5 Key Differences Between Church Shoppers and the Unchurched

Church shoppers

Every week you hope to have new people at your church.

But there’s a world of difference between reaching the unchurched and attracting serial church shoppers.

I’m fortunate to be part of a church where we’ve had first-time guests every single weekend since we launched.

While it’s easy to think of a visitor as simply a ‘visitor,’ not all visitors are the same.

Like many of you, our goal is to reach the unchurched. And in nearly every community, there’s a growing number of unchurched people to reach.

But there’s another group entirely that shows up at your church regularly: church shoppers.

Serial church shoppers are not the same as the family that moved and is looking for a church in their new community who might try five churches before settling. Nor are they the same as family that is leaving a church they’ve been part of for years, has exited well (here are some thoughts on how to do that) and is looking for a new place to call home for a long time.

Families moving to your community and Christians who transfer well out of another church can be welcome additions to any local church.

But serial church shoppers are different. They’re consumers.

If you end up facing a true church shopper, you might discover that they’ve been to 5 different churches in the last 10 years, and will soon have another one (that’s not yours).  Or you might discover they’ve never settled down anywhere and have 3 churches they sample regularly, when it’s convenient.

As a leader, being aware of the difference between church shoppers and who you truly want to reach is critical.

I have seen far too many church leaders waste time and energy trying to please church shoppers, to no avail. Do it regularly, and it will take you completely off mission.

Trying to appease a serial church shopper is an exercise in pleasing the un-pleasable.

Here are 5 key differences between church shoppers and the unchurched every church leader should know to ensure your church stays on mission.

Trying to appease a serial church shopper is an exercise in pleasing the un-pleasable. Click To Tweet

1. Church shoppers think their job is to evaluate; the unchurched are looking to learn

A church shopper comes into every church with an evaluation mindset.

Is this my kind of music?

Is the preaching good?

Did the people notice me?

Do I like this place?

It’s not that unchurched people don’t ask the same questions. They do. And be honest. To some extent, we all do.

But a church shopper thinks the church exists to please them. After all, that’s why they left the last eight churches.

An unchurched person might start with evaluation, but they ultimately don’t stay there. They want to learn. They want to grow. They want to challenge and explore, and most are very open to a much deeper journey than one that starts and ends with evaluation.

Church shoppers ask, “Did I like it?” And the moment they don’t, they’re done.

If you really boil it down, serial church shoppers think their mission is to criticize, not contribute.

Serial church shoppers think their mission is to criticize, not contribute. Click To Tweet

2. Church shoppers move quickly from love to hate; the unchurched warm up to you gradually

It’s not uncommon to have a church shopper tell you how much they love love love your church on the first Sunday.

But over the years I’ve seen this pattern: people who love your church immediately and go out of their way to tell you how it’s the best thing ever rarely feel that way for long.

In fact, they often end up disliking your church just as strongly. And they’re vocal about it.

The unchurched (and healthy Christian transfer growth) is different. They might like your service, but they’re a little more reserved in getting involved or even letting their heart buy in.

In my experience, the people who begin a little cautiously or at least moderately and who gradually warm up turn out to be the healthiest church members in the long run.

Contrast that with a church shopper. Sometimes it seems like everything church shoppers love about your church today they will dislike tomorrow.

Everything church shoppers love about your church today they will dislike tomorrow. Click To Tweet

3. Church shoppers want your church to be like the last church (that they left); unchurched people don’t

I continue to be amazed at how often a church shopper will tell you how much they didn’t like their last church but then ask you why your church isn’t more like that church.

Our old church had a men’s ministry.

Our old church had more singable music.

Our old church had far more mid-week activities happening.

Which makes me want to ask: “Then why did you leave?”

It’s actually a good question.

The unchurched, if they have any concept of a ‘last church’ are usually opposed to some stereotype of church that revolves around judgmental preaching, boring services and outdated methods.

Often they’re railing against a straw man from the last generation. And they appreciate the alternative you’ve created.

