15 Reasons People Are Leaving Your Church

In David P. Gushee’s ground breaking book: After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity (2020), the author’s research identified fifteen reasons why people are currently leaving the church. 

1. People leave churches to go to other churches.

2. Some leave because their faith in Christ has faded or lost salience. 

3. Some walk away because they are burned out from too many years of service. 

4. Some drift off to other weekend pursuits. 

5. Some leave because they got their feelings hurt. 

6. Some quit because they must work all the time or have complicated personal lives. 

7. Some abandon ship because they are tired of church conflict. 

8. Some leave for silly reasons. 

9. Others leave for reasons peculiar to the American evangelical experience. Those reasons begin with disillusionment over teachings that are viewed as harmful to the vulnerable. Some leave over the harm LGBTQ people and their families have experienced. 

10. Others leave over patriarchal teachings. 

11. Some leave over the damaging effects of purity culture. 

12. Others leave over white evangelical racism. 

13. Some say: all of the above. 

14. People are also leaving evangelical churches over reactionary attitudes toward science and liberal learning, over anti-intellectualism and theological rigidity, over the inability to deal with honest questions or anything other than all-happy-all-the-time faith, and over the identification of evangelical faith with conservative/Republican politics. 

15. The most embittered are leaving evangelicalism in a state of trauma, reporting their evangelical experience as one of abuse or violation. 


David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and past President of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Kingdom EthicsChanging Our Mind, and Still Christian.

My three words of advice for a small church pastor by Dr. Bob Logan

Small church pastors have some significant advantages in ministry. Here are a few ways to leverage your time and energy to make the most significant impact in your congregations.

  1. 1. Set aside relational time. As you likely already know, relationships are essential in any church, but especially so in smaller churches. One of the great advantages for the people is to know others and be known. So particularly if you are wired to prioritize tasks and action items—like I am—you’ll need to be intentional about setting aside time for small talk and relationships. When I used to have board meetings, I would actually figure 20 minutes of relational time into the agenda at the beginning of each meeting. I didn’t put that on the public agenda, but I did write it into my own copy to remind myself of the importance of relational investment. When I started doing that, I noticed a significant improvement in the way the rest of our meeting time went forward.


  1. “Pay the rent” three days a week, then focus your ministry contribution the rest of the week. This is a piece of advice I need to credit to my coach, Colin Noyes, as well as author Lyle Schaller. The essential idea is that all churches will have certain expectations of the job description of a pastor—things they expect you to do that may or may not be a part of your giftedness or personal sense of calling. But especially in a small church of 200 people or less, where everyone plays multiple roles, you can usually structure your time so you spend three days a week meeting basic expectations. Then you have another three days to focus on a specific area of ministry contribution you feel called to make—something within your area of giftedness that you feel will be of long-term benefit to the congregation.


  1. Get the discipleship DNA right by focusing on peer discipleship groups. Another significant advantage smaller congregations have is the ability to focus on and improve DNA at the grassroots level. By DNA here, I mean the basic givens of an organism: what it does, what it prioritizes, what it naturally gravitates toward. Discipleship is a critical piece of DNA in the church. By focusing on getting healthy discipleship in at the very grassroots of a church, you can set it up to multiply and spread throughout the whole rest of the organization and beyond. One of the best approaches for smaller churches—in my opinion—is getting groups of 2 to 4 people meeting weekly to focus on their discipleship journeys together. No one needs to be in charge, and you can provide some curriculum or structure to give people direction. Two options include Life Transformation Groups(free) and The Guide for Discipling(purchasable as a download). Both are available in both English and Spanish.

These are just a few of the leadership ideas, tips and strategies in my latest book The Leadership Difference.


Dr. Bob Logan has worked in full-time ministry for over thirty years as a church planter, pastor, missions leader, consultant, and ministry coach.He is internationally recognized as an authority in church planting, church growth and leadership development. Bob’s current areas of focus are coaching, speaking, and developing leaders in missional, incarnational contexts.


