9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One

Kind of a strange to even say it, isn’t it?

Why on earth would pastors and church leaders have a hard time attending church of all things?

After all, wouldn’t leaders who have led churches be the most anxious to attend them?

Strangely, not always. You can talk to thousands of people who used to volunteer or lead at a church who will tell you they no longer attend. Or maybe they attend, but it’s just ‘not the same’.

Why?

That’s a great question.

I want to offer up some reasons I think pastors and church leaders struggle to attend a local church once they’ve led in ministry.

The common issue? Current and former church leaders who struggle with attending a local church.

 

Many of Us Have Been There

If you attend church but aren’t involved, or if you’re serving right now and love it (which if you are, I’m glad!), you might not even understand why a post like this would be written.

But if you’ve ever served at a local church as a dedicated volunteer or a paid staff member, you likely have an idea of what I’m talking about.

Not attending church after you’ve led in a church is actually quite a widespread phenomenon. Just browse the comments on this blog and it won’t take you more than 5 minutes to hear from someone who used to lead in a church and now isn’t engaged at all anymore.

How does this trend of non-attending former leaders show up?

Pastors who used to lead a church who now just sleep in on Sundays and have given up on all forms of the local church.

People who only attend when they’re ‘on’ the music team, the greeting team, serving in student ministry, or speaking.

People who stop attending the moment they stop serving.

Every time I hear of it, my heart breaks a little more.

Please understand, I know the local church is not perfect. But I honestly do believe the promise of the local church is greater than the problems of the local church. And I realize the Church (as Christ sees it) is bigger than any local church. But to pretend the local church in all its forms around the world isn’t a part of the Church is, well, just not accurate.

And a little disclosure here. Everything I’m writing about in this post, I have felt. Sometimes just a twinge, but I’ve gone there in my mind.

For the record, I intend to be part of the local church as long as I live, whether I’m paid to lead or not. But when I’m on vacation or out of town, I often slip into a local church for a service (or sometimes even the one I lead) and it’s…different. I wonder:

Could I attend here?

Why do I feel so different?

What’s going on?

Once you’ve been involved, it’s just different.

So I’m just wondering if maybe some of the things that go on inside of me might the same as what’s going on inside you or someone you know and care about.

If not, just give thanks. (Seriously.)

 

9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One

If you’ve struggled with this feeling before, ask yourself whether any of these 9 reasons might be part of your struggle:

 

1. Your identity is tied to what you do, not who you are

So who are you really? A preacher? A musician? A worship leader? A student director? An elders? An usher? A group leader? A staff member?

No you’re not.

You’re a child of God redeemed by a Saviour who came for you.

So many of us define who we are by what we do. I struggle against this every day.

Before you dismiss this, do this simple test that Tim Keller offers.

“If work [or ministry] is your idol, if you are successful it goes to your head, if you are a failure it goes to your heart.”

Boom. Maybe your identity is more tied up in what you do than you think.

 

2. You like being the center of attention

As Andy Stanley says, anyone who’s ever strapped on a microphone is a little like Lady Gaga; we all live for the applause. Come to think of us, many of us don’t need a mic for that.

Could it be that you’ve grown accustomed to being the center of attention, no matter how small your audience might be?

Often my decision that something doesn’t fit ‘me’ is far more a statement about me than it is about whatever I’m uncomfortable with.

 

3. You’ve seen how the sausage is made and have lost your appetite

Yep. Church is messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful.

Largely because people are messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful. And we live on this side of heaven.

Hurt, unresolved, breeds cynicism. And there are so many cynical former church attenders who simply haven’t addressed their unresolved issues.

Part of maturity involves realizing that I contribute to messy sausage making. I am part of the problem. And so is almost every leader who has abandoned church.

Jesus never said we would be known for our perfection. But he did say we would be known by our love.

Love owns my share. Love forgives. Love says I’m sorry. Love reconciles. Love works toward a better tomorrow.

Love sees who you really are and stays anyway.

 

4. You’ve become more of a critic than a worshipper

This one’s hard. Once you’ve been on the inside, you listen ‘at’ a sermon as much as you listen ‘to’ a message.

You ask “What’s he doing here? Why did he make that transition this way? What’s up with his body language?”

Musicians critique the music. Guest services people criticize greeters. Graphic design people laugh at other designs.

And lead pastors critique everything.

What’s missing in this picture?

Humility. Submission. Grace. That’s all.

 

5. You think you’re better or smarter than the people who merely attend

This one’s ugly.

I don’t know what else to say about it except stop it. Really.

Okay one more thing. So maybe you are smart. Or more successful. Got that.

If you think you’re too important to help someone, stop fooling yourself. You’re not that important.

 

6. Somewhere in the process, your personal walk with God tanked

Leadership is best when it springs from the overflow of our personal walk with God.

There are many ways unusual church leader struggle with God (I wrote about 5 of them here), but just because you lost your closeness to God while leading in a church doesn’t mean church is bad.

He loves you, and He loves the church in all of its weakness.

 

7. You’ve forgotten you’re a follower, not just a leader

Originally all of us got into ministry after we decided to become followers of Jesus. That following should never stop.

The best leaders are actually the best followers.

A leader who can only lead but not follow is actually not a great leader. And certainly not a godly leader.

 

8. You’re neglecting the fact that you still have a role to play

I know it’s cliche, but the goal is not to attend church or go to church. You are the church.

But, for reasons outlined here, I think the church is so much stronger when we are together, not when we are apart.

While we can all use some rehab in a back row of a church somewhere from season to season, ultimately, every follower of Christ has a role to play in the local church. Even if it’s not your favourite role or a role you’re used to.

Being involved is one of the best ways to stay engaged, even if it’s not what you used to do or want to do.

 

9. ‘Why’ has died on the altar of ‘what’ and ‘how’

Church leadership is a lot of ‘what’ and ‘how’. I find I have to remind myself daily of the ‘why’ of church.

Why?

Because God is good.

Because he loves us.

Because Jesus gave his life for a world he desperately loves.

Because our cities are full of people who don’t know the love of Christ.

Because my life is not my own.

Because the church was Jesus’ idea.

Because grace ultimately makes all things new.

So does that help? I realize these reasons will not address every issue, and that some will flail against any organized church no matter what is said.

But so many leave unnecessarily. Maybe you’re one of them. If any of these reasons are true, what will you do about them?

I know that working through them has kept my passion and hope for the local church strong, even if it flickers in the wind some days.

Now it’s your turn. Why do you think it’s hard to attend a church once you’ve been involved in leading one? Please leave a comment.

258 Comments

  1. Chris Tucker on August 15, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Attending church is physiologically too difficult for me. Everyday I think of the times that I was sexually abused as a child. Seeing a church from the road gives me anxiety and going inside I break out in sweats and get the shakes. I know God is everywhere and I can talk directly to him without attending any kind of church service. I wish there was somewhere children could go to for help if they are sexually abused by an adult. The thing is, some children do not know that they are being abused.

  2. Sandra on August 14, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Another reason for not going: …I was 45 years in music ministry. It just feels weird to sit in the pews after so many years of being actively involved in worship and sitting at the front. No glory, believe me! But I enjoyed the process of being involved. Now that illness has forced me to retire, I just do not feel comfortable going to church, except on the occasions where I am filling in for the current musician. It isn’t a pride thing. It is a dislocation kind of thing!

  3. dee on July 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    I really think the today church totally is not what God head in mind, people run from church to the world because of the confusion u find. I have been saved for 10 years, called but nobody cared about my calling, rather was only used for something else. Today I just want to go out there preach to non believers and come home. I no longer have that joy of going to fellowship. It’s a pain. I really think we should only use home sells to fellowship not church that needs more than Faith. Today church feels like jail. Something is wrong. Listen to all this people hurting so bad, because of today church. Something is horribly wrong.

    • Linda Perkinns on August 3, 2018 at 7:48 am

      God never intended church to be this way where people come and are abused but it happens
      just because their Christian don’t mean their acting right, Christians sin all the time, but the answers is in the bible which say If my People that are called by my name , would pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I would hear from heaven I would forgive their sin and heal their land, No where does it say they are perfect. There for we have to change and work with the church to make it better, when they will let us.

  4. Former PW on July 1, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Church is often not a good experience, but even though I sometimes hate going, Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds me:
    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

  5. chruch nomo on June 29, 2018 at 4:08 am

    Trust me when i say, the Church rejected me, I didn’t reject it.

