Why don’t churches contact people when they leave?

I’ve heard many people say, “When I left my church no one called me,” or “I wish someone cared enough to ask why I left.”

Here’s my attempt to explain why churches don’t ask why someone left. There are two possible people at fault here: 1) the church and 2) the person who left, with a possibility that both are at fault.

If someone leaves a church and no one calls it could be entirely the church’s fault. Here are some possibilities:

1) Some churches are bad. Maybe it was a bad church where the members didn’t love each other or care. It happens. It could be a dysfunctional place. The pastor might be a total inept loser. If this is the case, sounds like you made the right move, so don’t worry about it.

2) Some churches are big and busy. They have no idea who is there from week to week. If you’re not in a position to be noticed by “those who call people,” they won’t call. This is a big problem for large churches. Many leave them because they don’t feel like they belong. When they leave they don’t get called confirming that they didn’t belong. Don’t worry about it. You were right. Find a smaller church.

3) Some churches are cliquish. If you don’t belong to a clique you don’t get paid attention to. When you leave no one really cares because you weren’t in their clique. They assume you were in some other clique and that clique cares enough to call.

4) Some churches are afraid. There were several people over the years that I was literally afraid of. Like, feared for my and my family’s personal safety. I’m not walking back into that situation. Should I have anyway? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it. On a lesser level than physical harm even, people are scary sometimes.

5) Churches assume someone else is doing that. This happens with big churches, busy churches, distracted churches, and other possible reasons. Many churches are so busy welcoming in new people and favoring the desired members that they aren’t really paying attention to who is there. Maybe you were bad for their image, not their desired demographic.

6) Churches aren’t dumb. I did not contact every single person who left my church. I know why they left and who they left with. I did not desire to hear more of their goofiness. Am I wrong for this? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it.

Sometimes the fault is with the person who leaves.

1) No one knows you left because you were a non-participating member of the body. I have been shocked many times by people who claimed they were a part of my church. My wife saw a lady who hadn’t been to church in more than 10 years who introduced my wife as “her pastor’s wife.” Determining who comes and who doesn’t isn’t always easy.

2) Some members who leave were total cancers in the body. There were a number of people who left the church, which caused the church to breathe a sigh of relief. No one cared why they left; they were just happy they did.

3) There were hurt feelings and it was too difficult to contact. People forget that pastors are people too. We get hurt. Calling someone who has truly hurt me was sometimes impossible. People do really creepy things to pastors. A good pastor won’t rat on them. You’ll never know what happened. There were people I honestly was unable to speak to again. Am I at fault for this? It’s entirely possible.

4) You actually were contacted but your selective, self-justifying memory tells a better story. I’ve been told that so-and-so is mad because no one from church called when they left and I distinctly remember calling them. Sometimes I contacted them several times in several ways. As time goes by, more and more people remember that no one called them, when in reality people did. Or maybe it wasn’t THE PERSON you wanted to have call you. The Lord knows whether you were contacted or not. He will judge the situation accordingly.

5) Before you left, how many people who left that church did you call? Exactly. At your next church, feel free to call people who leave, and then maybe you’ll learn why people don’t like calling people who leave!

6) Maybe you’re weird. There was a couple who left my church, but before they left they had an anonymous person call me during supper to threaten me that they would leave if I didn’t do what they said. I did not do what they said. They left.  I did not call them. We’re not in kindergarten here; we’re fighting a fight against the Kingdom of Darkness. I don’t have time for this. I’m not playing games. Just go. Some people spent their time in church finding fault with everything. When they left, I really didn’t want to hear any more of their whining.

7) You were a moocher. Many people enter churches asking for stuff. Churches and pastors have been around. They know who is merely trying to take advantage of them. People get the impression you’re not there for the church or for others, but to see what you can get out of this church before they catch on to you, and you move on to exploit the next one. Yes, Jesus told us to give to everyone who asks of us. It does get old though. Does that make it right? I don’t know, probably not, but goodness.

In the end, I have no idea why no one contacted you when you left your church. It might be the church’s fault and it might be yours. Maybe just take it as proof that you were right to leave that church. Maybe consider that you don’t remember correctly. Maybe consider you’re a cancer and that church is breathing easier because you are gone.

Self-reflection is always good. Are you at any extent responsible for the fact that no one called you? Maybe you’re not. Maybe you were wronged, it’s possible. But humility is good on both parts.

I didn’t do everything right as a pastor. I made mistakes. I’ve never had anyone leave the church and tell people maybe they were at fault. Never.  The church is always at fault. Always. Every time. I gotta be honest: I don’t buy it.

So what do we do? We forget those things that are behind, learn from them, and do our best not to repeat our mistakes.

Find a better church or make the church you’re in now better. Be part of the body and be humble and peaceful. Do your part to edify and be edified. Don’t let a bad experience at another church color your opinion of every other church on the planet.

Let’s do better on both parts.

2 thoughts on “Why don’t churches contact people when they leave?

  1. Since leaving the pastorate, I have been contacted by several people who want to leave their churches. While I have avoided getting into the details of why–I live several states away now and have no idea what is going on day-to-day in any of the churches I was familiar with–I have always encouraged people to do two things: 1. Contact church leadership and let them know you are leaving, and (respectfully) why. 2. Do what you can to leave on the best terms possible. So far, everyone I’ve spoken to has followed my advice, but the results have not always been pretty. It’s been disappointing to hear that many times churches would rather tar and feather people on their way out rather than send them with a blessing.

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    1. It can be so easily messed up on both ends. I think the spiritual component makes it weird: everyone has to prove they are more spiritually mature in the matter, which is best done by besmirching the character of the other side. It’s a mess. Thanks for trying to make it better!

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