Changing churches is never easy. For those who are very connected through volunteering, children’s ministry, and other aspects of church community, change is rarely sought after. Many people feel called away from their current church for a number of different reasons. Moving to a new state or city is one obvious situation, but there are a slew of other reasons why people leave their church and join another, or quit church altogether.

What leads up to this point is perhaps, a can of worms to be opened. Some people say that they had a deep feeling that God was moving them to another specific congregation; others decide to change churches due to pastoral change, church culture change, or fallout with ministry leaders. In his article available through LifeWay Church Resources, John D. Duncan articulately lists out Six Reasons People Leave Your Church:

  1. Poor leadership
  2. Different style
  3. Specific program
  4. Disillusionment
  5. Inner hurts
  6. Church size

Once you feel God leading you to another congregation, how do you leave your church well? Depending on the situation, leaving your church can be like a divorce: There might be anger, feelings of “breakup,” and deep pain involved.

The bible tells us that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety,” Proverbs 11:14. It’s good to talk with those whom you trust as wise counselors to get advice on leaving and how to handle the situation.

  • Meet with your pastor. Share honestly about why you feel called to leave your current church.
  • Meet individually with ministry leaders with whom you’ve closely served. Share with them your heart and how it is difficult to leave.
  • Meet with friends individually to let them know. This is often the hardest part – leaving the friends and the community in which you’ve been a part. Let them know your friendship transcends your church attendance.
  • Write a letter to your leadership or elder board stating the reasons why you are leaving (if there were problems or issues). If problems are not resolved and you decide to leave, dissolve your membership in writing.
  • Send notes of thanks to those who remain in ministry and have impacted your life and your family.

As I’m personally working through a church transition, I’m finding that instead of dwelling on the negative emotions I’m feeling, God wants to me remember his love towards my family and I and send personal thank you notes to each of the people in ministry who have impacted our family throughout the many years of involvement in our church.

Here are some additional articles that shed valuable light on how to leave your church well:

5 Tips on Leaving Your Church the Right Way on ChurchLeaders.com by Acts29 Network

How Do I Know When it’s Time to Leave a Church? on CrossWalk

5 Ways for a Church Member to Leave a Church Well by Carrie Nieuwhof

5 Things to do Before Leaving Your Church by The Gospel Coalition

How to Leave Your Church – and do it Well by Ministry Best Practices

Perhaps the hardest part comes after you’ve left your church. The temptation will be strong to complain, bad mouth, gossip, and even encourage people to join you in your descent.

Here’s a list of don’t just in case you feel the urge to go in this direction:

  • Don’t grumble
  • Don’t gossip
  • Don’t bad mouth or speak ill against the church you left
  • Don’t tell people how awful it is and encourage them to leave too

Lastly, for those in church leadership, don’t deny when there are problems that need addressing. If people are leaving your church in droves, the giving numbers have dropped and you’re struggling to meet your budget, staff are quitting, and you can’t find volunteers willing to step up, consider this a RED LIGHT. There are problems that need addressing. Your church just might be nuclear – pay attention to the warning signs.

For additional stats and figures related to church attendance and the back door, check out this helpful data-filled article over at Church Marketing Sucks: By the Numbers: Guests, Attendance and the Back Door.

Many thanks to all the experts who have gone before me to write on this difficult topic.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24