    • Earl Wallace on July 2, 2018 at 12:58 am

      Regarding point # 5. “Thinking we are smarter than others.” I developed a phrase when as a Christian God was growing me in the secular work place to achieve many things that others around me said was impossible to achieve. I wrote about many of them in “The Three-Dimensional Leader: Negotiating Your Mission, Resources and Context.” That phrase was, “‘We are not brighter, smarter, nor more talented than others. We all are just different,’ and we look at situations from different perspectives. We’ve trained ourselves to think differently so we can do better. This is not exclusive to us, as God uses many people in many walks of life to be three-dimensional thinkers who become great innovative achievers. ” (See 3DLeader.MRC.com)

    • Rachel on August 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      I have spent time both in and out of the church. My first 6 years out of the church was the most spirituality productive ever. I drew so close to God and He taught me all sorts of things about Him, laid a solid foundation in the scriptures, how to get healed delivered set free from strongholds, addictions, bond ages, receive miracles and breakthroughs in my own life. Things that I never ever learnt in all my 12 yrs in the church. My next 7 years in the church was painful and only served to mess up my thinking, instill unbelief, waterdown my faith, make me more worldly, lose my intimacy with God, get me over busy serving and feeling frustrated meeting people who had loads of problems yet a great deal of pride, selfishness, arrogance & attitude that wanted only to complain, have a social life and stay the same. Now I am back outside the church, much happier, not having to jump over power hungry people who have inner insecurities who don’t know they are demonised and move forward freely in my call with less persecution, jealousy, envy and rivalry. Church is for spiritual babies and people who just want to play and have their bottoms wiped by others. From what I’ve experienced in most western churches they are not living the Acts of the Apostles, not getting sanctified and not growing very much in the Lord. I am so much more happy and stable outside the church walls and being much more productive as a believer in reaching the lost, discipling and changing our world. That is not to brag but its the truth.

      • Adam on August 12, 2018 at 3:08 pm

        Rachel, I very much appreciate this, as I in some ways find your experiences corresponding with my own. I wonder, do you have a community that you share your faith with outside an established “church?” Like you, I find myself struggling with church as it is today, but the first thing Christ did in his earthly ministry was gather a community together for fellowship, growth, etc….I haven’t found that organic “this feels right” niche, so to speak, but I’m not closed to the possibility. Blessings to you!

        • Rachel on August 12, 2018 at 3:38 pm

          Hi Adam, it’s really very sad that both of us feel the same way and have similar experiences.

          Because of what I now do i spend a great deal of time on my own, I believe it is a price we have to pay if we want to be close to Godand really know Him. I find that being in the church and being with people in ‘community’ is only good for me in small doses. To be able to minister now to others I must kelp in the Word everyday and spend time in God’s presence and I do alot if intercession. I do love it this way because I have less interference and less persecution. The loneliness and isolation can be hard at times but I am finding that if i stay in worship daily, ask God for the right people to fellowship with during each week then I can strike a good balance. Churches to me at the moment are a place to visit but not to live if that makes sense?

          I am also finding that I am naturally having conversations with people in my community who are unbelievers when I am out and about and talking with them about God and I’m really enjoying that!

  6. Seth on June 10, 2018 at 11:02 am

    This article is terrible. It is pretty much telling hurting church leaders to get over their pain. What a joke.

    • Silena on July 1, 2018 at 6:22 pm

      I don’t agree that this article is telling hurting church leaders to get OVER their pain, but I think it’s an article encouraging Christians how to work THROUGH their pain. Great read!!

  7. Mary B. on May 24, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Raised Roman Catholic, I attended a private nun-haunted school. Although there are a few okay nuns, most were elderly, mean, and not suited to dealing with young children. That said, I did not attend mass for many years, feeling I was unworthy. When I married a lapsed Lutheran, we decided to joint an Evangelical church. It was huge, like a barn mentality (herd ’em in, herd ’em out). Then, finally, we joined a Lutheran church in our Minneapolis suburb. Didn’t care for the head minister. The others were okay. There was one woman who felt she was my “boss”. I learned a lot in that I won’t allow someone tell me who I am, what I am, and what I should be doing. We left after two years.

    I think of churches as man-organized businesses. My relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal. Consider this: Churches are the only “business” who expect to be paid and also expect the attendees (employees) to work for them. At least most businesses in the private sector throw a little money your way if you work for them.

    I am not bitter; however, if I did see the above-mentioned woman anywhere, I would ask her to please step away from me. Churches, as is the world, are full of people who think they know better, know everything, are insulting, and just plain insidious. I know this to be the truth, as I have a sister (supposedly a devout Roman Catholic) who is this way. I do not intend to ever speak to her again.

    Happy to be a prayerful and reclusive Christian.

    Thank you.

    • Mike on May 29, 2018 at 10:56 am

      I would like to apologize on behalf of the church. Reclusive christianity is a wonderful place for those hurt by the church. As our churches give up sound doctrine and biblical teaching for what seems a mixture of what our itching ears want to hear and thrill rides for the so called unbelievers, we Christians get left in our sin and trespasses without the gospel that sets us free. I can’t speak for you but I need to hear about my suffering as I wander through this wilderness and I also need to hear of Christ each week. I need the law preached and explained from the pulpit each week to bring me to repentance. All of these things come from the text being read in context. Sadly, this is extremely rare these days.
      It’s most likely what your dear sister is really saying is that she, like all feel at most times we don’t belong here. The qualities you mentioned are a red flag that she feels incredibly lost here on earth. For this we Christians can only empathize and try to listen to what the meaning is behind the actions and somehow love.
      I understand your isolation. It’s okay. No need to feel any guilt.
      I would recommend taking the time you would have spent at church to develop your own belief in the text. Asking yourself, “Is this really the word of God” or “What does a Christian look like in today’s world” are great places to start with the text open on a regular basis.
      Again, I understand and my deepest apologies.
      Grace and peace to you.

      • Adam on July 16, 2018 at 11:37 am

        As a former pastor, I can honestly say I am at a point where I don’t need to hear the law every week because I feel the accusation of it every day. At the same time, I can’t walk into the barn churches and experience anything but revulsion toward the consumerism. Honestly, I just want to pray, but Anglicanism is fairly dead in the U.S. and Catholicism doesn’t really need me. Maybe I’m flawed. Maybe the church is flawed. Maybe it’s all of the above. I’ve just honestly reached a point where I don’t want or feel any need for church right now. And it’s not because the technique is wrong. It’s just that everything about church feels wrong.

        • dee on July 23, 2018 at 4:30 pm

          Same here, I feel church has shifted focus, its no longer about Christ but about something unknown. Struggling I really don’t feel like church any more.
          I even asked myself if the idea of today church iscrealky what God had in mind.

    • Julie on June 23, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      Your comment resonates with me because I, too, went to Catholic school all of my life and have experienced the meanness of many of the nuns who taught me. I consider myself a devout Catholic but I have witnessed the backstabbing and hypocrisy that seem to go hand-in-hand with the “active” members of various parishes and with Catholic owned and operated pregnancy centers.

      I once worked for a Catholic non-profit center that catered to women experiencing a crisis pregnancy. People on the outside thought we were one big happy family but in reality, we were one big back-stabbing dysfunctional family. The founder was obsessed with having a “professional” presence and prided herself in advertising that we were a “professional” staff and all college educated. Since the receptionist was not college-educated, they kept reducing her hours until she asked to be laid off so that she could collect unemployment. But leading up to that, they were hoping to find reason to fire her (unknown to her) and began a witch hunt of things that they thought she was doing, such as giving “inside” information to the people out on the sidewalk persuading women not to seek abortions. They had a meeting and secretly asked all other employees to report if they ever saw her outside talking to the “sidewalk counselors”. They asked us to put it in writing. I put it off as long as I could since I did not feel comfortable doing such a thing, but they insisted that I provide in writing what I had observed with her. In short, I told them that , sure, I’d witnessed her outside speaking to the sidewalk counselors but that I could not hear what was being said and she could have been saying, “Hi how are you? Good to see you! Have a nice day and thank you for all that you do.” The worst part of this is that the priest who was our chaplain was also on the board of directors and would make decisions on who would and would not be fired. He also heard confessions. He heard her confessions. This represented a very strong conflict of interest to me and between that and some other things that I had observed there, I put in my resignation. They did not take it well and seemed to hold it against me. I could not tell them the truth about why I was leaving my job with them.

