I read an article in the print version of LifeWay’s Facts & Trends by Libbly Lovelace entitled “Church Switchers” & Why They Flee. I want to encourage you to read the print or online article. In the article, LifeWay Research surveyed 415 persons who changed churches for reasons other than moving their homes.
Among the top ten reason for leaving their previous church, at least six should be addressed by a revolutionary Sunday School. I will list each of the six reasons in all capitals, and then I will share my commentary about what Sunday School can and should do to address the reasons. I will combine two sets of them about (1) being judgmental and hypocritical and (2) not involved versus discouraged from involvement.
- CHURCH WAS NOT HELPING ME TO DEVELOP SPIRITUALLY. One of the issues here is that the church often fails to expect and lead new members to become actively involved in Sunday School. Progress is harder to measure in the sanctuary. We all need relationships which challenge us and hold us accountable. Without a small group experience, many church members wander aimlessly as disciples and fail to make spiritual progress. On the other hand, Sunday School must be more intentional to pursue new church members. There should be waves of pursuers from the class or classes who are assigned to the new member’s age group. And Sunday School teachers and classes must facilitate an encounter with God in Bible study. It is God who brings about growth (spiritual development), but sometimes teachers and class members are more distractions rather than helpers in the process.
- I DID NOT FEEL ENGAGED/INVOLVED IN MEANINGFUL WORK IN THE CHURCH. CHURCH WAS RUN BY A CLIQUE THAT DISCOURAGED INVOLVEMENT. These two are also connected to the previous reason. People often feel they are not making spiritual progress when they have no opportunities to serve Him. I am a firm believer that adult classes should have someone whose job it is to see that everyone in class has a place of service in the class, church, or community. I also believe every class should have ministry projects for those outside the church at least quarterly. Sunday School should be a great mobilizer of ministry and service. Deeper relationships also occur when they serve together. If every adult class mobilizes members into service, discouraging cliques will lose their power.
- CHURCH MEMBERS WERE JUDGMENTAL OF OTHERS. CHURCH MEMBERS SEEMED HYPOCRITICAL. While these are two unique attitudes, they are also related. Neither has a place in God’s work, the body of Christ, or Sunday School. Sunday School should be a place where confidences are kept and where everyone is able to be honest and transparent because of the love for one another. When a class member hears either attitude, he or she should immediately address the person expressing the attitude. It is important for teachers and members to make sure their actions are not contrary to their words. They need to hold one another positively accountable. Attitude does matter.
- CHURCH DIDN’T SEEM TO BE A PLACE IN WHICH GOD WAS AT WORK. Sunday School leaders and members should pray. They should seek God and His leadership. Then they will have stories to share about His intervention. Testimonies should be heard more often in our classes and churches. Every adult in Sunday School should be asked to prepare a short (2-minute) testimony about God’s work in their lives and another about the difference Sunday School has made. T hese should be shared in class and from the pulpit regularly. When prayer requests are shared, there should always be a call for praise reports. Goals should be set high so that it is obvious that they were only accomplished because of God. Revolutionary Sunday School depends upon God and is quick to praise Him!
I realize each of these reasons could be the focus of a whole blog entry or chapter in a book. Hopefully this discussion has made you aware of the need to take steps to be more intentional in addressing these reasons people leave. Do you have a personal illustration to share in one of these areas? Do you have a suggestion that can strengthen efforts in our Sunday School to address these situations that are contributing to “church switchers?” Press the comments button and share your experience or ideas.
Let’s work together to do a better job of discipling and caring for people. Let’s do a better job of mobilizing them into service for Him and the church. Let’s make sure our attitudes represent Christ. Take a step this week. Be revolutionary!