Pain Points: People Leaving the Church

Pain Points: People Leaving the Church

The article is a part of the Pain Points series.

In his book, Transformational Groups, Ed Stetzer discovered that people in our churches that had connected in a group were more likely to serve, share the gospel, give generously, and repent more frequently than those who had not. Based on this information, we can surmise the opposite would be true as well. The people in our churches who do not connect in community are more likely not to serve, share the gospel, etc. A direct result of the lack of  relational connection one finds in a healthy groups ministry is a wide open back door of the church.

People are walking away from the church more and more regularly. Studies show that this is due to a variety of reasons, but at the top of the list is a lack of felt relational connection. According to Lifeway research, 28% of people switch churches because the church is not developing them spiritually and another 20% leave because they do not feel engaged or involved. A Pew Research study showed 23% of people leave churches because they are dissatisfied with fellowship. Lack of relational connection is at the core of each of these issues.

We were created to live in biblical community. We see this through the entirety of scripture. In creation, God said that it is not good to be alone. In the Ten Commandments, the first four commands pertain to a relationship with God and the last six pertain to a relationship with each other. Consider how Christ functioned during His earthly ministry. He only spoke to the large crowd a handful of times. The majority of His time was spent in the context of community. Tim Chester points out in his book, A Meal With Jesus, that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Providing for, and investing in, a healthy groups ministry in your church is not just a good idea, it is absolutely essential to the Church’s mission.

We were created to live in biblical community. We see this through the entirety of scripture. Click To Tweet

The question we must ask ourselves is, “What can we do to foster and grow healthy, biblical community in our churches so that the people we have been entrusted with will live out their faith in the manner they were created?”

Whether you have an established groups ministry or are just getting started, here is where I would recommend starting.

Step 1: You must clearly define your mission, strategy, and values for what your groups ministry will do. First and foremost, you must understand what you’re doing before to can articulate it to your leaders. Will Mancini’s “Vision Frame” is incredibly helpful with this. By working through a few questions you can develop a very clear and easy to communicate vision to pass on to your leaders and congregation.

Step 2: Equip and launch new leaders and groups. It sounds obvious to say that you need to train your leaders, but vision is what is important here. You are looking for partners in ministry, not cats that you must try to herd all year. The way you train and invest in leaders will largely determine the health of the ministry. It should not be a quick pitch followed by you sending them out to do whatever they want. Most leaders want the investment, give it to them.

The way you train and invest in leaders will largely determine the health of the ministry. Click To Tweet

Step 3: Protect the Vision. Do not be tempted to take an “anything is community” approach. Remember the goal is spiritual growth and discipleship. Do not short-change the vision that God has given you for you congregation.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but my hope is that this will give you a basis to evaluate what you are already doing or provide a framework to get started. It is also important to note that simply keeping people around should not be our primary motivator for investing in and growing a health groups ministry, we cannot ignore the fact that without these vital relational connections in our churches we cannot expect our people to grow, much less, stay. I will leave you with this question, “If Jesus spent most of His ministry focused on community and relationship, why would we do it any other way?”

Since early 2013, Mike has served as the Life Groups Pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church. His first-hand experience of life change in a Life Group leads him to connect people into groups and encourage lasting spiritual growth. An avid outdoorsman, Mike enjoys camping, hiking, hunting, and more. His favorite verse is Proverbs 27:17.