      They were unfair with me and thought I should work weekends and stay longer in the evenings because I did not have any children. Because of this, my personal life was not seen as important or valuable. I was newly married and lived 50 miles away. Yet, they seemed to think that I should spend all my free time there because I had nothing else better to do with my time. I rarely got a lunch but another employee who had 4 children would often take 3 hour lunches to do cafeteria duty at her children’s school………..and that was okay because it was seen as far more important than anything I wanted to do….like get a break. I thought many times that I should report them for discrimination but seeing how they internally operated, I decided against it, feeling as though they would somehow try to ruin my professional reputation. I observed that these so-called Christians were very vengeful.

      They also treated many of the women who went there for help with their pregnancies very poorly. One woman was so sick from morning sickness that she could barely walk to the bathroom to vomit. I pointed to her where the bathroom was and she ran to the bathroom reserved for employees only. My supervisor, a “devout” Catholic who heard the woman violently ill in the bathroom, raised her voice to me and asked me why she was in “our” bathroom. I was speechless. I wanted to say “Well, then go tell her to throw up in the other bathroom!” I couldn’t believe it. She insisted the woman take a pregnancy test (which I can understand) but when she could barely walk I told her to just set the urine sample on the counter. I had planned to take care of it and do the pregnancy test there since the poor lady was so weak. But, again, my “devout” Catholic supervisor told her to get up and carry her urine to a back room. They are very lucky this woman did not pass out in the process. It was all very cold to me. And this “devout” supervisor was a mother herself!

      Anyway, I could go on an on with examples of their hypocrisy but I think you get the point. I think that there is evil everywhere, even in the places that are supposed to be the most holy. A wise and good friend once told me to view the church as one big hospital where sick people go to get well instead of seeing them as an already finished product and good Christians. I have found this advice to be very helpful. I go to Mass to pray, to give homage to Christ,a and feel close to Him. It serves those purposes. I, for the most part, do not expect anything from my fellow parishioners. I’m no longer shocked when they do something that seems non-Christian. I pray for them and I let them be an example to me of what I never want to become. And I go on with my life. I know firsthand how disappointing many of these people are and just like it says in this article, I have seen how the sausage is made and I’ve lost my appetite. But I haven’t lost my appetite for Christ. Just with the people that I expected too much from in the first place.

      ~Peace

  8. […] Nieuwhof wrote a post that put into words all that I have been feeling for the past ten years. I really appreciate the […]

    • Rex Karu on April 28, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Pride. The described “former minister” that can’t just attend church without being the leader probably isn’t serving because they deservedly are no longer in the pulpit. (1 Peter 4:17)
      For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.

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  10. Michelle on March 4, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    This Was A Very Good Insightful Article You Wrote. So Very True, I Saw Some Of Myself In This Article On Both Sides Of The Issues. We Were Military, And Became Christians Over 30 Plus Years Ago. Because We Had To Move Up And Down The East Coast For Almost 20 In The Air force, We Had Alot Of Experience In Many Churches ; And Yes, Your Article Is SPOT ON. As I Realize I Lived As A Christian Playing All Those Roles Over The Years, Helper , Victim Lifesaver, Mission Impossible Doer, Popular Friends Circles ? Looking For My Reward In The Wrong Place….Not Really Realizing it? “Until I Was On The Receiving End?? Ended Up A Non- Church Goer All Togeather And Finally To The Uncurable Church HOPPER Forever Searching For Something Our Family Lost Over The Years But Couldnt Put My Finger On It Until Now… Great Piece And Eyeopener. Thankyou For Telling The Truth, I Know It Will Help Me To See Things Differently In The Future As I Look At Myself And Ask, What Am I Really Sapposed To Be Focusing On Here At Church And What Would Please Jesus Only? Not Me But Learning To Simply Serve Others Without Exspecting Anything In Return, And Just Accepting People For Who They Are Including Myself. Even If They Dont Care About Me Or What Im Doing? I Belong To Christ And Need To Be Happy Enough Being About My Fathers Bussiness Weather Im Noticed Or Not? Weather They Care Or Not, Because All For The Grace Of God Go I ,Only. Thankyou, I Think Youve Just Helped Me Let Go Of Some Past Church Pain And Jerked My Mind Back On Focus, Thnx Again , It Simply Isnt About Us… We Need To Help Others For Christ Alone And Not Expect Anything In Return , A True Slave We Must Become For Christ Alone, Thankyou For Waking Me Up This Will Help Me.

  11. Janet Oller on February 21, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    In our tradition, a pastor who leaves a church (retires or for whatever reason) is not permitted to worship at that church until the new pastor is in place and invites the former pastor to return. That is usually a year or two. This is intentionally designed to give the congregation time to grieve the leaving of one pastor and get ready to search for and call a new pastor – and then for that pastor to settle in.
    In the meantime, we are the only church of our denomination in the county- and the next closest one is 40 minutes or more away.
    Yes, it’s true that I could go to another denomination until the necessary time passes and an invitation to return is extended (if it is) but that’s a different set of decisions and discernment.
    So, sometimes, not going to church is for different reasons- and I would offer up burnout as a major factor! AND, I absolutely agree that ego/identity has a large role to play.
    Keep the posts coming!

    • Sola Fide on March 25, 2018 at 10:06 am

      What an absolutely horrible policy! To exclude someone who has served (or hasn’t served) for such a trivial reason is contrary to the purpose of the church. Wow!

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  13. Bro Lee on February 16, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    None of the 9 apply to me or any of the majority of clergy who refuse to step foot in a church again. Most if not all have been drug through hell by the church. We have seen the dark side and managed to get out before it sucked us dry. I left Christianity to find Christ again.

    • Frank Gregoire on February 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Bro Lee,

      Thank you for expressing my thoughts. I couldn’t get them quite out. I was hurt my a church who didn’t want the youth ministry, or church to look like the community. So they disbanded the youth, only to get some one a year late who looks like them talks like them. To reach the ones who are the same. There are more details to which I am not wanting aired out.

      To this day I try to get over it, still hurts.

    • Jaky on March 27, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Wow ‘i left Christianity to find Christ again’ that’s it

    • Deborah Heino on April 14, 2018 at 6:42 pm

      I have to agree with you even though I know that the Bible has commanded us to “not forsake the assembling together,” it’s extremely difficult to get over the hurt and the feeling of betrayal you feel. I have all my life experienced this deep hurt and betrayal from the church, first as a pastor’s kid watching my beloved daddy and mother suffer it over and over again and for the past 40+ years of going through it myself.
      The church that I have just resigned from is a dead church – alive in name only as was the church in Sardis. Every characteristic of those five churches in Revelation (Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, & Laodicea) is present in this church. They has committed unthinkable acts and said unimaginable things about me as the pastor but because they are and have been a dead church since we began there 3 years ago, we have been able to forgive them. But because this is the only church of our denomination around for over 60 miles, my husband and I have chosen to stay here. This was no easy decision for us to make, but after much prayer and fasting, we believe this is where God has brought us and until He tells us to leave, we will remain faithful.
      I’m not sure why He wants us to stay, but I know the He knows why and I don’t have to know. We have told ourselves that it could be for the two or three individuals who have been very hurt by what has been done to us, or because like the church of Sardis, we are to be the remaining faithful ones, or maybe they will repent and return to their first love, or possibly our denomination will use us to plant a new church in this area. Whatever the reason – He’s in control and always will be no mater what happens.

    • Mary B. on May 24, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you for saying you “left Christianity to find Christ again.” What a profound statement. I, too, have done this. While living in this world is unbelievably difficult most of the time, I take solace in prayer, Christian beliefs, and the peace I have found since leaving the “church-going society”. Thanks again.

  14. Jeannie on January 30, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    There is a change in relationship status with the church that can be challenging to navigate. Am I an ex or an alumni? Was I pushed out and unwelcome, needing to recover, or am I a graduate who was released and comes back to a reunion? In my case, it’s a paradox in that both are true and subject to time, perspective and healing. Ultimately, all things have somehow been reconciled in Christ, though we may not see it yet. In that deep, mysterious truth I find surrender, rest and release. He is able and willing to restore all that the locusts have eaten, to set things right, to prepare a table before us, to bring us safely home.