Is It The Pastor’s Job To Grow The Church And Evangelize?

A pastor wrote:

How do you balance pastoring the current flock and evangelizing in your community? How do you recruit people in your church to help with both?

Certainly, no one would argue that it is the pastor’s job to pastor, but what we can’t agree upon is whether or not it is also the pastor’s job to evangelize in the community. In other words, is evangelism inherently embedded in the call to pastor. Some pastors would say yes and some no.

If I were coaching the pastor who asked these great questions I would begin by asking:

  1. What does ‘evangelizing in your community’ look like to you?
  2. Where did you get the idea that this is part of your call?
  3. On a scale of one to 10 (one = lowest), how gifted are you as an Evangelist?
  4. On a scale of one to 10 (one = lowest), how passionate are you about evangelizing in your community?

I’ve spoken to many pastors who are laboring under an expectation that it is their job to reach new people and grow their church. Some actually have this written into the job description they agreed to when they accepted the call to their current church.

Let me briefly comment on each of these questions one at a time.

  1. How do you balance pastoring the current flock and evangelizing in your community?

I don’t think this is a problem unless your gift-mix includes Evangelist. Some pastors have this mix…most, in my experience, don’t. Now…every believer (pastors included) has a responsibility to know how to share their faith and to do so when an opportunity presents itself. If my understanding of Eph. 4: 11,12 is correct, the pastor’s job is to train and equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. This probably would include how to share their faith, which I will comment on with the second question.

If, however, your gift-mix includes Evangelist, you will want to make room in your week, or month to exercise that gifting. This may or may not look like you spending time in the community getting to know people, etc. but it must look like something. Perhaps a starting point would be to set apart 10% to 15% of your time to this.

2. How do you recruit people in your church to help with both?

This is the hard part, isn’t it? Discover this, bottle it, sell it, and your phone will not stop ringing with people wanting you to speak at the next “How to grow your church” conference.

Once again, if I were coaching the pastor who sent me this question I would begin by asking:

  1. Are you aware of anyone in your church who has the gift of Evangelist or is passionate about people coming to know Jesus? If your answer is, “I don’t know.” then how might you find this out?
  2. On a scale of one to ten (ten being high), how certain are you that this is a matter of re-educating or re-envisioning your congregation about evangelism, personal evangelism, church-growth, who’s job is it to reach new people, etc.?
  3. If it is, where or how might you begin the re-educating process?

If I were coaching this pastor I would suggest:

  1. Saturate this in prayer asking the Father to stir up the people for reaching the lost.
  2. Gather together those who are passionate about this, even if only a few. Pray together, dream together, brainstorm together on how to reach new people.
  3. Begin a process of re-education.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Be willing to start small.



Preaching Is Easy, Pastoring Is Hard

Being a Preacher is easy. Being a Pastor is hard.

It’s not unusual for me to hear from pastors that the one thing they like the most about their job is preaching. Pastors love to study, prepare, exegete a passage and…preach it!

But the development of and delivery of a sermon is possibly the easiest thing we do as pastors. Now I’m not suggesting that it’s no big deal to wrestle with a passage of scripture, pour over your commentaries, dig into the Greek and Hebrew, and give off the energy and passion required for a sermon that will connect with your people. This is important stuff indeed. But think about it. When you’re preparing your sermon you are probably sitting comfortably in your office (unless you’re one of those cool pastors that work on their sermon at some coffee shop) all by yourself, just you and a desk covered in books. Even when you preach you’re standing up there by yourself speaking to a group of people and separated by at least a few feet of carpet. Oh, they might give you some verbal and nonverbal feedback. You might hear an occasional “amen” or the sound of snoring. They might nod at you in agreement or be checking their email on their phones. But most sermons leave little time for any genuine feedback and interaction. It’s you preaching and them listening. Easy, at least easy compared to pastoring the same people.

I’m guessing that most of us have had classes on public speaking or homiletics, but I bet that few of us have had the same degree of time and focus on what it means to be a pastor. And might I suggest (please don’t put out a contract on me) that pastoring is more important than preaching.

