Scott Hodge


Leaving Churches Part 1 (For Pastors)

Jan 5, 2011

(This just turned into a two part post…  This one is for pastors.  The next one will be for everyone else.)


If there’s one thing we all know about our churches, it’s that people come…..and sometimes people go.  For lots of reasons. Most pastors really struggle with this.  At times, I have too.  But, taking it personally or internalizing it as some sort of failure every time it happens is a miserable way to live. And frankly, it’s also probably a sign that you’re taking too much ownership for something that isn’t yours to begin with.

And besides…you know as well as I do that your church will never be the right church for everyone.  In fact, trying to be will pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up reaching no one.  Actually, you will.  But trust me, you don’t want them.

Pastors…the best thing you can do is to just be very clear (right from the beginning) what your church is all about.  The clearer you are about that, the sooner newcomers will be able to make a decision as to whether or not your church is a good fit for them. But listen…don’t be arrogant about it!  Don’t say it in a way that makes your church sound like it’s “better than all the others” and therefore “it’s not right for everyone….because we’re so bad a$$.“  No….if you do that, you’re just an ass.


(Part 2 tomorrow)

16 Responses to “Leaving Churches Part 1 (For Pastors)”

  1. Phil Morgan says:


    Great start here. I think about this often and end up battling this to some degree each time a person/family leaves. Some days it is a healthy measure of analysis while others is a reminder that I am, as you say, an ass.
    You make a point to mention the need for pastors being very clear, from the beginning, about the church they serve. My most glaring mistake as a pastor is not so much the communication of what we are, but in what I “think” we are. I do the later way too much. It is a constant battle in the mind. It is also delicate as I think one of the harder jobs a small church pastor has is to help people see past the circumstances of the church (bad buildings, small space, lack of funds etc) to the potential in each of those scenarios. This is the dangerous playground of perception.
    I hope this isn’t to off track with your post, but it’s what came to my mind and I wanted to comment. I appreciate the reminder to keep things in proper perspective and trust that the church is always God’s.

  2. Edgar says:

    Great thoughts, Scott. I wish I had learned this some years back. I have to continue to coach myself that my primary job (for the sake of this conversation) is to pastor the kind of church God has designed me to lead and to communicate that clearly. When it all shakes out we want people to make informed decisions about where they connect, don’t we? In other words if a person hears what Southgate is all about and decides to leave, we all win. That’s grace.

  3. Brett says:

    Good post Scott, and a timely reminder to not think that this thing is mine in the first place. Thanks.

    Ironically, I also wrote about this topic this week on my blog. Would love you to check it out.

  4. Mike Wagner says:

    Spot on advice!

    “Pastors…the best thing you can do is to just be very clear (right from the beginning) what your church is all about.”

    Reminds me of an old saying, “a mist in the pulpit means a fog in the pew.”

    Clarity clears things up.

  5. Greg M says:

    A friend told me a member of a church he was on staff at told him that when a member leaves a church, they call it a cop out. When a pastor leaves a churhc, they call it God’s Will.

  6. Dave Anthold says:

    Scott – as an elder at my church – I think event the leadership gets caught in this same trapping. We all have differing opinions about where we want to go, but sometimes we just don’t communicate clearly enough who we are, and where we are going.

    I agree with Mike Wagner that clarity really cleans things up, but I think I agree even more fully with Greg M that we seem to attribute more weight to why a pastor leaves then a church member, especially if God is one pulling that member away.

    Thanks for the post.

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  11. Jon says:

    Look forward to the series. There should be a system in place to see who seems to be leaving the church; this should be the first step. Also, a pastor should be a leader and communicate direction to the rest of the staff. This may help keep people from leaving, too.

  12. matthew says:

    I don’t think it should just be brushed off. I watched a string of staff leave a church over a few years. Only a couple of members questioned why. The rest were loyal to (worshiped) the pastor and didn’t want to know anything. It was because the church was unhealthy and was under an unhealthy narcissistic pastor.

  13. [...] Hodge is doing a great series of “Leaving Church” over at his blog.  He brings up a great point in part one of his series… how do you feel when someone [...]

  14. Jim Jacobson says:

    It’s amplified when you think of the church in terms of family.
    That’s my problem, I really love the people that come to our church, when they leave it naturally hurts. Sometimes the reasons are pretty superficial.

  15. Thanks. I pastor a small church start. It still hurts when people leave. It is a matter of getting over that hurt. I’ve had people say, “you are like family to us but we aren’t growing.” Another one, “I’ve never felt unconditionally loved at a church before this one but you aren’t meeting all our families needs.” Wow! I’ve found family and love but I’m leaving. Those are tough ones.

    You are right. I have to consistently remind myself that it’s not my church. It’s Jesus’ church.

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