5 Reasons I Won’t Go Back to Your Church

5 Reasons I Won’t Go Back to Your Church
Booth Foster

“I,” in this case, is every guest who floats through your church worship services and never returns. Like Charlie, on the M.T.A., the ever-floating guest may be killing your chances for growth.

This is certainly not the first time anyone has written on this subject, and without question will not be the last. The American church can speak to many concerning issues, but declining growth and diminished attendance is still the root cause for our collective ecclesiastical malaise. More than any other request for help and information (which I receive every day of the week), is a plea for suggestions to increase attendance for churches longing to grow—nay—desperate to grow. Generally speaking, there are answers, good answers, and answers that work. But first, there usually has to be an attitude adjustment, and, in some cases a whole redesign of the systems that make churches work or, sadly, disappear.

If the “I” who visits your church for the first time says any of the following things, you should be thinking about how you’re going to reverse those perceptions for the next “I” who passes through. Passing “through” is ours to fix if we’re willing.

1. You don’t seem to want me…

“I honestly thought it would be like my first day at a new job. Someone would ‘sponsor’ me and walk me around, make me feel like I was welcome, show me the ropes, and introduce me to some folks. That didn’t happen.”

We are very good at passing out pamphlets on Who We Are and What We Believe, but we’re not very good at implementing short-term hosts and mentors to encourage new-comer’s buy-in. For way too long we have made the assumption that people want to remain anonymous when they enter our buildings.

2. I couldn’t track with what you were saying and doing…

“Everyone there seemed to be having a great time, but I couldn’t track with the insider jokes and language any more than I can track with some television shows designed for a ‘hipper-than-thou’ niche market. The same thing happened to me at an old downtown and aging population church where they spoke total gibberish. I was never clear about whether I was supposed to stand, sit, or crawl under the bench for shelter.”

It’s interesting that we’ve done everything to become more “seeker-friendly” in our churches, and we’re still speaking a foreign language.

3. You assumed you knew who I was without asking me…

“Your Internet ad suggested you knew precisely who I am, and you had a service just for me! No you don’t. How could you possibly know who I am if you’ve never talked to me? I get what you’re trying to do, but—FAIL!”

Are our demographic studies blinding us to the intricacies of human experience?

4. You claim to be the heartbeat of Cincinnati [insert your city], but I’ve lived here all my life and I just heard about you—for the first time…

“I don’t want to beat you up for trying to get our attention—good for you—but frankly I was a little put off by the idea that a place I didn’t even know existed makes a claim to influence my hometown when I’ve never even heard of you before.”

Our “arrogance factor” seems to be on the rise. Many churches that used to see themselves as being of service to their communities, now want to prove they are essential to the life of those communities, and well they should be, of course, but who are we kidding—we’re very disposable.

5. You said that, as a guest of yours, you didn’t want my money, but spent the hour (and a half) talking about it—was’up?

“I appreciated your offer to just let the plate go by when you picked up the money. Still, between your ‘on-going needs’ and the capital fund campaign to support new ‘initiatives’ (that video lasted about 10 minutes), I left feeling a little guilty that I couldn’t be more helpful. The real reason I came today was my wife just left me with a baby and a foreclosed house. I was looking for a little help to figure that all out.”

We often ask why people don’t return to our churches. Could it be that we didn’t even know they were there?

This article “5 Reasons I Won’t Go Back to Your Church” by Booth Foster was excerpted from: www.churchcentral.com website, March 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”