People Leaving Churches

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook. It is called “The #1 Reason for Decline in Church Attendance” by Thom Rainer. It was posted on So I decided to read the article, since this topic interests me.

I was not only disappointed, but angry. Instead of encouraging pastors and leaders to get on their faces and PRAY for the sheep God has entrusted to them, and make sure they preaching a fresh word from the heart of God, this article simply gives coercion techniques.

The #1 Reason for Decline in Church Attendance

Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Our own research indicates that the majority of churches in our country are not growing.

Most of us have ideas about this development. Many suggest that our nation is shifting away from its Christian roots. Thus, churches are declining as a smaller proportion of our country follows Christ.

I will not argue with that premise. Certainly attendance declines are related to massive cultural shifts in our nation. But I would also suggest that one reason for declines has a greater impact than others.

The frequency issue

Stated simply, the number one reason for the decline in attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago. This matters—a lot.

If the frequency of attendance changes, then attendance will respond accordingly. For example, if 200 members attend every week, average attendance is 200. But if one-half of those members miss one out of four weeks, the attendance drops to 175.

Did you catch that? No members left the church. Everyone is still relatively active. But attendance declined more than 12 percent because half the members slightly changed their pattern.

This phenomenon can take place rather quickly, leaving leaders scratching their heads because the behavioral change is so slight it is almost imperceptible. We rarely notice when someone who attends four times a month fades to three times. Nor do we typically catch it when the twice-a-month attendee becomes a once-a-month attendee.

Five possible approaches

Of course, the heart of the problem is not declining numbers but waning commitment. As I addressed in my book I Am a Church Member, ( membership is becoming less and less meaningful in many churches. When this happens, commitment wanes.

While I don’t want to suggest there is a magic bullet to this problem, I do want to offer some approaches to address it. These five have proven to be the most helpful in hundreds of churches:

1. Raise the expectations of membership. You may be surprised how many church members don’t really think it’s that important to be an active part of the church. No one has ever told them differently.

2. Require an entry class for membership. By doing so, the church makes a statement that membership is meaningful. The class should also be used to state the expectations of what a committed member looks like.

3. Encourage ministry involvement. Many members become less frequent attendees because they have no ministry roles in the church. They do not feel like they are an integral part of the church.

4. Offer more options for worship times. Our culture is now a 24/7 population that works at all hours of the day and all days of the week. Some members have to work during the times of standard worship services. If possible, give them options. One businessman recently told me that he changed churches so he could be part of a congregation that offers a Saturday worship time. Why? Because his job requires him to catch a plane on Sunday morning. We can lament such realities or adapt to them.

5. Monitor the attendance of each member. This approach is often difficult, especially for worship attendance. That is why the traditional Sunday school approach of calling absentees was so effective. Perhaps churches can incorporate that approach through small groups and home groups. Members are less likely to be absent if they know someone misses them.

When membership becomes meaningful

No matter how much you may think people no longer are committed, they still want to be a part of something that makes a difference. They have a desire to be involved in something bigger than themselves.

Unfortunately, in many churches membership has become less meaningful. Until we get our churches back to the committed membership the Apostle Paul mandates in 1 Corinthians 12, we will continue to see declining attendance. However, when membership becomes truly meaningful, our churches will become an unstoppable force for the Kingdom and glory of God.

While these five steps are no guarantee of a turnaround, they are certainly a good place to start for any pastor or church leader concerned about declining attendance.   (Thom S. Rainer)

He didn’t even mention prayer.

These ministers do not deserve churches.

I pray more people leave them.


About The Last Hiker

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24 Responses to People Leaving Churches

  1. kjohnz says:

    Nor did he mention actually making the church meaningful! If they stop coming because it’s not meaningful, isn’t that a strong message for doing things differently, not through coercion but actually being meaningful in the lives of those who attend? Yes they want to be involved in something greater than themselves but how many churches offer that? He didn’t even pick up on the MOST important aspect of the decline. Sad. But not surprising.

  2. Mary Gray Moser says:

    I used to be in a church where if I missed a service other members would call wanting to know if I was OK. Well, I was there normally every time the door opened, and I phoned absentees myself. But I wonder if others got such friendly, caring attention as I received and myself gave.
    I guess I am responding to this matter at this time, when I am going on 88 yo, can no longer drive, and though I have posted a request on Facebook for transport to and from service tomorrow, I don’t have an offer. I don’t see other old people in service when I do get there, and I wonder why. Is it because they don’t have transport?

