Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
If you’ve been in ministry for more than a minute you know that people come and people go. Nonetheless, it is always disappointing when church members leave.
Gone are the days when people attended the church closest to their home. Or people attending a church that their family belonged to.
We Live In A Consumer-driven Society
We often struggle with the fact that we live in a consumer-driven society – and people have choices.
This phenomenon has made church hopping a predictable and very common behavior.
Churches are working overtime trying to create environments that attract and keep members. But sometimes those efforts are futile.
People change churches for lots of reasons. A family move, finding a church that better meets the needs of their family, an unresolved conflict with the church, desiring to go to church with family members – and the list goes on.
When people leave your church the way they leave usually falls into one of three categories:
These members move due to job transfer, family needs, or other personal reasons.
When people are relocated it is often a time of celebration.
It is sad to see them go but it is fun watching what God is doing in their lives.
2. High Maintenance
The high-maintenance members are people who place high demands on the church and basically pick up their toys and go home when they don’t get their way.
These are the ones who make a lot of fanfare about their departure.
One of the most difficult things about being a church leader is the ever-present tension of making people happy.
This tension can conflict with ministry objectives.
High-maintenance members can hijack a church’s attention to focus on conflict resolution and time spent trying to pastor unreasonable people. It can be exhausting.
You will usually know when these people are gone. However as difficult as it is when people leave – sometimes it is a relief.
3. Low Maintenance
The low-maintenance members are the ones who don’t make waves, go with the flow, and demand little attention. This group is the one that typically gives, serves, and participates – asking nothing in return.
They are the hidden gems that create a strong church foundation. This is the group that should get all of the attention – but they don’t because the second group often requires special care. When someone in this group leaves they often simply disappear.
Sometimes people disappear because they have a major issue going on in their life and find it easier to pull away than to reach out for help.
This special group of people needs the church and the help and support they can provide. We all know that there is a tendency to flee in crisis when the need to seek help is imperative.
Regardless of the reason, those in church leadership want to know when a family stops attending.
What you don’t want is a member to disappear without anyone being aware and no way to figure it out until someone runs into them at the grocery store – which is often the case.
The church needs to care for those in their midst and proactively reach out to the hurting.
It is pretty easy to recognize when someone has disappeared in a small church. When there is only one service a week with a few hundred people, you will notice a faithful member has not been there in a while.
However, larger churches with multiple services may not be as aware. Here are a few ways to use data to recognize when someone disappears.
3 Ways To Learn That Someone Is Missing
1. Track the Kids
Kid’s church is small compared to adult church so use this close-knit group to recognize when someone is missing. If the kids are missing then the parents are probably missing also.
Most churches do electronic check-ins for children’s church. Use this data to monitor family attendance.
Run a monthly report on attendance and watch for trends. Not every family comes every week but if you see a trend that a family attends three times a month, run reports and look for changes in attendance behavior.
2. Track Giving Trends
This is a sensitive one because we know that not everyone gives and some people simply throw cash in the bucket.
However, you can still run giving reports to watch for giving trends. If a member has been faithfully giving for a period of time and simply stops it may be a sign that they are sowing their seeds somewhere else.
Make a list of those people and watch for them at church. Be careful to not make assumptions but simply use this as one method to identify people who may be gone.
3. Track Church Attendance
Not every church has the capability to electronically track weekly attendance.
However, if your church has a mobile app that has the capability to check in at service or if your church does a manual attendance use this information to identify families that have disappeared.
Try To Make Contact
After you identify people who may be gone create a process to reach out for them. This should be determined by the particular culture of your church.
This isn’t easy because there is a tender balance between showing care for someone and imposing help that may not be appreciated.
It might be a phone call, a text, or a handwritten note – regardless be sensitive in the approach and open-handed. The goal is to pull them back – not scare them away.
Members are the lifeblood of a church. They are the free labor and financial support that ministries depend on. Create a process to learn when valued families disappear, reach out to them and you might be able to help a hurting family and keep a valuable member!
Do You Have a Process to Alert You When Someone Leaves?
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