  15. Thomas on January 30, 2018 at 11:11 am

    I relate, however – I suffer from depression. I’m using my various gifts and marching like a “good little solider of the cross”, but I come home drained and exhausted. I sit and cry and no one knows – I spend parts of my day at my secular job, in tears. I submit to whatever is going on, as I realize there is no perfect church – if it was perfect, it became imperfect the moment I arrived.

    I have no doubt of Christ, salvation, or even the purpose local church – but I’ve become one of many that wear a mask on Sunday. I put on a smile, but I’m totally broken inside. It’s a Psalms 77 moment, what sustains you is remembering who God is and waiting for the rest of you to catch up with your spirit.

    I will say this though, just being real, the thought of being with Christ in his perfection is sweet, and no I wouldn’t try and get there myself if you get what I’m saying. But now there’s a longing to be away from here – than going through the sausage mill as you call it – which I’m a part of. Until then, I’m determined to live with it, and try to live through it.

    • Thomas on February 26, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      Ok, let me restate somethings, tried to use my gifts, but it ruffled feathers (not the pastor’s but I’m about peace). So now that I can’t use my gifts without upsetting others. I just sit. If the pastor has something that he wants me to do, I do it (stuff that others may not want to do). Still marching like a good little soldier – and I feel so, so fake!!!!!

      On the bright side, I haven’t seen my wife happier – she didn’t like being a leaders wife (pressure). Myself, on the other hand …I’m miserable – still hurting, and sighing. Losing my desire to do anything – and that’s just not church related either. I attend, I put on a happy face, laugh and smile – while I’m crying on the inside (and when I’m alone – on the outside as well).

  16. Wally on January 30, 2018 at 1:03 am

    Its hard to go to church when the gifts you have aren’t even recognised. This applies not just to ex leaders but also the members of the congregation

    • Paul on February 3, 2018 at 2:57 am

      people should have their talents recognized. It’s a shame when worship leaders and their cliques squash someone else’s talent, puts that person in the back. That is a prideful person but will pretend it’s the other way around if you dare want to step out of your confinement.

  17. Douglas Chard on January 28, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed sitting in a pew after 35 years of leading worship. I found it so refreshing to be “one of the bunch”, i.e., to enjoy the fellowship of people whom I had formerly led in worship.
    #4 (being more of a critic than a worshipper) is a frequent temptation, however, when I worship in different churches when on vacation, for example; on the other hand, I have learned to appreciate different styles of worship by appreciating some insight shared by a preacher or leader (a positive side to sermon-tasting!)

  18. William Wages on December 17, 2017 at 12:38 am

    I completely understand what it means to leave a church after leading in one. For many years I was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. I only had a few kids to teach and that bothered me because I felt that I was failing due to the lack of kids. I also was the “atta boy” so to speak meaning when ever there were things that were needed to be picked up or done, I was the one to do it and for a while I didn’t mind it. I left church not so much because of the “atta boy” attitude towards me but because of the attitudes of the other leaders. I can tell you that I have worked in the fast food industry and now that I know what goes on in the kitchen sometimes, I wonder why anyone hasn’t got food poisoning or is dead. What I mean is this, once you see how the flawed, yes flawed people run a church, it is impossible to unsee. If you don’t want to know the dirty laundry of the church then stay out of the leadership roles. I felt that the high dollar tither’s were the important ones and the rest who tithed but not as much were left to follow in the footsteps of the great ones. All in all I learned a lesson about getting into teaching or leadership roles, I will NEVER do it again. If I ever go to church on a regular basis again I will not allow anyone to see me as a potential candidate of leading anything. I have had my share of it and I am done. But even now I don’t go to church and don’t intend to again on a regular basis and I believe this is my defense for making sure I am not asked again to do what I know I don’t want to because if I was asked then I would probably do it, foolishly.

  19. Andy on December 12, 2017 at 12:20 am

    What exactly were you attempting to accomplish by writing this? If you thought your simplistic diagnoses and trite solutions would actually change the minds of thoughtful individuals who’ve disengaged from church or their faith, then you’re kidding yourself. For me, this kind of thinking, writing, and speaking was why I decided to step away from my pastoral position.

    Initially I intended to attend another church as a lay person and even visited a few with my family. But after being away from it a bit and gaining some perspective, we realized how little we missed any of it. Churches claim they’re the only places you can find real meaning and real community. But that’s not true.

    I also realized how different my actual beliefs were once I no longer had to “believe” certain things because my my paycheck required me to. There was no intentional intellectual dishonesty on my part at the time but its liberating now knowing what I actually believe.

    • Frank Hopkins on January 28, 2018 at 7:18 am

      I agree. I think the article has a lot of trite recommendations etc. Although I agree with some of it. Been an xp of a mega church, started 4 campuses, led small groups and now it’s a struggle to want to attend church.

      I understand the value of the church. I also understand the issues on both sides. I’ve been around too many leaders who think the church paid team has all the answers and the people are there to follow whatever is said. WRONG!

      I also believe most church teams lack accountability and understanding of where people are today. In a bubble with no clue. It’s a major turn off. I keep going because I’m suppose to. I volunteer and do my best to put blinders on to all the bull.

      I have plenty of my own issues for sure. Just can’t stand the pompous attitude I see of church staffs thinking the people are there to serve the church leaderships ambitions. Church staffs have been given the honor of guiding God’s people. That honor should be taken in a sacred mentality.

      I use to stay up on all the data about church’s losing their relevance etc. It’s simple to me. Most churches are too internally focused and really don’t invest in caring about people. As I write this I’m headed to church to hopefully help some young adults. I’m torn. Much of church sucks. But I still believe in it…

  20. Peter on November 12, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Some of us were so burnt and abused as leaders that we have PTSD about attending church the way we used to. Please add that to the list.

    • Steve R on November 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Yep.

    • Franklin on November 17, 2017 at 11:53 pm

      I agree…

    • Eric on November 27, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Or you just wake up one day and realize that it’s all a lie. There’s no love there, just animosity and hate. There’s no Christ there, just a club of people trying their best to cover up who they really are. There’s no real change happening, inside the building or in the community around the building.

      • Stacey Baldwin on January 10, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        I agree with you Eric, wholeheartedly. It had gotten to the point, that I would go home from leading church service and would cry, cry, cry. Because what I saw from the “leaders” was not a reflection of the God, that I served. The way leaders would treat people, talk to those who were not “high tithers”, the judgement and isolation of those who were “single mothers”, or young people who were trying to “find their way”. It was hurtful to see. All I kept thinking was “Woe to them who cause my sheep to scatter”. and As Jesus told the lady at the well, that there will be a time when she would not worship on that mountain or in Jerusalem , but “That the time will come when he who worship must worship in Spirit and in Truth”

      • P. on February 22, 2018 at 5:50 am

        Eric, you are right. That’s what I woke up to one day. You realise you are surrounded by hypocrites whose mission is to destroy your life and everything you are doing no matter what good you have done for God or for them. They are just like that. And what makes it worse is that they are your Pastor and fellow leaders. But we don’t give up on God. It’s people who let us down, not God. So push on soldiers. The war is not yet over!

    • Thomas on January 30, 2018 at 11:18 am

      YES!!!! That’s so true!!!!!

    • John on June 29, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      Yeap, I have Post Pastoral Abuse Syndrom

  21. Stacy on November 4, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    After 5+ years, I stepped down to protect my church. I decided I wanted a divorce and I knew that if the church fired me, people would be mad. If the church didn’t fire me, the other people would be mad. But my exit from my position opened the door for a lot of questions I wasn’t ready to explain. I needed a little distance. A few weeks turned into a few months, and then it got cold outside and then it rained and then I was tired and then… and then… and then…

    I love my church. GPC was my church before she was my employer. If I was to identify the reason I often skip a Sunday morning, I would have to say it is Shame. I don’t skip because of the reasons listed above.. I skip because somedays, I literally just can’t face the music.

    • Lisa on January 29, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      🙁

  22. Ken on October 29, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Pretty much 1-9. Thank you for this article. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to figure out for the last year and a half–all of that time spent pointing, blaming, excusing, being indignant, etc., instead of humbly looking inside. I was a part time your minister for 3 years, while also working a regular job. A lot of 1-9 apply to both ministry and career. And what’s the common factor: ME!!! I want to go back and apply these 9 to the other areas of my life–relationships, community, small group, mentoring. Thus is a huge find. Again thank you!!