  3. Anonymous says:

    what about the crazy music groups, wild music, seductive lights, etc. etc. i went to church with my
    daughter one Christmas eve and a few minutes into the so called song service, led by a tight clad
    sexy young music star, i leaned over and asked, “where do you get the scotch and soda”. It was
    a nightclub if i ever saw one….and it was a mainstream so called evangelical church. Not to
    mention seven different bible translations being used, who can understand, half of them didn’t
    even have the same verses, many just eliminated. Entertainment, music, social activities, that’s
    what its all about. Prayer? not more than a minute or two on Sunday morning service and no
    so called “prayer meetings”. Contemplative, emergent, ecumenism, let’s all get together, don’t
    worry about doctrine, or disagreements on theology. Many older people, (we are one, my wife
    and I) just give up. No hymns sung, none of the old gospel songs. etc. etc. what’s wrong? Church?
    no…it’s not church…not as Spurgeon, Finney, Moody, or those of the same ilk, held church. Spurgeon use to pray 20 minutes before he preached…and the closing prayers was rather lengthy
    also, and very meaningful….I suppose there are some out there somewhere, we travel a lot and
    have visited a lot of churches…and they all fit the above description to one degree or another..
    and oh, don’t get in a try to change them…The Rev. Rick Warren says to kick em out…get rid of
    those that resist the change. Nuts…..yes…prayer that would sure be the beginning alright….
    II Tim 3 in effect full force today….

  4. Bryn says:

    I think if churches were building up the true Church, the Body of Christ, they’d have the members that Paul referred to. I still fail to see any reference in scripture to some ecclesiastical order of local churches with manipulative methods of making it appear like an exclusive club to psychologically get people to attend (and pay) more. What this looks like is how to build a cult.

  5. Tony says:

    I would say that people are tired of and don’t need Sunday morning entertainment. I am seeing a growing Holy discontent. It’s my personal belief, and what I also feel that the Lord showed me, that the exodus from the church 8 from the Lord. I have seen this in dreams and visions that I have had. The Lord is doing a new thing.

    • says:

      Tony what “new thing” is God doing exactly? Cause God does not change neither do His ways. If anything thats how all the Emergent Church folks and charismatic folks speak

      • Tony says:

        It’s not exactly “new” as the emergent church is doing. I am familiar with that movement. What the Lord is doing is bringing His church back to the book of acts where it was a fellowship and a living organism and not the dead organization it has become.

        • At least where I live, I am seeing a lot of people rush out of the “well respected” churches because they are whitewashes tombs, “Christian” country clubs. It is the godliest people I know. Not backsliders. God’s bride is feeling convicted in many churches to “come out from among them and be separate.” But there aren’t too many good churches to go to. The best options are small churches that obey the word of God, pray all the time and evangelize. And home churches that do the same.

          The mega church cannot handle the times that are coming upon us. They can only exist in times of safety and prosperity.

          • Tony says:

            God has many ways of achieving His ways . It was persecution that scattered the early church and caused it to grow. Perhaps it will be persecution that will unite the body of Christ and the churches we find in acts will once again be found. This time, however, I believe it week be because of survival and therefore necessary.

        • Donna ( says:

          That isn’t “new” though. I am not trying to be arguementive Tony, but God has had groups in China, the underground churches, that HAVE been like the book of Acts. A lot of this is judgment, God says judgment shall begin in the house of God. Jacob Prasch gives a good analogy when he says “Dating back to Jeremiah (and before), God will give people what they want. The leaders they want. Like in Jeremiah God was like ‘You want a false teacher I’ll give you a false teacher'”. That is what is going on. It’s not like anything has changed and that God has to make something “new”.

          It goes beyond big Mega Churches Last Hiker, even small churches can be corrupt. I have witnessed so many small churches laced with strange fire it’s not even funny.

          • I wasn’t saying that a small church equals a healthy church, just that it is hard to maintain uncompromising Biblical purity in a large church. Smaller churches may have more accountability and intimacy, that safeguards people from blindly following a man they have never met in real life.

          • By the way, I LOVE Jacob Prasch. I listen to at least 2-3 of his teachings every week. What he says about the church, is my heart completely.

          • Tony says:

            If by “Strange Fire” you are referring to the book by John McArthur, That book is heresy and indeed strange fire. I refer to the church that Jesus established. It was to be a family and not an assembly line which it has become today. The church is made up of living stones that, when gathered together, make up the temple whereby the Lord Dwells by His Spirit. There is no power in today’s church it is basically all talk and worship of knowledge.