Church shoppers want to know why your church isn't like their last church...that they left. Click To Tweet

4. Church shoppers blame the church when things go wrong; the unchurched take responsibility

Somehow, the fact that a church shopper doesn’t like any church never seems to be their fault.

It’s always the church that lets them down.

In preparing to write this post, I put feelers out on social media, asking what frustrations people experience with church shoppers. Jason Stockdale, who pastors the three month old Hills Church in Memphis, shared this story from another ministry he was part of:

A couple had been to 4-5 churches over the last 2 years, I followed up with their “connection card” when they visited. They claimed they never could get “connected” at any other church, but really liked our church the few times they had been. Proceeded to then tell me the son plays competitive baseball 6-7 months out of the year and the dad often travels with him on the weekends, the daughter plays competitive volleyball and soccer (pretty much year around) and the mom travels on the weekend with her. The mom worked nights as a nurse so they had no nights during the week available to get connected in a group and were rarely ever going to be at church together as a family.

I did everything I could to get them involved in one of our Sunday morning small group classes we offered, they lasted about 6 months and then he called me one day and said they were going to start looking for another church, they just didn’t feel connected to ours.

I think every church leader can relate. Sure, shift work is tough, but there are other choices in the mix that might have prompted more introspection and ownership.

Sadly, I suspect the pattern for this family might repeat itself again and again.

Why is it the people you do the most for are the people who claim you failed them?

In my experience, the unchurched, by contrast, take far more responsibility if things don’t work out. They’ll say “Hey, I’m just not sure this is the right thing for me. Keep doing what you’re doing. But I think I’m out.”

Sure, that’s disappointing, but it’s healthy.

Before we leave the subject of responsibility, here are 5 things people blame the church for…but shouldn’t.

Why is it the people you do the most for are the people who claim you failed them? Click To Tweet

5. Church shoppers want to lead THEIR ministry; unchurched people want to get involved in THE ministry

If a church shopper gets involved for a season, they’ll often want to lead THEIR ministry rather than get involved with your ministry.

Maybe it’s a group or something they did at their old church, or a special cause they’re passionate about.

Often with serial church shoppers, ministry involvement is more about them than it is about the mission.

Unchurched people are usually fine getting involved with the wider mission of the church. They’re content with finding their part in a larger story. They don’t have to be the story.

With serial church shoppers, ministry involvement is more about them than it is about the mission. Click To Tweet

What Do You See?

Am I saying that ALL church shoppers are unhealthy and ALL unchurched people are healthy?


There’s likely a story under some serial church shoppers’ experience that explains the behaviour.

And is every unchurched person healthy?

No, not at all.

But I will take a genuinely unchurched person over a serial church shopper any day, not just because that relationship is far more on mission, but because it actually has the potential to change a life.

Serial church shoppers are more interested in changing a church than they are in changing their life.

Here’s to staying on mission. And if some serial church shoppers settle down in the process, that’s amazing.

In the meantime, what has you spinning your wheels when you could be reaching the unchurched instead?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Key Differences Between Church Shoppers and the Unchurched


  1. Rachel on August 10, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks so much for your meaningful post. I was able to reflect myself. God bless you!

  2. Charles Anom on August 19, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Very powerful and insightful. That’s the main problem in my local church here in Accra,Ghana.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      So glad to be able to help you from so far away!


  3. filmora 7.5 0 code on March 30, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Really Appreciate this post, can you make it so I receive an email whenever you make a fresh update?

  4. Randall Gough on March 11, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Sometimes church shoppers are simply looking for truth and they are not easily finding it. In some cases the parish or the denomination changes doctrine or pastoral norms, sometimes going against two thousand years of teaching. There’s a lot of that going around these days. Some can tolerate the abandoning of doctrine or backsliding, some can’t and they begin the painful search for a place where orthodoxy may be found. There is a difference between people looking to be entertained and those who feel they can no longer remain.