  23. Jim Neville on October 23, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    I might venture a thought on why key volunteers such as elders and key ministry leaders drop out:
    1. The pastor is trained to know the scripture but has no idea how to manage or lead.
    2. The pastor has an extreme need to control all the decisions and does not know how to delegate.
    3. The pastor does not know how to lead a team or work in the context of an elder board.
    4. Key pastoral staff who do not know how to mentor staff to realize their potential. The churn index among staff turn over is high.

    Making sausage can be challenging at best. People without managerial skill sets create a reluctance to be involed in with the church in the future. Ever business man knows the importance of these qualities. It would make a good class at a seminary. It was a good article. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • Jan on January 29, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      Fully agree with you!

  24. Steve Roberson on October 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    #3 and #9… plus…
    I have always believed in the church, and while I have vigorously pursued to stay active in one, I find that my stamina to tolerate “the business” of ministry and the attacks of people are simply not within my younger capabilities. Honestly, I used to be okay with a good conflict in the past. (Not a degrading or inappropriate fight, but a “fair” push back to church politics.😉) But even with my passions, especially for the college aged demographic, I can’t endure the maliciousness anymore. I still lead a cell group, and I help with an intro class for the church, but I will not tolerate the garbage anymore. I’ll walk first.
    Just like I can’t bench 350 pounds like I used to, I don’t have the endurance to take the church ignorance either. Those pat answers, like “God is still good” (without question), and “serve as unto Him” (again true, but without consideration to scars and the recognition that this kind of serving had cost us in the past) do more to condemn a believer than help. “Since God is good enough and big enough, then obviously I’m doing something wrong.” That answer usually ends up being, “Then I’ll just get out if the way….” The truth is, most of us want to be involved. Most of us have unrepentant callings that linger even when we wish we could put them in hibernation. I learned a long time ago that our gifts can also become our burdens, our blessings can become our curses. Pastors tend to be all or nothing creations. It’s easier to be disconnected than to be minimized. I also think that churches that don’t use their resources will find themselves always wanting. It’s another “talent” they should be responsible for, and will lack if not accountable for it. So, I have preached this unpetitioned message to say, not only should ministers help the church, but the church should utilize their ministers. In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you!” Let’s help each other fulfill our call.

  25. Carl bowles on October 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Hurt too often just don’t have it in me.
    I have totally quit church
    So hurt
    GOD show my a lot last few years through a very difficult time. It is part of me
    GOD is totally awesome fantastic
    But …

    • Joyce on December 30, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Ezekiel 34 is for you. Psalm 23 is for you. You can quit church for a “minute”. Stay in the race – as you lay on the ground because you have been “tripped” and made to stumble by brothers and sisters who are suppose to run with you and stand with you – Jesus will Himself offer you His hand and He will help you up and help you keep on running. He will offer you a time of healing and refreshing. Keep on praying and realize that in reality, that it is going to take time for the healing and forgiveness to take place. The devil’s scheme is to make you quit and make you feel all alone and like a “fake Christian”. You realize that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Just as you are, I pray to love (Once again) those who have harmed me) In the end we want to please the Lord Jesus Christ and bring honor and glory to His name. Lean completely on the Lord. He accomplished everything for us on the cross. Jesus has a place for each one of us who truly believes in Him and loves Him – don’t ever give up or give in to despair. John 6:68

      • Liz Cutajar on January 13, 2018 at 9:32 am

        I have also experienced a similar situation where you said we have been tripped and made to stumble …..I am not a pastor am a sister but I have been very involved in the church and I was always aware of Eph 6:12 but are we to be part of the local church no matter what? Isn’t having the joy of the Lord just as important? It is not a case of looking to the left or to the right, the Lord knows how often true believers have to overlook such things .
        I would never deny the fact that Jesus Christ gave us a Biblical Church pattern ..we also know that fellowship is important but again are we to remain in a local church come what may ?
        What are we to do when words ….decisions….keep getting broken ?…year after year …we are told to let our yes be yes and our no be no…
        I will remain open to God’s will for my life …I pray I will be sensitive enough to know it.

      • PG Alderete on January 15, 2018 at 4:14 am

        I love your response to this article. I have been wrestling with a feeling of detachment. My pastor is a female and we didn’t agree on and issue. She asked my opinion and I replied. She hasn’t treated my husband and I the same. Polite but standoffish. I have to remind myself that things have changed but it’s her problem not mine. I go to worship and we had to step back a bit. We meet our pledge and help out as volunteers when possible but it just got more and more demanding and expected for us to do more. So we need to take a step back and reassess if it’s still a fit or we need to move on. I found this article very enlightening

  26. Gina on October 3, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Carey, to be honest, all this IS true to some extent. But, what happens if you lead, serve hard, are totally committed and then uncover fraud committed by the senior pastor and are asked to leave when you try to address it with him? (This despite persevering for months to try to resolve the issue, i.e. this not being taking offense.) When, because of taking up the responsibility as a leader to not compromise on truth, the tables are bizarrely turned in an act of denial and defensiveness and you become the one at fault? How do you ever practically recover from that hurt? How do you ever see the way to serve, let alone attend church, again?

    • Carl bowles on October 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      The bottom line
      GOD is still amazing awesome fantastic keep your passion on him. Healing will come if u focus on him.

  27. Roger on September 28, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    It took me 10 months and I struggled with a critical spirit mostly, I started to pray for God to give me his eyes for his people. I do think your calling is intertwined in your identity & once you lead it’s difficult to go back to follower. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel that way but pride & depression are the areas to attack through prayer if your overtaken by hopelisness. You still have a calling & purpose don’t give up….tough times are apart of your testimony make it a season of overcoming not of defeat. God is near, he has never left lean into his strength not your strength.

  28. Kevin on August 27, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Although most people who know me, when they see I’ve reposted this article to my social media page, will think of me in my most recent role in a large local church that ended three years ago, the fact is I’ve been involved in leadership in church for the past 40 years. In my 45 years as a believer, I can say unequivocally that nearly all my deepest personal wounds have been inflicted by and through the church. But hey, you don’t get wounded unless you’re in the battle, right? So, I get that. I guess.

    What made the last engagement different was that it was my first time serving in vocational ministry – that is (as my former pastor would’ve said), I got “paid to be good” as opposed to being “good for nothing”. I’d enjoyed a professional life that spanned a pretty broad exposure to many fields and responsibilities: people and process management, bricks and mortar construction, facility operations, software development and technology deployment, the list goes on – all against a backdrop of dedication to lay service in the local church as a student ministry leader, deacon, teacher, worship leader, musician and band leader… that list goes on, too.

    After thirty-some years of professional development and church leadership I finally had the opportunity to serve as the manager of facility operations of my church of over twelve years – the only church in our area at the time that was just stepping across the threshold of becoming identified as a “mega church”. It seemed that this was the culmination, the nexus of all the otherwise seemingly disjointed paths God had led me down for so many years. Finally, I had an opportunity to employ nearly every skill and draw on the wealth of experience I’d gained over so many years in the service of this growing, multi-faceted, fast-paced church that I loved. I felt and often verbalized that “this is the job God’s been preparing me for my whole life.” The situation I was handed was the proverbial lump of clay that with God’s help I could mold into something of value, meaning, and purpose. And for six years, though it was far from easy, I was all-in. My team grew from just me and a single maintenance person to fourteen people comprising three divisions that covered maintenance, operations, and food services.

    Then, just as it felt we were hitting our stride, as quickly as it began out of nowhere it was over. The pastor of nearly 30 years was released under difficult circumstances and the church was in upheaval. A gifted teacher, for many he’d engendered a cult of personality and the congregation was divided. After a year of turmoil and the team struggling hard to keep the Body pulled together, the young former associate pastor was appointed by the elders to the senior pastoral slot. Over the next few months, I and several of my management team colleagues were dismissed and the new guard began shaping the place to suit their vision.

    This was the job I’d planned to retire from but had no plans for when that would be. I saw myself serving the church I loved for years to come. Now not only had I lost my livelihood, I’d lost my faith community as well. Even the loss of my own business years before didn’t compare to the personal impact of this loss. So, yeah. Count me among the ones who haven’t since set foot back inside a church for anything other than a wedding or a funeral – and even those were difficult. And although it may not look that way to most, I do still love the church. I do still love God. But I’ve been quite content to enjoy my church services in “attendance” at Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church via their live stream over Roku each week, listening to the sermon with my wife (which barely ever happened in my years as a staff member), and eating pancakes in my PJs. Why? Well, as I prefaced my repost of your article, two things I know: The struggle is real. And its a lot more complicated than you think.

