Scott Hodge


Leaving Churches Part 2 (To those thinking of leaving their churches)

Jan 6, 2011

Last post was for pastors.  This one is for everyone else. It’s the advice I’d give to someone who is considering leaving a church.  (Then tomorrow, I’ll post Part 3 – which is for those who are showing up at the new church.)

To those thinking of leaving the OLD church.

Offense is never the right reason to leave a church. Leaving a church with offense in your heart is dangerous to your soul.  Work it out.  That’s the tough side of community that we don’t talk nearly enough about.  Often times, it’s through the working out of hurt, pain, or offense that we become more closely connected in our communities.  It grows and matures us.

Don’t just disappear. People do this all the time.  POOF!  They’re gone!  (And often times they get offended when the church they left doesn’t desperately chase after them when they’re gone.)  Look, if God is behind your decision, then trust that He will give you the courage and strength to have the (yes, somewhat uncomfortable) conversations needed to do it well.  Finish your commitments.  Connect with your leader through the process.  Ask them to pray with you about what you’re feeling.  Give God an opportunity to make it seem right with them too.

Don’t look for reasons to leave. If you are….trust me, you’ll find plenty of them!  If God is calling you to leave, you don’t have to wait until you find a tangible reason to do so.  Sitting around waiting for a “reason” can turn you into a nasty, judgmental, and negative person.  It’ll hurt your soul and probably others too.  In fact, if you’re walking around looking for reasons to leave, then I’d suggest looking at the inwardly condition of your heart and soul.

Don’t be negative. I hate hearing people talk negatively about the church or pastor they just left.  Chances are, those same people will be standing in front of my pastor friend down the street saying the same thing about me in a matter of months.  If you feel like you need to talk negatively about the pastor or church you’re leaving, chances are……you are the one who needs to change first.

Show Gratitude. Take time to say ‘thank you’ to the pastor and leadership of the church you’re leaving.  If you stayed too long and are offended, that’s your fault – not theirs.  When someone takes the time to send me an email or letter saying ‘thank you’ for pouring into their lives as they transition to a different church, that’s huge!  I have a ton of respect for people who do that.

HOW you do things is just as important (if not even more important) as WHAT you do.

Part 3 Tomorrow: To those SHOWING UP at the NEW CHURCH.

8 Responses to “Leaving Churches Part 2 (To those thinking of leaving their churches)”

  1. Greg M says:

    I know this is not a Biblical formula and it is very one-sided(to my side), but I have an 80/20 rule. No church is 100% perfect. No pastor professes 100% what I agree with. But the church I attend serves many of our needs as a couple and as individuals and it gives us many opportunities to serve. I can not see how going to another church would make our life any better. As long as the Pastor-teachers preach the word and not US News and Report each week and they promise not to open a campus on the moon, I am able to look past my foibles(foilbles:something that someone else does that bugs you but no one else) and be happy where I am at. But why so many campuses? oops

  2. Bill Swindle says:

    Great post Scott. My experience as a Pastor for quite a few years lines up with what you are saying. Unfortunately many of the things you listed as “don’ts” are exactly what many folks choose to do. Especially if there aren’t some good candid conversations with church staff members who are totally and 100% on-board with the vision of that church.
    Many times if someone leaves with some of the issues you mentioned, they will speak to ministry team leaders and not to staff members. I’d encourage people considering leaving to not take the easy road. Do the hard work of having some possibly difficult conversations with staff members that may expose heart issues that God wants to heal on either side. Choose to communicate before leaving. Because you may be completely misinformed. Deciding to leave church after church may be a pattern that is happening in your life because you are making decisions based on past hurts, relationships, and coping mechanisms. Or God may be really moving you on, but why not at least try and leave in a healthy way?
    The other thing is this… Don’t try and gather those of like mind and stir up trouble using groups and studies as cultivating ground for taking people with you. Groups are not a platform for breeding contempt and division. This is just plain evil IMO.

  3. John Ratz says:

    There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything,
    including leave a church. You are remembered for how you leave more
    than what you did at a church. It’s true for pastors, it’s true for

  4. [...] Read Scott’s entire post on leaving churches Tweet [...]

  5. [...] Hodge‘s post for people leaving churches is a great one.  I wish more people would consider the points he [...]

  6. [...] the third and final post on the topic of leaving a church.  Part 1 was for my pastor colleagues.  Part two was for those who are considering leaving a [...]

  7. Mark Parcells says:

    I serve on the Board of Elders from a small church that my wife and I have attended since childhood. We called a new pastor about 18 months ago and our numbers have been dwindling ever since. A part of the problem is definitely the region where we are, economic downturn, bridges closing making it difficult to get to the church, etc., but the new pastor has some issues with making connections with people. She is a fairly young woman in her first call and is quiet by nature. I would even say shy. We recently had a couple leave that had been very active in the church (Elder, Deacon). In speaking with them, they cited very concrete examples of where the pastor had never contacted them, didn’t return emails, etc.

    As an Elder, I made a list of items for discussion at our meeting and distributed this to the pastor and Session members, as well as someone in the local governance body of the church familiar with our pastor. Things have gotten very weird and we could not discuss any of the items, because the pastor needed “council present”. These were items like communication, increased engagement with parishioners, etc. Essentially, items that we could work with her on. She has previously rejected any such help.

    We are barely making budget and I am agonizing over my decision to bring these items forward. I did so with constructive intentions, but my feeling now is that with the governance intervention, this will be a circus that does not address the real issues affecting congregation members decision to leave. The church is quite a distance from where we now live, but due to our family history there, we are reluctant to leave. If my presence on the board proves to be too divisive, however, I can see how it might be for the best.

    I work in academia and deal with graduate students, other faculty and mentor young faculty, and I have never encountered a person so averse to any constructive criticism as the new pastor. I would appreciate any advice from pastors or lay persons regarding how to proceed.

  8. AJ Victory says:

    I left my church when child abuse became official Catholic policy. Furthermore, when I decided I wanted to be a scientist I looked back at the injury the Church inflicted on my intellectual forebears and decided it was time to move on to more noble pursuits.

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