  5. […] And it’s completely different from serial church shopping, which for reasons I outline in this post, is a colossally bad […]

  6. […] I wrote about 5 key differences between a unchurched person and serial church shopper here. […]

  7. […] I wrote about five key differences between a unchurched person and serial church shopper here. […]

  8. […] I wrote about 5 key differences between a unchurched person and serial church shopper here. […]

  9. Zach Brittenham on April 14, 2017 at 7:54 am

    6. statistically speaking, the vast majority of the unchurched are unlikely to attend any church service on any particular Sunday.

  10. Naomi on April 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    since the Biblical version of the Church is not the denomination or the building but instead is the people and the Bride of Christ… exactly how do you shop for people that are all the Bride or fellow believers? and unchurched would mean lost in the Biblical sense…

  11. Andy Minard on May 16, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Good message. I found I had tendency on both sides. Important awareness to have.

  12. Greg Verrall on April 28, 2016 at 4:49 am

    What are “unchurched” people? Where does that term come from?
    Is our mission to make people “churched” or to make disciples?

    • Ali Loaker on May 28, 2016 at 2:40 am

      Yep! My thoughts exactly.

  13. Christine Murphy on April 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Reading this article, you would consider me a church shopper. I left my church of 8 years because I found a group of people who don’t feel welcomed in the American church. At first, I have to admit, I thought that it was something that they were doing wrong. But then, after I heard this from a lot of people, I decided to listen to them. Instead of trying to prove them wrong, I listened to what they were saying. Some of their criticisms are valid, and I have been part of the problem because I didn’t truly care about them.

    After God held that mirror up to my face, I felt bad, and I decided to be part of the solution. I am now creating a multi-church ministry. I left my last church when I realized that it doesn’t quite fit with the vision. I was connected, and had a group of very close friends there. I was very comfortable there, but there was a particular issue with my old church that wouldn’t be good for the people that I’m trying to minister to. I knew that I had to leave.

    So, now I am at a new church, and I have gone before the board to see if they will join with my ministry. I am awaiting an answer. My ministry is ministering to all three groups of people, the unchurched, the church shoppers, and the Christian who attends regularly, plus I am sure there will be some unsaved people as well.

    You would call me a church shopper because I have an agenda of my own, my own ministry that I am trying to foster. But, if this is a calling from God, is this such a bad thing?

    My challenge to you is this… Sit down and listen to those who are critical of the church without trying to prove them wrong. I’m not asking you to agree with them, just listen to what they say, and go home and mull it over. Give each point a chance before you decide to brush it aside as coming from a bitter soul. Yes, the person may be bitter, but what if they have a valid point? I just have to warn you, it hurts when God holds up the mirror so you can see your reflection.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 21, 2016 at 5:40 am

      Thanks for this Christine. I 100% agree, we all need to look in the mirror and hold our views prayerfully before God. Thank you.

    • Ken on July 22, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      Christine, unless you are being called by God and He is the center of your ministry, you are doomed to fail. The Bible tells us we are to walk as Jesus walked, or at least try. If your ministry is about you and your desires to please God, He may not bless it, and any God fearing and preaching church will refuse to allow you to lead a ministry without proper Christian education. I pray God will lead you in His direction and not your selfmade religion.

  14. CHURCH QVC | Greater Things on April 19, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    […] 5 Key Differences Between Church Shoppers and the Unchurched […]

  15. David Smith on April 12, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    A very well written and thought provoking article. As a pastor for 20 years in growing churches and para-church ministries I concur with many of Carey’s observations and conclusions. All too often however we can label people by extremes and lose sight that most people do not fit either extreme. In today’s culture there are few
    unchurched or shoppers who come through our doors who have not been beaten up and disillusioned through their life experiences in either the world and/or the church. Rather than characterizing, it would be far more beneficial to view each visitor as one who has found his or her way into our assembly in response to divine invitation, to love them unconditionally, to earn the right to come along side each of these people, to hear their story, to shine the love of Christ and His grace into the darkest recesses of their souls, and to formulate our opinions based on their individual circumstances and not their presenting characterization.