Take a deep breath. For the record:

Preaching is important.
Preaching is very important.
Sound doctrine is important.
Sound doctrine is very important.
Your Hom-classes were not a waste of time…but…

Preaching is easy, pastoring is the hard thing.

It’s hard to be with people in their pain and struggles. It’s hard to put up with those who oppose your leadership and seem to sabotage your vision for the church. It’s hard to take that phone call at the end of the day when you’re already tired and spent. It’s hard to feel unappreciated. It’s hard to have unrealistic expectations placed on you and your family. Pastoral counseling is hard. Accepting the fact that no one in the church (even your leaders) are as into it as you are is hard. Doing funerals is hard. Dealing with the same ‘people-problems’ over and over and over is hard. Loving your small church can be hard. Preaching is easy, pastoring is hard.

Six months after my conversion, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I heard a voice (this will be only one of two times in my entire walk of faith that I thought I’d heard a voice) that said, “I want you to pastor my people.” The voice didn’t say, “I want you to preach.”, it said, “I want you to pastor my people.”

I would also go on to preach. I love preaching. I’ve been told that I’m a half-way decent preacher. I am a preaching coach, i.e. I help pastors become better preachers and teachers. But…the older get, the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I talk to pastors, the more I realize that people need, first and foremost, a pastor. John Maxwell once said, “You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are.”

Want More Peace? Lower Your Expectations.

You’ve heard it before, “Set the bar high. People will rise to the level of your expectations.” Or, “Expect great things from God.” To be honest with you, and please don’t burn me at the stake for heresy, I’m not sure such statements always come true. Now hold on. Give me a second before you unfriend me on Facebook.

I think one reason why we experience frustration and disappointment in the ministry is due to unrealistic expectations. You can have unrealistic expectations of your people and you can have unrealistic expectations of God. Let’s start with God.

An unrealistic expectation of God is when we expect God to do something that He hasn’t clearly promised to do. Now, granted, Christians will differ on what God has promised in His word and what He hasn’t. Based on your theology, or hermeneutics, or denomination, you might think one thing is a promise to expect God to fulfill, while another pastor might think differently. But what I’m referring to here are the many voices (usually pastors of large churches) that tell us things like…

God wants your church to grow.
God wants to use you to reach your city for Jesus.
If you want to grow your church focus on _____ or _____ or_____.
God wants to do great things in your ministry and through your church.

I kind of believe those statements but the problem, as I see it, is that such statements revolve around formulas and numbers. There are more ways for a church to grow than merely by numbers. A church might grow in numbers but it be a very, very slow process. I haven’t heard of a church that has successfully “reached its city for Jesus.” Why is it that “great things” are seldom “small things?” If formulas work then why are there so many churches that have implemented the formulas and still are not experiencing numerical growth?

What are you believing God for? What are you expecting Him to do for you? What are you basing that on? If you are convinced that your expectations are based on the scriptures then fine. Hold on to those promises. But if not…rethink your expectations. And what about our expectations of our people?

If you expect your people to be as ‘into it’ as you are then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If, by raising the bar of commitment, you have seen your people leap up and over that bar like Superwoman (or man) then good for you. Congratulations, you’ve accomplished something most pastors never experience. I’m not exactly suggesting that we lower our expectations…but maybe I am. Maybe it’s more about having realistic expectations than unrealistic ones. And to be honest with you, many of the pastors I interact with have, again, in my opinion, unrealistic expectations and that is why they are so discouraged, frustrated, and lack peace and joy in the ministry. In regards to goals, I have a saying, “Set the bar so low that you can’t help but step over it.”

Before you ‘unfollow’ me on Twitter…just think about it. Keep praying and planning to reach new people for Jesus. Ask God to do great things with your church…just be careful of your definition of ‘great.’ Be content without becoming complacent. If you want to have more peace, discover those unrealistic expectations you have with God and your people and adjust them accordingly.