    Its easy to say that my identity may’ve been “tied to what I (did) rather than to who I (was)”, but for the believer at the end of the day isn’t life supposed to be ministry and ministry life? That’s always the way I’d tried to conduct myself even in while engaged in secular pursuits.

    I’m a big fan of your work, Carey, and maybe I’m being defensive (I don’t usually shrink from things that hit close to home), but most of these “reasons” in your post felt like being pelted with stones rather than being offered food for thought. I’m going to go back and reread the whole post. But you asked us to “please comment”, so I thought I’d give you the benefit of my story and unvarnished, not overthought (because I do overthink), knee-jerk reaction. Bless you, man. Keep writing the stuff that challenges, and I’ll keep trying to read with an open mind and heart.

    • Michelle on September 5, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      My experience sounds so similar to yours that my heart aches, not out of pity- but out of empathy. The loss is like none other… and I, like you, am still recovering three years later. I struggle to attend weddings or funerals or any type of church function as well. I watch church online now too, not able to actually be in the church. Never thought it would be like this… not in a million years. Yet here we are. I experienced betrayal, abuse of authority, and so many politics that were tied to age discrimination it was unbelievable. Where do we go now when the church doesn’t feel safe?

      • Adrina Corissa on April 8, 2018 at 9:20 am

        I was RAISED in Church. Having perfection Required of you when you are just Learning EVERYTHING is Abusive. Now that I’m an adult; I’ve returned home from War; I’m completely estranged from the people i told what I learned in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I’m like The Walking Dead to these people now… They still expect me to be a perfect lil representative. I don’t want to sing in all of your choirs. The praise team is exhausting. The effort is demoralizing. The anxiety is unnecessary. WHY DISGUISE GUILT SO PEOPLE FEEL WARM ON A SUNDAY MORNING!?! Hope is Important. I just wish we didn’t have to find it in each other. Now EVERYBODY can figure out their own Soul salvation. Church would only serve as a platform for my personal ambitions. I’d be a stone cold pretender if I Attend any ministry. Cynism is a REAL Thing. When the motives aren’t pure; or manipulation is involved; you’ll ALWAYS see a person diminish. I choose to be Spiritual everywhere I go. I assume life to be easier either way.

  29. Denise on August 20, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Yes I struggle with a lot of things no I haven’t been to church since 2012 where I was going I was a greeter and every church I have tended I was a greeter and then I got wounded at each and every one of the churches I was going to and then I stopped going but never stop serving the Lord in my heart and my studies here at home but it’s not the same I want to be able to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ I’m looking for a home base Bible reading chapter by chapter church I know it’s not a such thing as a perfect church because we are the church meaning people not perfect I’m looking where I can have commune the beginning of the month or the end of the month that’s important to me and it says in the Bible is important to commune that body and the blood of Christ so yes I am struggling with it and no I have not been to church and yes I pray on it and ask God to lead me wherever you want me to go because I’m a king’s kid and I like King James version I’m not putting down the other versions of the Bible whatever but I do like King James I like thou thee, because he taught me how to read and that’s my story

  30. Ron Hanzel on August 14, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I can not find a church that understands the truth. They cant get past some kind of works to cover their sin. None of them have a clue of the depth of the bible. Terms like salvation, truth, eternal life, born again, kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven, love, spirit, flesh, etc. are not understood. They do not understand the spiritual walk, are all walking in the flesh and have absolutely no gifts of the spirit or fruit of the spirit although they will make up all kinds of stories to make themselves feel better. When you try to show them the truth in scripture they attack you instead of having an iron sharpens iron type of discussion. They can not show you where you might be wrong in your understanding of the Word so they attack and run.

    • Sue Johnson on August 14, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Check out New Hope the Vision Center live on Facebook @ 7pm Tuesday nights or Sunday mornings @ 8:30am & 11am, in Natchez, MS. The Bishop Stanley Searcy, Sr. presiding. AND Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, out of Jackson, MS, with The Bishop Robert Fortson, Sr. presiding. Sunday mornings @ 11am & Evenings @ 7pm. and Wednesday nights @7pm. Streaming live via Internet. That’s if you REALLY want the TRUTH, straight from the Bible, without holding NOTHING BACK. I live in both of these cities, and these are where I attend! Check them out in person or on Facebook or Internet. You be the judge! Visitors are ALWAYS WELCOME!!! It doesn’t matter your religion or nationally! If you want the TRUTH straight out of the Bible, you are going to get it, with NO sugar coating. Be Blessed and come join us! We might be just what you are looking for. We don’t know you, but we love you and would love your feeback after you check us out.

      • Ron Hanzel on August 15, 2017 at 1:35 am

        thank you. I will check them out!

    • Sarah Jagenberg on April 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      Ron, you are so correct about the church of today! I cannot find a church that is in Love, operating in the REAL gifts of the spirit, or just simply preaching truth. Most churches around me are just a “bless me” club and it makes me sick. Lots of corruption and wickedness in the last church where I served. My whole family was abused for standing up for truth. Sorry Carey, but most of what you said is way off base. When i left the church, I grew SO MUCH and God has been so amazing. I truly believe that if you really want to grow in the Lord, you actually have to leave the church!!

  31. larry on August 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

    need to check this book out—-https://www.amazon.com/Naked-Church-Revised-Third/dp/0964729210/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502538965&sr=1-5&keywords=wayne+jacobsen+books

    • larry on August 12, 2017 at 6:59 am

      THE NAKED CHURCH is an invitation for believers to forsake superficial Christianity and discover true intimacy with God. This compelling book will challenge you to look beyond the externals of contemporary church life with its glittering buildings, extensive programs, beloved celebrities and political muscle and find a relationship with God that will bring his powerful, life-changing presence into everyday circumstances. At a time when it’s popular to be “spiritual” and easy to be “religious,” Wayne Jacobsen sounds the call back to the joy and freedom of a dynamic relationship with the living God

  32. Vanessa on August 6, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I have never believed that there is any validity in being hurt by the Church. Love, grace, maturity and unity are a fantastic arsenal to fight against offense. Until it comes at you with lies, fraud, oppression, abuse of power, deceit, betrayal from the pulpit. It’s easy to say the ensuing cynicism is the result of an unresolved issue, which it certainly is, but forget the hurt is so, so deep, like a spirit that is bleeding out, that only Jesus can heal by way of divine intervention. The Shepherding Movement has become so subtly embedded in Church doctrine and is the root of unchecked abuse of leadership. If this hurts those who are engaged, those who lay down their lives for the Church, lay leadership, how on earth will we be able to protect the Sheep whose faith is fresh and new?

  33. Dave Flowers on August 1, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    So discouraged with Senior Pastor’s lack of leadership and abuse of staff members. One rule for him and his family…another rule for everyone else. Please pray for us. Not sure what the Lord wants us to do but its hard to go to work everyday and enjoy the ministry under these circumstances. I love the church, love serving the Lord here but the pastor really needs to move on…or we do. Not working in a healthy situation. Pray that God would direct our steps as He has for the last 40 plus years of ministry.

    • Fiona on September 5, 2017 at 12:46 am

      Make God first right now whatever you do. Don’t worry about what people may think or feel right now. The Rev 12 sign appears in just a couple of weeks and your pastor would do well to get right with God at all costs.

      Heaven2017.org

  34. Hunter on July 10, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    You forgot Spiritual Abuse and Pastor worship. That’s why i left at least. Tired of serving Jezebel.

    • Vandyke Ebbin on July 16, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      It is hard to attend a church after being a leader in one because after awhile you have become accustom to what might feel like the right way a church should be in all areas of ministry. You get use to a certain order of service, preaching style, music, spiritual atmosphere, the attitudes of the people, etc… It could be whatever. I was a leader in my old church and I left because I got remarried and my wife now did not feel comfortable coming to my church while my ex-wife is still a member. My ex-wfie divirced me for reasons that are not even biblical. We just were on two spiritual levels and kept bumping head. Anyway, I left the church and now am looking for a new one. I have been to many churches but for some reason they do not feel right. It is hard and I am strongly considering opening up my own church. Start off small (praise/worship music, short moment for people to talk about the goodness of Christ in their life, tithe and offering, short lesson for children, and then preaching time of Gods word.