  16. HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I confess to feeling conflicted about this. What advice do you offer to someone who genuinely cannot seem to find a church in their city? Where I live, it’s very common to meet a great Spirit-filled fellow believer who says they have no home church. Many of my local friends are online subscribers to Bethel or IHOP and consider that “their church” on Sunday mornings.

    There can be a fine line between being picky/critical and searching for a family.

  17. hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 7:33 am

    This is written from someone innnnsiiide the church obviously. Church leaders hate “church shoppers” and lump them all into one annoying, bothersome group. Hey, I did it too when I was on the innnnsiiide. God forbid folks ask real questions or want to try to find a place that feels comfortable and safe for them. Unchurched folks have never been part of the dysfunctional system that is the American Church. They don’t question things on a deeper level because they are babies in their faith and are easily distracted by all the smoke and mirrors. You’ll have plenty of unchurched people come, I bet because you have a coffee bar and a rocking worship team and an exciting children’s ministry! But, once they grow in their faith and get to know Jesus more, I bet they’ll have questions too. Or move on. <— because guys like you, that pretend they're spiritual rockstars, hang out with the churches "best of the best", and spend the churches time writing book after book, have no idea what those " church shoppers" are actually saying or what is at the heart of their concerns. You're bio is pretty telling. You don't have to church shop because you started your owween church and do everything the way youuuu want to do it lol. You hang out with other hot shot leaders, not the sick and orphaned and marginalized. You write books about the secret formula to grow the church, not hitting the streets and serving the poor and broken, which would grow your church without having to employ tactics. Sorry, but this article is far from humble servant and super close to sanctimonious Pharisee. Good luck.

    • momc2u on April 12, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Awesome! Perfect example of someone with destructive motives, an unwelcoming attitude, and a critical spirit. A great example of what some pastors deal with regularly.

      It sounds like there’s a lot of pain, accompanied by bitterness in your comment. If you were hurt by your involvement “innnnsiiide” church, it may seem logical to strike back. But you’re striking at the body of Christ!

      Praying that you draw close to the Healer.

      • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

        Listen Im sure it’s difficult to hear, but no, I’m really not striking at the body of Christ, I’m speaking out against leaders such as yourself, who seem to be carbon copies of each other, not Jesus. And yes it’s a logical progression to me, and many others you easily dismiss, to be critical thinkers and address the tone of your article and the state of how Americans “do” church. On your own church website it says ” connexus church exists to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ. We also realize that the vast majority of people in our community don’t attend church,so we’re committed to being church unchurched people love to attend”. Trendy, but i would argue again, that serving those who truly need tangible help in the world would grow Christ’s Church without ever having to employ tactics or read a leadership book. People would be drawn to Him, not to your attractional services. How is my attitude unwelcoming? I’m saying to focus on and serve those who need it most. I’m sorry you feel my motives are “destructive” but I feel the need to speak out against things in the church culture that don’t look much like Jesus, same as you. Everyone has been hurt, it’s life, but I still choose to engage. It’s easy to write off someone for sounding angry or in pain or for church shopping and end the conversation there, when again, you built your very own church to the specifications that you prefer. If we all did that, there would be no one left to attend your church. Your comment employed sarcasm and bitterness towards me as well and shows that perhaps you have hurt in your heart by people in the church who you have had to “deal” with so how are you, as someone who leads others, any wiser than me?

        • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

          And I do apologize for replying to your comment as I talking to the author, if you’re just another commenter. Your comment registered the same moment that he personally emailed me so forgive me for being confused, but I stand by my thoughts on these issues, and they are issues to many people. Dismiss me all you like, but I hope it helps someone else critically think before blindly nodding along with articles like this.

    • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Wow, what a vicious comment. Cynicism is the single most destructive emotion in the human body. That’s why The Screwtape Letters spent so much time discussing it.

      • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 10:44 am

        I’ve read it and I’d would have to disagree. Ask people outside of the church and many are skeptical for good reason, as they believe folks in the church only care about their own self interest. That pretty much the definition of cynicism. I believe a lack of discernment and not being able to critically think and respond to issues brought up is far more destructive to the church at large. But we can disagree, at least I heard your point and responded to it 😉

        • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 10:54 am

          Please let me clarify that I agree with your general premise to some extent. These days, Christian brothers/sisters will burn down bridges and destroy each other quicker than you can blink. I’ve suffered abuse within the church so many times I lost count.

          But do you really think the solution is to come to someone’s blog and berate them out of nowhere? Unfortunately this is why many gifted people don’t bother attempting to minister. Try to start up any sort of project, try to share what you know in the kingdom, and you immediately get called a huckster trying to sell a book.

          There is being able to think for yourself, and then there’s being an unteachable hard-head no wants to bother trying to counsel. We can’t allow our skepticism to turn us into saboteurs.

          • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 11:07 am

            “Out of nowhere?” This is a public blog, I found it, same as you, and am free to comment accordingly, same as you. Dude has written 7 books. Do you know how much time that takes? Fine. Go be an author professionally and let someone else focus on the pastor job. Not because I’m a jerk, but because there is no way you can pastor a church well and spend so much time writing that many books. Disagree? Fine. You’re not alone I’m sure. I just look at the church from a completely different set of eyes and I, too, am not alone in that. I’m firm in what I think and what I’ve seen but I am not unbending. I have a circle of diverse people in my life, Christian and not. I take time to actually listen to them, learn about them and from them. I don’t just call them mean and shut it down when they raise valid concerns or points. I felt this author was bring arrogant and unwise with how he was counseling others to think about the unchurched and the “church shoppers” and I truly believe it is an American cultural church thing, not a biblical thing.

          • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

            And let me be fair, that he is not alone in this. It’s far from an original thought. The same thoughts have been shared by plenty of other pastors, concerning church shoppers and focusing on the unchurched, in blogs and tweets and fb posts and snarky comments from the podium. My point is, if this is how you see people and lump them together, when there are many vast reasons for shopping, why the hell would anyone but the unchurched stick around? You’re glad to see them leave lol.

          • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 11:19 am

            Please step back for a moment, I beg you, and think about how much condescension you’ve included in this. Do I know how much times it takes to write a book? Actually, I do. Can someone write books while working full-time elsewhere? Actually, yes, I personally know people who do just that. What do you have against people writing books?

            You have such a strong tone of being a special snowflake here. I don’t sat that flippantly. I say it in sadness. You see yourself as an enlightened person with “different” vision and unique knowledge. You have a diverse circle of friends (implying I do not?), you actually listen to people (implying I do not?), and you claim that you don’t shut people down, although you arrived at this blog post with guns blazing to destroy everything the author said.

            I’ve had my fill with lone-wolf special snowflake Christians who claim to be more enlightened than the average pastor. I’ve encountered your kind many times in the past. I don’t shoot you down out of pride or ignorance. I’m simply disagreeing with you because you’re not saying anything original.

            It is a little rich that you came here to throw cold water on perfectly interesting blog post but then you cast yourself as a victim when others throw cold water on you. It’s because of your special enlightenment that makes you “different,” right?

            I say none of this in sarcasm. I don’t want to fight with you. I see so many other troubled people I know in your comments. Please sit and think about what you are saying here.