Dealing With Gossip In The Small Church

I’m about to wrap up my tenth year of coaching pastors. Ten years…that’s a decade…that’s a long time to be listening to, encouraging, and resourcing pastors and church leaders. But I’m telling you, if I had twenty bucks for every time I’ve spoken to a pastor who is dealing with someone in their church that is a gossip…I’d be a rich man. Well, maybe not rich, but I would have a significant amount of discretionary fun-money in my wallet. My point is, if you have a church you will have gossip. Everybody has to deal with it at some time. You might be dealing with it right now. Gossip (and it’s cousin Slander) are two of the most dangerous sicknesses to infect a church.

Let me share with you seven steps to deal with gossip in your church.

  1. Compile a list of all the verses in the Bible where the words ‘gossip’ and ‘slander’ appear.
  2. Come up with a working definition of gossip and slander.
  3. Review the verses on your list and the definitions you came up with and using a scale of one to ten (one being lowest) score the degree of problem you have in your church or with a specific individual.
  4. Clearly identify the guilty party(s).
  5. If you were to confront this person, what response might you expect from them?
  6. What risks are you taking by confronting them and what risks are you taking by not confronting them?
  7. Are you willing to get bloody over this? You probably will. Gossips and Slanderers usually don’t repent, stop, or leave the church without putting up a fight. If the gossip has a great deal of influence in the church you could get in trouble at best, and lose your job at worst.

You might be surprised to hear me say this but my experience in working with pastors is that they fail to deal with gossip early on and this results in the problem growing and growing until they have a much more serious situation on their hands than when the gossip originally raised it’s ugly head.

If you decide to confront the person don’t forget to:

  1. Pray before you go.
  2. Take someone with you.
  3. Don’t sugarcoat the seriousness of the situation to the person.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tell the person to stop it or they will have to leave.
  5. Don’t forget to duck.



Five Reasons Why Vision Fails




– the faculty or state of being able to see: she had defective vision.
– the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom: the organization had lost its vision and    direction.
– a mental image of what the future will or could be like: a vision of retirement.

Let me ask you, how’s your vision?

In a couple weeks I’m going to see my Optometrist. It’s been a few years. My glasses aren’t working as well as they should. Well actually, it’s my eyes that aren’t’ working as well as they should. My vision is failing. Nothing drastic, only what’s to be expected as one gets older. Hopefully all I’ll need is a slight adjustment to my prescription, order some new glasses, and I’ll be set. No more squinting.

It’s not unusual for a person to have to stay on top of their vision as they age. The same is true of a church, or a pastor. We’ve all read those articles on ‘vision’. Maybe you’ve attended a conference on “Getting your vision for 2017.” And I know you’re familiar with that often pulled out of context verse, “Without vision the people perish.”

In the church world, when we talk about ‘vision’, we mean the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination, wisdom, or, hopefully, the leading of the Holy Spirit. Vision is the mental image of what the future of your church will or could be. Here are five reasons why your vision might fail.

  1. Multiple vision. I remember hearing someone say, “The problem with the church today is not a lack of vision but multiple vision.” What they meant was that often in a church there will be too many ideas as to where the church should be headed. If everyone is not on the same page you will be frustrated while trying to lead in a direction some don’t want to go in. How unified is the vision of your church. Is everyone on board and paddling in the same direction?
  2. You don’t see it clearly. It’s my belief that vision starts with the pastor. I’m not saying that your leaders don’t play any part in developing and implementing the vision of your church, but I do believe, for the most part, that vision begins with the pastor. If you are not clear on the direction of your church don’t be surprised if what you see (fuzzy as it may be) fails to get traction. Do you see where you want to go clearly?
  3. You can’t articulate the vision in a simple, easy to grasp way. I think it was Albert Einstein who said something like, “If you can’t describe something in a simple way, you don’t really understand the thing you are trying to describe.” Until you can articulate your vision good enough for a fifth grader to grasp you’d better hold off.
  4. You haven’t gained ‘buy-in.” Remember to give your leaders and people at least as much time to buy into your vision as it took you to develop your vision. I see this all the time. The leader has been working on the vision for weeks, maybe for months. Finally they’re done. They’re excited to share it at their next leadership/board meeting, but when they do they are met with blank stares, objections, or initial rejection. They go home discouraged and defeated. But the problem often is not their stiffed-necked, visionless, hardhearted, reluctant to change leaders…it’s simply that they needed more time to process, to think, to question, to chew on things for a while. These things take time.
  5. A failure to program around the vision. You might see it clearly. You might be able to articulate it simply and clearly. Everybody might be on the same page. But if you don’t program around the vision, it will never be anything other than a nice idea on paper. To program around vision, ask these questions:

