12 Reasons People Leave a Church

Whether they’re valid or not, these are common reasons people leave their church.

12 Reasons People Leave a Church

Over the years of my ministry, I’ve talked to many people who chose to leave a church even though they still lived in the same area. Here are some of the primary reasons given for leaving (without commentary on the validity of each one):

  1. Relationship conflict. Somebody got mad at somebody else, and one (or both) of them decided to find another church.
  2. Weak preaching. A congregation will put up with a lot of poor leadership, but many—especially young people—will not long sit under poor preaching.
  3. Authoritarian leadership. Some leaders do not permit opposing views, and they expect everyone to follow in line. In turn, some members simply don’t stay under that leadership style.
  4. Poor children’s or students’ programming. Even though it’s not good, it’s one thing for adults to have little opportunities for growth; it’s another matter completely when our church provides little for our children and young people.
  5. Neglected pastoral care. Right or wrong, some church members give their pastors only one shot at pastoral care. If the pastor somehow neglects a need, members start looking elsewhere.
  6. Personal sin. Sometimes it’s easier to leave a church than to sit under preaching that convicts week after week after week…which also means it’s apparently easier to leave than it is to repent.
  7. Burnout. Members who are really faithful to a local church at times overcommit themselves based on the needs of the church. Few people are willing to admit they’re just worn out, so some will simply leave instead.
  8. No connectedness. Lonely church members—regardless of whether they’re lonely because the church is unfriendly or because they choose not to get involved—don’t usually commit for the long haul in a church.
  9. Congregational strife. Even if you’re not in the middle of the battle, constant conflict wears out even the best church members.
  10. Theological disagreement. Sometimes this difference is over actual theological beliefs, and sometimes it’s over moral right and wrong.
  11. Political positions. Granted, this reason is often more apparent during campaign seasons, but it happens.
  12. Perceived irrelevance. Members who think the preaching and teaching do not speak to the reality of their day-to-day lives will often seek that kind of teaching elsewhere.
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I’ve written elsewhere about “Weak Reasons to Leave a Church” and “Better Reasons to Leave a Church.” Let me know your thoughts about all these discussions.

This article originally appeared here.

Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless is professor and senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor for almost twenty years, and is the author of Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors: Healthy Churches Winning Spiritual Warfare, Making Disciples through Mentoring, Serving in Your Church's Prayer Ministry, and Eating the Elephant. Dr. Lawless speaks extensively around the countryYou can read articles from Dr. Chuck Lawless on his personal blog (ChuckLawless.com) ( or connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook. .
  • Lee

    I am a retired pastor and hospice chaplain and while I certainly agree with some of your impressions, I’ve discovered others. Many are seeing the blight of the institutional church. They are longing to restore the intimate fellowship and support of small home gatherings which marked the birth and growth of the early New Testament “called out.” Many are tired of going to a musical performance and then hearing the same man preach week after week, with no personal interaction or freedom to participate in/or ask questions.

    They see one man’s gift being highlighted and used, but the many gifts of the Body of Christ going unused and unnoticed. They are longing to leave the pew and be actively involved in the meetings of The Way. Paul is very clear in 1 Cor. 14 that when one meets with other disciples in a meeting, each one should be prepared to share, in order to uplift, encourage, teach, inspire, and groom. In fact when Paul is preaching until midnight in Acts 20, the Greek word used for “preaching,” means “teaching with dialogue.” The gathering of God’s people was a collective, communal time of sharing and worship where all had opportunity to use their Holy Spirit dispensed gifts to build up the other.

    You raised a good point regarding theological disagreements. There are certainly salvational doctrines that need to be set, i.e. the Gospel, however, there are many other theological points of discussion, i.e, end times, heaven and hell, organizational structures, etc. that can be openly discussed and even disagreed upon and still include fellowship. You usually won’t see this openness in a denominational church or as I call it, in “non-denominational denominational churches.”

    Constantine outlawed home fellowships and made public buildings the only outlet for Christian gatherings and in so doing did a grave disservice. Even today, we still have the influences of Catholic structures impregnating the current evangelical and protestant churches–just with different names and titles.

    There is certainly a movement underfoot that I believe to be a movement by God to get His people back on track away from the institutional setting.

    Thank you for your article.

  • Gail

    Awesome article. Sometimes we just don’t want to admit the truth. We get burned out and over whelm in our personal lives and they overflow into our lives as ministers and pastors. Some things will ‘NEVER” change. If a church is doing the same thing, the same way that they did 15 to 20 years ago, what would make them think that they are going to get a different result? The church should be a democracy and “NOT” ran like a dictatorship. There are too many ‘rules’ and “regulations” that has nothing to do with scripture. They have too many programs and not enough ministry. Some pastors although they may be excellent in their knowledge and presentation of scripture must realize that they do “NOT” know everything and possibly could be taking a particular scripture out of context. Some things were cultural and a law, when now we live under grace. The two cannot be mixed. Sometimes we run very dedicated, faithful, members away because of the ism’s that we carry. Thanks so much for these reason. I left my church of 15 years about a month ago because of six of these reasons that had just stressed me out and this is very sad. Right now I don’t even have a desire to go to “ANY” church, but I know that I have to seek one somewhere.