entire pre-teen / teenage years were completely thrown out of whack when my parents switched from a church with an extensive youth program (where I was developing many close friendships at a critical age) to a much smaller church with no kids my own age and a much different (read: less fun) type of youth program.  Looking back, it was pretty traumatic for me and extremely detrimental to my future opinion of church in general.  Third thought… don’t switch for stupid reasons (I’ll leave that one up to you for interpretation and examples, although I have some good ones if you’re interested)!

  • Dave

    I pastored a church on Long Island for over 13 years. For the past four years I felt a restlessness. The church had plateaued. I sought spiritual counsel of a local spiritual director. I brought on a young couple with a heart for Long Island as part of my exit strategy. After much prayer I privately announced to the elders my intention to leave. We brought in a consultant and worked toward a target date of Sept. 2012. I think any transition like this is difficult. But we sought to honor God and His church through the process.

  • Taylor Green

    I would be interested in seeing what you would have to say about leaving a church or small group in which the members have differing beliefs than my own. For example, I am tempted to leave my small group at school, because the members of the group, including the Pastor believe and feel comforted that God ultimately chooses who goes to heaven and hell, which I cannot wrap my mind around.