Are you wondering why people leave the church and haven’t been coming back?
In this article, we are going to be exploring why people leave the church, and how to have a thriving church despite larger cultural shifts.
Let’s begin by looking at the latest church statistics that will shed some light on this trend away from the Church.
Church Statistics in the United States
According to the latest Gallup survey conducted in 2020, here are some statistics on American church attendance:
- Church attendance: According to the survey, 28% of Americans reported attending church in the past week in 2021. This is a decrease from 36% reported in 2020.
- The percentage of Americans who identify as Christian has declined from around 80% in the 1970s to around 65% in recent years.
- In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.
In this article, we will find out the reasons why people leave the church and where they go after they leave. More importantly, we will discuss solutions your church can employ.
6 Reasons Why People Leave Church
There are many reasons why people leave the church but there are six most common reasons we will be exploring in this article.
Many pastors worry about this continuing trend and what it means for the future of their church, and the western Churches as a whole. While you may feel discouraged, there are some ways you can keep people from leaving your church and turn the tide in your community.
Let’s go through these 6 reasons one by one.
#1 Reason Why People Leave The Church: Disillusionment With The Church
Problem: Some people leave the church because they become disillusioned with its teachings or practices.
This can happen when they feel that the church is not living up to its values or that it has become too focused on power, money, or politics.
More deeply, disillusionment can happen when people feel the church no longer meets the needs of members and the community.
It says in Matthew 23:27-28:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
These verses speak to the danger of becoming too focused on outward appearances and neglecting the inner transformation that is necessary for true righteousness.
It is also said in Philippians 4:19:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
This passage highlights the importance of having faith in God’s ability to meet our needs, both physically and spiritually.
Let’s take a look at what the bible says about how Jesus met people’s needs. He turned the water into wine, cured the blind, fed the five thousand, and so on.
More importantly, he saved people’s souls through preaching and miracles. Many people today feel that their needs are not being met within their church community, leading them to leave.
When people become disillusioned with the teachings or practices of the church, it may be because they see a disconnect between the outward appearance of righteousness and the true character and actions of the church and its leaders. In other words, their needs are not satisfied in their churches.
In response, the church must work to ensure that its teachings and programs are grounded in a deep commitment to the truth, transformation of the heart, and meeting needs of their audience.
This may involve seeking to address areas of inconsistency, working to root out any practices or teachings that are not in line with the character of Christ, and striving to live out our faith in a way that is authentic and consistent with our beliefs.
Through these efforts, the church can work to regain the trust and confidence of those who have become disillusioned and create a community that is truly committed to following Jesus in ALL AREAS OF THEIR LIVES.
By embracing the spirit of the Scripture, we can work to ensure that our faith is not merely a matter of outward appearances, but is rooted in a deep commitment to the truth and to the transformation of the heart.
Solution: You and your ministry team can address disillusionment by being transparent and open about Your values, practices, and finances.
You can also prioritize creating a welcoming community that is loving, empathetic, and compassionate.
Consider doing a survey of your audience to discover needs and problems they struggle with. Then create services and solutions to meet them.
Here is our related post which provides more details about the church failing to meet needs: 8 BAD HABITS THAT KILL CHURCH GROWTH IN 2023.
#2 Reason Why People Leave The Church: Personal Issues
Problem: Some people leave the church because of personal issues, such as a change in beliefs, a crisis of faith, or a disagreement with the church’s teachings. They may also leave due to conflicts with church members or leaders.
As Matthew 18:15-17 says:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
It is important to approach these issues in a spirit of reconciliation and restoration.
Rather than simply walking away from the church or engaging in divisive behavior, we are called to seek out opportunities for dialogue and resolution, working towards a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another’s perspectives and experiences.
This may involve confronting individuals who have sinned against us or violated our trust, seeking to address any areas of conflict or misunderstanding in a spirit of love and compassion.
It may also involve engaging with church leaders and members in a constructive and respectful manner, seeking to understand and appreciate their perspectives while also asserting our own beliefs and values.
Through these efforts, we can work to create a church that is truly welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of all who seek to follow Jesus.
By embracing the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17, we can work towards healing and restoration in our relationships. We should strive to create a community that is truly reflective of God’s love and grace.
Solution: The pastor can offer conflict resolution training, pastoral counseling, etc.
The pastor can encourage open communication and dialogue, both between church leaders and members and among members themselves.
This can help to address conflicts and misunderstandings and create a more supportive and understanding community.
3rd Reason Why People Leave The Church: Lack of Connection
Problem: Some people leave the church because they do not feel connected to the community or do not find the church fulfilling.
They may feel that they are isolated or that they do not have meaningful relationships with other members.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The verse emphasizes the importance of meeting together as a community of believers in order to encourage and support one another in our faith journey.
When people leave the church because they do not feel connected to the community or find the church unfulfilling, it may be because they have not experienced the kind of meaningful relationships and support that they expected from the church.
In response, the church must work to create an environment that fosters authentic relationships and provides opportunities for individuals to connect and grow together in our faith.
This may involve creating small groups, offering mentorship programs, and providing opportunities for individuals to serve and work together towards common goals.