            The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
            (Isa 29:13-14)

            The prophet is not welcomed in most churches because they do not wish to hear from the Lord nor do they want a word of correction spoken to them.
            The churches pick and choose which of the 5 fold gifts they want and disregard the rest.

            The church in its present form is a by product of the emperor Constantine. When he had is so called conversion to Christianity. It was never meant to be that way. Jesus sent the apostles into homes, not buildings. He told them to stay in the home eating and drinking whatever was served.
            His command to the apostles before ascending into heaven was to make disciples.

            The Greek word for disciple is mathēteúō and its definition is:

            As governing a dat., to be a disciple or follower of another’s doctrine (Mat_27:57); governing an acc., to make a disciple (Mat_28:19; Act_14:21); to instruct (Mat_13:52) with the purpose of making a disciple. Mathēteúō must be distinguished from the verb mathéō (n.f.) or manthánō (G3129) which simply mean to learn without any attachment to the teacher who teaches. Mathēteúō means not only to learn, but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life. It is really not sufficient to translate this verb as “learn” but as “making a disciple,” in the NT sense of mathētḗs.

            This suggests relationships are formed and knowledge is passed down through them.

            It has been said and I agree with, that the difference between the 5 fold gifts of the New Testament Church and the 21st century church is that in the First Century church they were verbs. In the 21st century church, they are nouns. Which translates into offices instead of functions.

            God is placing the church back into the hands of the people which is where Jesus left it when He Ascended. Just as Martin Luther placed the Bible back into the hands of the people and took control away from the clergy in his day.

            I agree with you that the size does not determine whether or not the church is corrupt. It is the people and the leadership that determine that.

            The 21st century church has lost its fire and has, for the most part, become ineffective. You do not have to invite people to come and watch a house burn, they are naturally attracted to fire. Where the fire of the Holy Spirit is, there is a people of God on fire for the things of God and you see revival.

          • I don’t think she is anti “gifts of the spirit” just anti-demonic infestations that pretend to be gifts of the spirit. She mentions Jacob Prasch who is a Pentecostal who believes in dreams and gifts, but teaches that what we see on TBN, Toronto, and Redding is a false “spirit” and the spirit of error. They do not seek The Lord in prayer or the word, they just speak a “word” from their own imagination. I think we need to speak against that, but that God also works in His true people that love His word and walk in purity, through dreams and visions, and prophesies until the sun turns to darkness.

          • Tony says:

            Maybe you’re right. When she mentions strange fire, John Macarthur’s book comes to mind and he is definitely anti gifts.

          • Yes, it definitely comes to mind but it could also refer to Nadab and Abihu. And we see a lot of those guys these days!!! Maybe she will clarify which one she was referring to. God bless you!

        • Donna says:

          Thanks for sticking up for me Last Hiker.

          Tony as Last Hiker biblically showed, the term Strange Fire was around way before MacArthur so please refrain from assuming. And I thank you for the history lesson, but don’t assume everyone does not know church history.

          You avoided my point all together (prior comment). Its not like the Holy Spirit went into hiding and has not manifested His gifts through people or that people have not been healed or miracles performed, and that He is ONLY going to do it now to the future. God has not changed. The reason why you don’t hear much on the authentic is because authentic moves of God always have a spirit of humility. These charlatans that are BOASTING of their gifts etc. always prove to be false in their doctrine.

          The prophesy of Joel has been an ongoing prophesy, from Pentecost where Peter proclaims it to now.

          I get what you are saying in regards to folks resorting to small groups and home churches, but it is not a result of God doing anything new. If anything it is the RESULT of the days in which we live.

          And PS Tony just cause someone is against the lunacy in the charismatic church does NOT make them a cessationist. Please stop assuming.

          • I don’t think Tony meant any harm. It is so hard online to understand tone of voice. Especially with so much confusion in the church, there are some key terms of false teaching and “strange fire” is one of them.

            It is important to stand up for the true gifts of the Spirit, otherwise the enemy disarms Christians. It is also important to stand against false gifts, otherwise Christians are brought into a spirit of error.

            I also think it is hard to tell many times, when talking to Christians, especially strangers online, where they stand on these issues from just small comments.

            But it seems like we are all in agreement.

            God bless.