            No interest in an argument, so I’ll see myself out. Have a nice day, and try to relax a little. 🙂

          • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 12:03 pm

            Fair enough. I dont deny feeling angry or bitter about the issues I’ve raised here….it’s pretty much why I commented, even knowing that I would get dismissed. Being angry about issues I see doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to bring these things up. It’s simply easier for all of you to focus on my, than the issues I’ve raised. I get it. I do know how long it takes to write a book and it actually varies as far as the content of the book and the author. I’ve seen time and time again, pastors who decide to spend their time writing books to other parties while their church members go uncared for…this is my personal experience. It’s OK that is not yours, but I’m allowed to see this as a crappy route to go. It is hard to take to serious when you call me special snowflake lol but I’m gonna just assume that’s some weird churchy thing. As far as my thoughts not being original, I’ve pretty much said in every comment that I’m not alone in my thinking, so I sadly, readily agree with you. But im not writing blogs and books like I have something new to say. Again I disagree that’s its a perfectly interesting blog posts, I’ve read it at least a dozen times (Google if you think I’m dramatic) and I find it condescending and unloving each time, so I finally decided to say something. I don’t feel like a victim so sorry if I came across to you that way. You see so many troubles people you know in my comments? What are you doing to help them? What have you learned in listening to them? Has your heart turned to any issues that bring up? Maybe you have, but most churches folks I know, it’s way easier to ignore them, call them bitter and hard headed, give them the old “I’m praying for you” and a don’t let the door hit you when you leave.

          • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm

            Please don’t keep reading the same disheartening content and let your anger boil until you pop off like this. Remember James 1:20 that human anger does not achieve Godly righteousness. Why can’t we discuss these serious issues without our emotions driving us to destroy people personally? Some of your very valid points are getting lost in the snark.

            If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were my brother using a different screen name. What am I doing to help the troubled people I know? Would you like a list of my efforts? Why must you interrogate me with assumptions/implications that I don’t know, don’t see, don’t listen, don’t try, don’t care, and don’t reach out? Why must you snip at me like a homeless animal I’m trying to touch?

            It is a very serious and troubling issue of why so many Christians feel disaffected in the church. Why are so many of us roaming around like shepherdless sheep? Why are so many Christians coping with life on their own? That’s a discussion we greatly need to have.

            Shall we discuss it like grownups here? Can we say difficult things to each other in love? I should hope so. I don’t want my voice to be ignored any more than you want yours ignored. We are all supposed to be on the same team.

            If you’re interested in a calm discussion, reply and let me know.

          • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

            I appreciate your response. And I promise I’m not your disguised brother lol 😉 you’re right, you do not owe me a list of your efforts and you are also correct that I’ve made certain assumptions. Those assumptions come from what you personally have put out in the world to influence others, either here, on your website, etc. I hope that something I’ve said, however poorly articulated, will cause you to at least see the heart of what I’m trying to say, but you’re right, I probably should never have stepped into this post. Your defenders called me vicious, a special snowflake, critical, hard headed, unwelcoming, and destructive, while barely acknowledging the point of my comments. I did not attack you as a person, but questioned your leadership. I’m not claiming to be anything other than what I am. I will let the door hit me now lol and stop what you might see as trolling, but I need to say that I care. Because I’ve seen real people hurt by the issues ive brought up and we are tired of being told we are impolite and being marginalized. There are worse things as play than manners, but I will truly consider how I’m delivering the next time I try to step into a discussion like this, so please feel validated on that part. Again, good luck.

          • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm

            Wow, you think I’m the blogger in disguise.

            Seek counseling, my friend. I really mean that.

          • hmmmya on April 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

            No! I’m sorry! Somehow the new comments coming up in my email show from him! It’s truly confusing, it’s the second time I though this when commenting from my email and I apologize again. I don’t even see it until you respond and I’m on this page. Again it’s time for me to move on obviously, but it’s never cool to use counseling as a tool to burn someone. Again, sigh, y’all have missed my actual point. Peace.

          • HoosierConservative on April 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm

            I’m still here if you really want to chat. 🙂

            It wasn’t a burn, I promise. You sound pretty shaken. Emotions come through in online comments more than people realize.