Through these efforts, the church can fulfill its role as a community of believers who encourage one another to love and do good works, and provide the support and guidance necessary to navigate the challenges of life.
Solution: You should consider offering programs that foster healthy relathships outside of Sunday service which can include community outreach events, small group gatherings, Bible studies, prayer meetings, volunteer work, and online forums.
By fostering relationships and a sense of belonging, members may be more likely to stay connected to the church.
4th Reason Why People Leave The Church: Lifestyle Changes
Problem: People’s lives change, and they may no longer have time or interest in attending church. This can happen due to work or family responsibilities, a move to a new location, or a shift in priorities.
It says in Colossians 3:1-2:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
This passage teaches us to set our minds on things that are above, where Christ is, rather than on the things of this earth.
It encourages us to seek after the values and priorities of God’s kingdom, rather than conforming to the values and priorities of the world.
When people leave the church due to lifestyle changes, it may be because they are seeking after the things of this earth, rather than the things of God’s kingdom.
They may be pursuing worldly desires and priorities that conflict with the teachings of the church.
In response, the church must continue to teach and model the values of God’s kingdom, calling individuals to turn away from worldly pursuits and seek after the things that are above.
However, it’s important for the church to do this with compassion and understanding, recognizing that we are all flawed and in need of grace.
Instead of judgment and condemnation, the church should offer support, guidance, and encouragement to those who are struggling with lifestyle changes.
Through love and grace, the church can help individuals to rediscover the joy and fulfillment that comes from seeking after the things of God’s kingdom.
Solution: Churches can adapt to changing needs and lifestyles by offering flexible service times, online resources, reaching out to people moving into town, and other options for engagement.
This can help members stay connected even if they are unable to attend in-person services.
5th Reason Why People Leave The Church: Negative Experiences
Problem: Negative experiences with the church, such as spiritual abuse, mistreatment, or toxic communication are also reasons why people to leave the church.
They may feel hurt or betrayed by the church and choose to distance themselves from it.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
This passage warns against causing harm to those who believe in Jesus, particularly the young, vulnerable and innocent.
Negative experiences with the church, such as spiritual abuse, or mistreatment can cause significant harm to individuals and may even cause them to lose faith in God altogether.
When people leave the church due to negative experiences, it may be because they feel betrayed or hurt by those who were supposed to represent God’s love and compassion.
In response, the church must take seriously the harm that has been caused and work to address the issues that led to the negative experiences in the first place.
This may involve holding individuals accountable for their actions, seeking reconciliation and healing, and making changes to ensure that such harm does not occur in the future.
It’s important for the church to remember that our actions have consequences, particularly when it comes to those who are vulnerable or marginalized.
As the body of Christ, we must strive to embody his love and compassion in all that we do and work to create a safe and welcoming community for all who seek to follow him.
Solution: Churches must take a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse, mistreatment, and toxic communication. They should create an atmosphere where members feel comfortable being authentic and report any negative experiences.
This can ensure that proper protocols are in place to address any problems.
Additionally, churches should provide support and resources to members who have experienced trauma or negative experiences within the church.
#6 Reason Why People Leave The Church: Cultural Change & Religious Diversity
Problem: As more people from different religious backgrounds came to the United States, the country has become more religiously diverse. That’s also one of the reasons why people leave churches.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The passage reminds us that all believers in Christ are one and that our differences, such as ethnicity, social status, and gender, are not to be used to divide us.
As more people from different religious backgrounds came to the United States, the country became more religiously diverse and the church must work to reach out in a culture that is becoming darker by the day.
When people leave the church due to religious diversity, it may be because they feel excluded or marginalized due to their cultural or religious background.
In response, the church must strive to create a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds.
This may involve seeking to understand the cultural and religious differences of others, actively welcoming and involving individuals from diverse backgrounds, and making efforts to ensure that they feel welcome in the church.
Solution: Churches have to equip members with Christian apologetics by providing a rational defense of the Christian faith in the face of cultural and religious pluralism.
This can be done by providing a framework for engaging with different worldviews and belief systems.
It is important to address the intellectual and philosophical challenges that often arise in the face of cultural change and religious diversity.
It encourages believers to extend grace and forgiveness to those who may hold different beliefs or come from different cultural backgrounds.
To sum up, there are 6 top reasons why people leave your church including disillusionment with the church, personal issues, lack of meaningful connections, negative experiences, and religious diversity.
To address these issues, the church must work to create an environment that is healthy, welcoming, and that meets the needs of it’s members.
This may involve making efforts to build meaningful connections between members, creating opportunities to explore their faith and ask questions, offering support and guidance to those going through lifestyle changes or negative experiences, and working to ensure that all members feel valued and included.
Ultimately, churches must strive to embody the love and compassion of Christ in all that it does, seeking to build bridges across differences and create a community that is united in its commitment to following Jesus.
If you want to learn more about improving the situation of people leaving the church or how to grow your church, check out our post: 10 POWERFUL CHURCH GROWTH STRATEGIES and THE BIBLICAL WAY TO GROW YOUR CHURCH .
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