Doing exit interviews of church dropouts: Guidelines and suggestions
What can we learn from people who leave our church?
Churches ten to be healthy if they have low attrition rates. Research indicates
that each week more than 60,000 people leave American churches and never go back. That
dropout rate can be reduced says, Lyle Pointer, veteran pastor and church health expert. He
suggests talking to those who have left or dropped out of a local church to learn why they are no
longer participating in that congregation's activities. Here are his
suggestions and guidelines:
- I ask the Lord to help me keep the relational aspects in sight while I try to keep a lid on
my natural defensiveness against criticism.
- I visit those who've left our church. I tell them I need their help in improving our ministry
to others. Then, I ask questions such as:
- What brought you to the church initially?
- What was/is your over all impression of the church?
- I noticed your attendance at our church has dropped off (Or, I hear you may be worshiping
elsewhere). Can you help me know how you are feeling about your relationship with our
- How did you decide to leave our church? What was some of your thinking?
- If you are feeling hurt / disappointment / anger, what can I do to soften that a bit?
- I tell them I regret we were unable to be what they needed us to be.
- I reassure them I will accept, and not argue with their perspective.
- I make sure they know I have heard them (although I may not agree with them).
- I thank them for telling me how they feel.
- If I think they could still be a part of our fellowship, I tell them they have not burned any
bridges with us/me. They are welcome any time.
- I pray a prayer of blessing on them.
- If they are not attending church anywhere, I will suggest to them one or more churches in the
area that I think have the best chance of ministering to them. I try to stay in contact with this
family until they settle in somewhere or return.
I estimate that 20-25% have returned to our church because they felt concern being
expressed and understanding being offered.
-- Lyle Pointer
Why do people leave a church?
In his book Exit Interviews: Revealing Stories of Why People Are Leaving
Church, Bill Hendricks noted that tens of thousands of Americans each week decide to
drop out of a church in which they have been regularly participating.
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