      • Nadine Smith on August 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        My prayers are for you to realize why we are a part of the church of Jesus Christ. Christ is the head, and if we are to lead others to him. We must first deny ourselves and pick up out cross and, “FOLLOW” him. We are saved by grace and not we of ourselves. It is Christ Jesus who died for us giving us the right to his inheritance. We must live by every word of the spirit of truth and forsake our ways, and take on the mind of Christ in order not to fulfill the lust of our flesh. Walk in the spirit and not fulfill our worldly lust. Please seek God’s word for the truth, and lean not to your own understanding! Love & Blessings to you!

      • Teresa Ruffin on September 21, 2017 at 12:11 am

        We should count up the cost,it sound easy,but we must know Gods Will, if you have,then hold on ,think about the sheep..

    • Grace on July 18, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Wow….exactly…..esp legalism instead of love!
      Totally agree!

    • Stacey Baldwin on January 10, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      I can relate! Anytime a Pastor tell you that 10% of your income is for tithes, and 20% is for offering. Then you have monthly anniversary fees, pastoral fees, building funds, have to provide toiletress, light bulbs, cups, napkins, and etc. All from a congregation that mainly consist of folks on public assistance, disability, or some other monthly income. The pastor even told a lady who had been homeless and was trying to get disability, that she owed in back tithes. She was required to give over $4000 in tithes and because she was homeless, her mail went to a church members address, and was held hostage until she paid the back tithes. What made it so bad is. The church didn’t think to assist this lady in using her monies for housing purposes. This same Pastor tells his congregation that they must call in if they are not going to be at church or bible study. He even went to a church were one of the members were visiting, and took the member out of the church. smh

  35. Winnie on July 7, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I have read several of the comments and I also wear the ‘BEEN THERE’ badge. My situation right now is that I am unable to go to church and the sadder part is that I am very happy about the fact that I am unable to go to church. It is quite a relief. I know soon I will resume church and that thought is depressing. It will be a new town, a new church, but still! I’m still on my healing journey. Every time someone tells me he or she is a pastor I run in the opposite direction. I love church. I love serving, but I usually say that one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in life is getting close to pastors and church leadership. I quit the corporate world to join ministry and now I am going back to the corporate world but will still do ministry, just not in church.

    • Es on July 11, 2017 at 12:29 am

      Wow… I feel you.

  36. Struggling on July 1, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I was a paid ministry leader for 15 years and was abused by a pastor who used me as their scapegoat for their wrong doings and many other wrong things that are just to much to go into. i did go to this person and address each issues as they came up even asking what I could do to help improve the situation. I also brought along another pastor and then eventually two more when the situation continued to escalate. This pastor did eventually face church discipline from the elders not just because of what they did to me but what they did to others and has been fired. What I struggle with is the lead pastor not being truthful to the congregation from the pulpit. I don’t believe they need to air dirty laundry, I actually feel that would be harmful, however I don’t think it’s right to lie and say this person retired and then give them a party when that is not truthful and they have hurt so many. I want to attend this church still, I love the people they are my family but I’m struggling with a pastor who is willing to lie. I know it’s my issue and I know in time God will help me heal.

    • Barbara on July 3, 2017 at 11:51 am

      To Struggling…What you have been through was tough. It is so sad what goes on in churches today. But. only with God’s help can you get past this. If we keep dwelling on it, it will rob us from our joy of being His child. We HAVE to look up every day and know that He will give us peace and joy.

      • Vandyke Ebbin on July 16, 2017 at 11:46 pm

        amen! you are right. Healing will come on due season… The lord always takes care of his children.

    • Winnie on July 7, 2017 at 3:24 am

      I absolutely feel your pain. As a teenager I was banished from a church in the most painful ways…through an announcement on the pulpit. I was accused of having an affair with a sugar daddy. The truth of the matter is that the said man was my biological father whom I had been spotted with several times. People didn’t know that he was my father so they made assumptions and I was banished…just like that! IT HURT. SO MUCH. A few weeks later someone in the church went to the leadership and told them that the man they were accusing me of having an affair with was my father. They sent the person to apologise to me but I refused to accept the apology and I demanded that they make the apology on the same pulpit they humiliated me through. Of course that never happened, because the church leadership did not want to admit their mistake.

      • Liz Cutajar on January 13, 2018 at 10:11 am

        so sad for what happened to you Winnie…so sad that so often it is the leadership that should repent and does not.

    • Praying for healing on September 3, 2017 at 6:34 am

      Struggling, I work at a church now and they did that to someone I worked with. The exit tactics for several ministry assistants have been presented in a way that preserve the face of the pastors. I am personally struggling as I cannot do my workload anymore due to the rapid growth of our churches. I find myself struggling with anger and frustration and now I am crying a lot. I have voice my frustrations to my boss and he has been trying to get me help for 9 months and still I sit in a pile of work I can’t stay caught up on. I liked what the article said about I am not my work, my value doesn’t come from that. I wish I could believe that and let go of the burden I feel right now. Ther ware many things I like about working at the church but I’m praying about leaving and getting a non church job. Praying for healing for you and your situation.

  37. Kelley Prescott Stoll on May 9, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Hi, my husband and I recently joined a marriage ministry at our church. We were super gunho and both felt very called by God to serve in this way. My husband missed a bible study with one of the other leaders – to be with our family. Afterwards, we were both criticized and frankly taken to the mattresses about our level of commitment and they said it was because of “accountability”. But, there was no grace – just anger and resentment from them, blame and judgement. We attempted to resolve it, but it still feels like an elephant in the room and now we both feel like we walk around the ministry with a Scarlett A on our chests. Nothing is spoken to us, but now it feels we’ve been made to sit in the corner with the dunce cap on and just wait. Like, we aren’t good enough to facilitate as leaders anymore. Let me just say, that he missed just one night of bible study, which has nothing to do with the Marriage Ministry except similar people are in both venues. I don’t get it. Now, instead of being excited about it, we feel heavy hearted and judged. We are both thinking about leaving and finding another ministry. We would never do anything against the church, it’s vision, or what it stands for. But, the attitudes from others in leadership have left us with a sore taste, wishing we had perhaps stayed on the other side of the curtain. Completely unsure of how to push forward through this. We have prayed on this for weeks. But, we really need someone to talk to and work through it with but it seems like there is no one. Disillusioned and unsure.

    • neanessy on May 16, 2017 at 7:10 am

      Hey there! I am by no means a professional- on any account. But as followers of Christ, we are to be speaking the truth in love- that truth also encompasses the truth of who we are and how we feel. God desires we handle confrontation directly- meaning burying things under the rug is not walking in freedom and reconciled relationships, but rather being emotionally mature enough to identify and communicate your feelings clearly and effectively. Talking directly to the people you have the issue with is the best way to heal and ‘deal with it’. People shy away from telling others when they’re hurt or upset because they feel it is an action that fractures relationships when really, going to the person who hurt you is a restorative action! Plus, lets face it, it is very very scary to be vulnerable with another especially if we are not sure they’re emotionally safe to be vulnerable with!

      The bigger challenge will be for you and your husband to be emotionally mature and stable enough to respectfully and clearly communicate your feelings- paying attention to the tone and volume of your voice, your choice of words, and body language and facial expressions will either convey a heart that is desiring restoration or a heart that is commanding penitence from someone (don’t expect an apology, if they love Jesus fully, they will see the necessity to apologize, but it is not proper of you to expect one. If you expect one and don’t get it, you run the risk of slipping into anger and furthermore into bitterness which the Bible talks amply about bitterness).

      Do you know how to communicate your feelings clearly? Typically, people are more accustomed to saying things like: ‘You never pay attention to me’ and believing that is a clear expression of their feelings, when it’s not. It is ambiguous, it implies the person have NEVER paid correct attention to them, and it also sets the other person automatically on the defensive and they shut down and don’t even bother to empathize. Instead, clear and respectful communication in that instance might look like saying ‘When I was talking to you and you grabbed your phone to answer a text, it hurt my feelings because it felt like I was not as important to you as that text was.’ (Sorry if my example dialogue sounds cheesy!) Can you see the difference. Put yourself on the receiving end of these two comments. Which would you be more apt to really listen to and empathize with? One sounds more like an attack while the other sounds more like a plea for relationship restoration. One is ambiguous and disrespectful while the other is very precise (this is what happened- the facts- this is how I felt). Obviously your situation is not about a phone, but the format usually follows something like this:

      I felt x, when you did y. (Order up to you)

      Also, don’t forget to ask about their experience. You have zero clue what went on for them, that they might have been really looking forward to you guys’ presence at that bible study and when you weren’t able to go, they were let down as well. Just keep an open mind that is ready to empathize with their emotions too.