a) What do we need to start doing to see our vision succeed?

b) What are we doing that we need to do more of to see our vision succeed?

c) Is there anything we need to do less of to see our vision succeed?

Are you suffering from multiple vision?
Do you see your vision clearly?
Can you articulate it simply and clearly?
Have you allowed enough time for everybody to get on board?
Do your programs move your church towards your vision or away from your vision?

Now…where did I set my glasses?

3 Questions To Determine If You Should Start Or Stop Something In 2017



Well it’s that time again…the beginning of a new year. This is when you feel obligated to announce your ‘vision’ for 2017. It has to happen sometime during the month of January or it is not a legitimate ‘vision.’ So…if you haven’t formulated or communicated your vision yet, you better jump on it.

Here are three questions that will help you and your team evaluate if you should start something in or stop something in 2017.

Is It Essential? Not all good ideas are essential enough to implement. The smaller the church (and this is multiplied if you are a bivocational pastor) the more careful and selective the pastor has to be when choosing what she/he gives their time to. Small Churches, and the pastors who lead them, must become experts at dong a few things well. Is it essential to our mission? Are we currently doing anything that is not essential? You know how to start or stop something by asking, “Is It Essential.”

Is It Effective? Ministries, departments, or programs currently happening in your church, need to occasionally be evaluated. Are they accomplishing what we hoped they would accomplish when originally started? Did we take the time to nail down clearly what it was we were hoping to accomplish? Have you, or someone else, ever asked, “Now why are we doing this?” And before you start something new, don’t be afraid to challenge the idea. By this I mean…ask, “Are we really sure that this idea has the best chance of succeeding or helping us to achieve our objectives?

Can I justify the time and energy it will cost me to do this? I’ve heard some pastors say, “Well if just one person is blessed it will be worth it.” Baloney. What if there was a better idea that would bless three people instead of just one? You have to be careful of overextending yourself. You only have so much time to give to your church without something else more important suffers. Your health, your soul, your marriage, your family are your first priorities. One skill all leaders must learn is when to say ‘no’ to good ideas in order to protect the truly important things in life.

Well I hope this helps some, especially if your haven’t announced your ‘Vision For 2017’ yet. Remember, if you wait until February or March…it won’t count.

The 8 Steps To Recruit Leaders


One observation I’ve made is that many pastors don’t have a plan to recruit leaders. You can’t just pull them out of a hat like a magician would a rabbit. In order for your church to be healthy and move forward you will need leaders, leaders who will partner with you in leading the church. Paul put it this way…

“The job of the pastor is to train and equip the people in their church to do the work of the ministry.” (Eph. 4:12)

Here is a time-testing way to help you do just that.