          • Tony says:

            Let me apologize for “assuming”. When I hear the phrase, “strange fire”, I get angered because of what it has represented as of late.
            I agree with you that there is definitely an abuse in the Charasmatic and I further agree with you that there is a need for humility in the body and I would also add there needs to be a servant’s heart as well.
            As for the, ” history lesson”. I cited history to prove the point as to how far the church has fallen away from the 1st century blueprint that the apostles established. Another tid bit of history is the fact that the church flourished in homes for the first 300 years of its existence and it was not until Constantine came to power and outlawed the meeting in homes that the modern way of doing church came into being.
            I disagree with you on house churches. China is a perfect example of house churches where there are no super stars. Just followers of Jesus who love one another.
            I agree with you also that the Holy Spirit has not gone on to hiding either. Smith Wigglesworth said tha if you want to be used of God you must be delivered from the need to be seen and heard. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Hopefully this explains my position and it will not sound like I am attacking you which is not my intention.

  6. Martin Glass says:

    Never mind prayer, he didn’t even mention Jesus. Its not about church, its all about Jesus. Christians focused on Jesus can’t help but come to church to be with others focused on Jesus. Churches might have many false converts who come to church because they think they need to do so to keep out of Hell. I thought I was a Christian for around 30 years and only this year came to the realization of what was achieved on the cross and accepted it. You’d have to tie me down to stop me going to church, Jesus has placed the desire to do so on my heart.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Lord revealed to me long ago its not about religion… it is about relationship! A relationship with Him through Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit! This has nothing to do with brick and mortar, or lights and sirens!
    James 1:27 reveals what pure and undefiled religion before God is, and this scripture does not even slightly elude to denominations, buildings and pews!
    We who are “IN” Christ Jesus are the Church. Whether we are gathered here or there makes no difference… “where two or three are gathered there I am in the midst”. We are the Body… Christ Jesus is the Head… those “focused” on their congregated groups of people who subsidize their man made world of religion, are certainly heaping unto themselves doctrines that sear their conscience!
    I on the other hand would never forbid the gathering of Gods chosen anywhere… but wherever that may be… Jesus should be the focus… and I have seen, that if He is not… money, attendance, the color of the carpet, etc… will be!!!

  8. Barbara says:

    There is a reason the churches are all apostate. They are all being controlled at the top by high level initiates and masters of the occult societies such as Freemasonry. Theosophist Alice Bailey revealed the Plan a century ago, to infiltrate and take over all denominations:

    “Very definitely may the assurance be given here that, prior to the coming of the Christ, adjustments will be made so that at the head of all great organizations will be found either a Master, or an initiate who has taken the third initiation. AT THE HEAD of certain of the great occult groups, of the Freemasons of the world, and OF THE VARIOUS GREAT DIVISIONS OF THE CHURCH, and resident in many of the great nations will be found INITIATES or MASTERS.” (Alice Bailey, Initiation: Human & Solar, p. 62)

    “The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished… Its work is intended to be the holding of a broad platform. The church must show a wide tolerance, and teach no revolutionary doctrines or cling to any reactionary ideas. The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance. The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages. Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be MYSTICALLY INTERPRETED, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated.

    “The three main channels through which the preparation for the new age is going on might be regarded as the Church, the Masonic Fraternity and the educational field. All of them are as yet in relatively static condition, and all are as yet failing to meet the need and to respond to the inner pressure. But in all of these three movements, disciples of the Great Ones are to be found and they are steadily gathering momentum and will before long enter upon their designated task.” (Alice Bailey, “Religious Organizations in the New Age,” Externalisation of the Hierarchy)

    • Cynthia Hoffman says:

      Barbara is correct in her assessment that the Freemasons (and Jesuits) are responsible for the apostasy found in today’s churches. Two years ago at the age of 56, I learned that the pastor of the church I attended in Speedway, Indiana, in the 1960’s was a freemason, and perhaps a Jesuit. Then, I discovered that my extended family – all of my cousins – are Freemasons and other secret society members. Next came the most scary revelation that both of my stepfathers had been high level Freemasons-Scottish Rite members. I know my last stepfather to whom my mother was married for 24 years was some type of “secret leader” in the organization for every year starting in the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s they travelled to Scotland with another couple who I know was very high up in Scottish Rite, apparently for some type of Scottish Druid rite. I asked my mother once why they travelled only to Scotland and never to other European countries and she replied, “I wish I knew.” I wonder if God will tell her at judgement that she spent over 30 years with two high-ranking multi-generational Satan worshippers? You see, Mother thought merely attending a Sunday church service was enough to signify somebody was a Christian, as she had not bothered to read the KJV Bible for herself. As for me, God has been wonderful to bring me out of my own foolish apostasy and has lead me to Jesus Christ and the KJV Bible. God bless

  9. Tm says:

    Now we know why “… the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)


    “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

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