  18. […] 5 Differences Between Church Shoppers And The Unchurched by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  19. […] 5 Key Differences between Church Shoppes & the Unchurched by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  20. Lawrence W. Wilson on April 8, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Carey, I got so I would immediately ask, “So, what brings you to [our church] today?” I often heard responses like this, nearly verbatim, “Well, we’ve been at [other church] for awhile, but they going though some changes so we’re looking around.” On several occasions, I had *1st time attendees* proceed to lecture me about our music or about my approach to preaching. Seekers, on the other hand, will say, “I just felt like I needed to get back to church (or God),” or “We’re getting married, and we decided we wanted to get serious about our faith.” Such a delight to hear.

  21. Brian Nystrom on April 7, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Sorry for the long response. I’ve never read you before and I have lots of questions. First, provocative article, lots to think on: church shopping, transferring well, consumer mentality.

    You say, “waste time and energy trying to please church shoppers…trying to appease a serial church shopper….” Are you saying that it is a proper use of
    time and energy to please and appease the unchurched? Is it possible that the please and appease mentality is the problem, regardless of the target?

    You mention two persons in the final story. The first (shopper) ends his time with the church by saying, “he called me one day and said they were going to start looking for another church, they just didn’t feel connected to ours.” The second (unchurched and hypothetical I presume) ends his time with the church by saying, “Hey, I’m not just not sure this is the right thing for me. Keep doing what you’re doing. But I think I’m out.” Why is the second more healthy that the first? Where is the unchurched guy going? Is he going to check out a different church that is the right thing for him? How is that different?

    You mention mission several times: “ensure your church stays on mission…Here’s to staying on mission.” And you seem to distinguish “unchurched” from “healthy
    Christian transfer”. So are you equating the term “unchurched” with “unbeliever?” If not, how would you define unchurched? And, what if the “serial church shopper “ is in fact an unbeliever; do they then become a part of the mission?

    Thanks for the article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 7, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Well that’s a lot of questions. Welcome to the community Brian!

      I think if you read around a bit you’ll see where I’m coming from, but briefly: no, I’m not saying appease anyone. I’m saying reach people. And the unchurched are the people we’re called to reach.

      The second response is more healthy because the individual with the problem took ownership. It’s a boundaries and responsibility thing, as Cloud and Townsend would point out.

      Finally…most church shoppers are not unbelievers, they’re Christians who for whatever reason are unappeasable. And finally, generally most people who don’t attend church don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, so yes…they would tend to be the people we are trying to reach.

      Hope this helps.

      • Amber on May 28, 2016 at 12:37 pm

        I just want to say that due to the Christian ghetto that has grown in North America today, sometimes you can be a “Christian” and still be seen as “unChurched” by the Church. Church after Church may remind you that you have the wrong credentials: didn’t go to Christian schools, didn’t go to Bible college, wrong ethnic group, no family connections. Church can feel impossible to break into. I’d like to say that Churches may accidentally perpetuate spiritual abuse in these ways, in which case, it’s smart to walk out the door. I think the lines between serial Church shopper/unChurched are closer than your article suggests. Faith is defined by faith in Christ, alone, and love. If we create long lists of externals that make it impossible for people to find a Church home, what should they do?

        • sisteract on July 24, 2016 at 2:28 pm

          podcasts. Radio. Online. I know what you’re speaking of. I know many Christians who now do not attend church. They gave up shopping for one but drop in from time to time for various reasons, depending where they are. In smaller cities it is especially difficult. I am called to remain in my church – but the church has changed a lot (quite conservative) and my walk has become more charismatic. So, though I am churched, I drop in to Pentecostal type churches from time to time, though I must travel to do so. Many of my nonattending Christian friends also do so. But it is a major act of faith for me to keep attending my church. Lots of good people but the expression of the service is pretty dry for me. And yes, I volunteer and am involved in my church.

  22. Kevin Glenn on April 7, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for another helpful article, Carey!

  23. Gary Don on April 7, 2016 at 9:22 am

    WOW. You nailed this one Carey. Thanks for articulating this.

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