  1. Think. What exactly do you need help with? What exactly is it that needs oversight? And…who has the most potential to take this on? Notice I said, “the most potential?” Nobody can do it as good as you do…probably, at least not at first. One pastor I spoke to recently said, “I don’t have anyone qualified to be a leader.” I said, “I understand that but who you have that is the closest to ‘qualified’?” Start where you can. Work with who you have, not who you don’t have.
  2. Recruit. Nobody, and this is especially true in a smaller church, will be better at recruiting than you, and face-to-face is best. Don’t be afraid to make ‘The Big Ask.’ Remember, the answer is always ‘no’ if you don’t ask. But before you ask, make sure you are ready to describe exactly what you are asking them to do. Be flexible, by this I mean, if you need them to commit to too many things, there is a chance that they can say yes to some but not all. And don’t ask them to commit until the the return of Christ. Make it temporary, an experiment. Ask them for a few months and tell them that after this time the two of you will evaluate. If they don’t like it promise them that you will move them into something else.
  3. Train. Now some responsibilities require more training than others. For example, handing out bulletins or being a greeter requires less training than leading a small group.
  4. Deploy. Turn them loose to do it. Pray for them. Encourage them…and then, release them to their job. Keep in mind that most things have a learning curve. They might make mistakes at first, but then, so did you.
  5. Monitor. Keep checking in with them to see how things are going. The better they get at their ministry the less monitoring you will need, but you always need to monitor. You can ask them questions such as: How is it going? Is there any way in which I can help you? What’s working well?
  6. Maintain. The leadership rule is: If you don’t maintain your leaders they will not remain your leaders. This is closely related to Training and Monitoring. What on-going training and encouragement can you give them? There are a lot of good, free resources out there that you could give them or point them to.
  7. Reward. Of course you don’t pay volunteers or they would not be volunteers, but there are other way to pay them. Pay them with your time, i.e. occasionally take them out to lunch or for coffee Pay them by telling them how much you appreciate their contribution or how good of a job they are doing. Brag on them from the pulpit on Sundays. Sometimes an occasional gift is nice.
  8. Repeat. I remember once training some leaders from another church. At one point I asked each department head to tell me how they were don’t with recruiting volunteers. One leader of the youth group said that they were fine, they had all the leaders they needed. And it was true…at that moment…but things can change quickly. One day you can have a leader and the next they resign, or want to take a break, or get mad and leave the church. You can never, never, never stop developing leaders and volunteers.

What plan do you have to increase your number of volunteers and leaders?

The Time I Almost Lost My Children’s Ministry Director…and it was my fault.



In our last church I had, possibly, the best children’s ministry director in my twenty eight years of pastoring. Carrie was one of those really gifted people who had a passion for kids, was pro-active, you never had to worry about her. But one day she came into my office and said, “Dave, sometimes I feel like the only reason we meet is to talk about my ministry. I don’t feel like you care about me as a person, I’m just someone that helps you accomplish your vision for the church.”


You know what? She was basically right. Of course I cared about Carrie, but is was true, our one-on-one meetings were all about how her department was doing. I never met with Carrie to simply talk about life, how was she doing, etc. I apologized. She accepted my apology, and we were able to move forward. But Carrie helped me learn an important lesson.

Your leaders need two types of meetings.

Leadership Team meetings. Even if you only have a few leaders you need to gather them for prayer, communication, vision-casting, and leadership development. But never forget, group meetings accomplish something different than the one-on-one meetings. Understanding this difference is essential if you want to keep your best leaders.

One-on-one meetings. This might be in your office, over a cup of coffee, or for breakfast or lunch…it doesn’t matter where but it matters, it matters a lot. You need time to check in with your leaders to find out how they are doing. Not how their ministry is doing. Ask questions like:

  1. How’s your relationship with Jesus?
  2. If you had to choose one word to describe your currently relationship with Jesus, what would it be?
  3. If they are married: If you had one word to describe your current relationship with your spouse, your children, etc., what would it be?
  4. How can I better serve you?

I guess you could accomplish some of the things mentioned for leadership team meetings in a one-on-one meeting but be careful. Make sure you start out with the personal stuff first. If your whole time with them ends up being about personal stuff…that’s okay. Followup some time later to find out how their ministry is doing.

Ellen use to remind me, “Dave, it’s all about people, not programs. People before programs.”

Make sure that group meetings and one-on-one meetings show up in your schedule. If you want to keep your best people, give time to your best people. Show them you care about them, not just how they are serving in the church.