      Bottom-line: grace. Be mindful that they have needs as well. One of theirs may have been crossed in the situation too. Keep in mind that your husband might need to apologize too (and he probably ought to, because ‘I’m sorry, forgive me’ is such a powerful phrase!!)

      I could keep writing, but I think I might have already overloaded you as is. And also, of course it is entirely your choice to take my advice or leave it; this is based on my experience with conflict resolution and also what God has spoken to me about my own heart in times of relational conflict-whether directly or through His Word.

      May God Bless your efforts and restore you and the other party involved, keeping in mind that we ALL are on the same team and serve the same God.

  38. Susan Scott on May 2, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I cannot take it anymore. I am working on an exit strategy. Our church has been in steady decline for years. We are down to eight people plus a worship team of 5 and there is zero conversation about how we can change. Anything I have suggested in the form of outreach has been rejected because “programs don’t work” The only thing I hear about is how people don’t measure up. If people leave the church it’s because “they don’t want to hear the truth.” Your points are well taken but how long do you beat a dead horse?

    • Veronica on June 18, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      This is the voice of the disappointed. It sounds like This leadership is in a slump, very down about their circumstances and feeling hopeless about their effectiveness. I’ve been there, thankfully not when our lead pastors are. It’s important to build each other up in the Lord. It sounds like you still have the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within you. Are you hearing from The Lord saying, “go here, do this, say that”? If so, obey His voice and be patient, praying for the btethren. If you join the voice of those who have criticized, you just become part of the problem, not the solution. Ask the Lord if you’re released, if so, go in love and friendship, but if not, stand and serve as an encourager and do what the Lord directs you to do.
      Trust Him Who will lead you according to His ways.

  39. Ruth Grace on April 26, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Hi, I read something recently that said ‘ answer to life is not happiness it is usefulness’
    I think this is why people who have volunteered or served before can’t really enjoy church unless they are serving. All those who are happy doing little are waiting for the time when they will be serving more if not in the church in a fuller capacity elsewhere. I think it’s fair enough that people need to feel they are fulfilling a function that goes beyond just supporting others’ ministry.? That’s how God made us.

  40. Justina Weinstein on April 15, 2017 at 6:23 am

    All of these points were absolutely beautifully articulated. #3 is really what I’d been struggling with, but #7 is the answer to #3 and more. Thank you for sharing!

  41. Thulani M Matshazi on March 10, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Very insightful article. Thank you for sharing.

  42. Faith Bogdan on February 28, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I found this article by googling “Christians hate to serve.” I am a pastor who is currently exploring the possibility of hiring nursery staff from the outside world. If I ever quit the pastorate, not only will I keep attending church, I hope to God I will find the small, under-served church with a great outward vision and walk in with my sleeves rolled up and say, “Put me to work where the ‘mature saints’ don’t want to work.” That will likely be in the nursery. And I know I will be allowing those who truly want to serve–the new converts–to stay in the service where they need to be and hear the sermons. There’d be no need for blogs like this one if we knew who we were in Christ, truly lived the gospel, understood the purpose of church. Sorry for the cynical tone; I’m going to go pray now.

    • Winnie on July 7, 2017 at 4:05 am

      I recently asked a church organization if I could volunteer in an area where I noticed that they are struggling yet I am very skilled at it. They never got back to me but I overhead comments flying around, something like ‘What makes her think she’s the only one who can do it?’. It hurt, moreso that they did not have the courage to say NO to my face but instead chose to talk behind my back. Something similar happened a while ago. It is frustrating. I have been in ministry for a long time and we moved from Africa recently. I found myself in churches where I am the only black person. Back home God had given me public platforms like TV, radio, and I was also contributing to national newspapers occasionally. I usually don’t tell people about my ministry background; I just ask to volunteer where I see a need. Somehow because of my skin colour it is assumed that I don’t know anything, I cannot do anything, and I have reached a point where I now just act as dumb as people expect me to be. I’m now looking into doing ministry OUTSIDE the church, reaching out to the African refugees in the town. Clearly, I’m not so welcome in the white church and neither are my gifts.

      • Bobbi on August 8, 2017 at 9:04 am

        I have no words of wisdom nor useful insight but I am sorry you’re being treated that way. I pray you find a niche for your gifts and a church home where you feel welcomed. I will pray for you!

  43. Peter Tefft on February 15, 2017 at 12:55 am

    I am amazed at all the comments about problems in the church. It just shouldn’t be that way. If you are a Pastor then act like one and do what God has instructed you to do. You can not be a Pastor and be distant to those who God has given you. Just a simple conversation once in awhile with others is enough to garner all the support you need as a Pastor. Continue to be distant from some members and you will in no way encourage them to be part of your ministry and serve the Church and God. My one advice to Pastors is to make sure you come out of your inner circle of friends and be with other people who need you as much as your circle does. If you think this is not a real big problem then I hope and pray the best for your ministry. I love my Pastor and I support him 100%, I encourage him and I gift him and his family when I can but he is very distant from me and only talks to those whom he likes or at least that is what seems to be. Most church members don’t need the Pastor to be a friend or even a close friend. I have been attending my church for more than year now and I don’t need a hand to count how many times he has made any attempt at a decent conversation with me. I refuse to leave the church I love, will not cause any strife or gossip and I will support him with all that I can do, but it hurts a lot.

    • Hugh Mcclenaghan on April 23, 2017 at 1:05 am

      My thoughts exactly, I love my church, my pastor, who is so real, and the people of the church but I find that he/they are always so busy and hard to get a conversation out of, this I can understand as they take so much time preparing a message but if the needs of the newly converted aren’t addressed they can become very lonely nearly to a point that they struggle with the will of God. As I said I love my church, I love my God but we all need purpose and direction. It’s great to be rich in God but if you struggle to share it then we start to think what’s the purpose, I know that I am for heaven some day but struggle with the fact I can’t get the message across to family and friends and it just seems that the closer I get to God the bigger the distance I put between me and them, this is my greatest worry, I pray to God for help but we all need fellowship in the church to share our worries to resolve them, please pastors, step up and be part of your people. Listen to them before leading them. God bless you all for taking time to understand my text.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on April 23, 2017 at 4:36 am

        Hey Hugh..small groups can really help with connection. Once a church passes 100 in attendance, you need to move to a care system that isn’t reliant on the pastor.

    • AnnaET on April 25, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      If you’ve ever been involved in a church who:
      1/ the only time the leadership talk to you is to ask you to lead/serve (consequently most people are serving because of this method and it begins to feel like the only reason anyone talks to you is to get something out of you)
      2/ you then lead/serve (because you feel a genuine desire to help)
      3/ you then several years later burn out (outside circumstances)
      4/ you tell the church you need a break as you’ve become depressed, burnt out and anxious
      4/ none of those leaders (pastors as well as senior ministers) ever follow up on you, even when you are missing services due to the sheer weight of life, instead a year later they ask you again would you like to lead/serve…..

      That’s a problem and that’s what I take this article referring to. Leaders who have well and truly burnt out. I know this particular scenario is potentially singular, although I do know of at least 6 others from a variety of churches whom this has happened (not necessarily anxiety, but borderline depression and most certainly burn out) and they simply cannot stomach church.

      It’s 150% important to realise it is never, ever God who hurts you, it’s people, but desiring to go to church when you know the hypocrisy is difficult. When you hear of it happening to others, in other states, in other church families you begin to wonder if it is a much bigger problem. There is a strong sense of cynicism and when you hear and see those big smiling faces it’s quite difficult not to think “you clearly haven’t experienced life yet”. (I am painfully aware this is not a good attitude, but I would argue plenty of burnt out leaders have thought this)

      I would say to those who don’t recognise these “9 reasons” and are saying “this would never happen to me, I know how to handle myself, I am a mature christian and would never serve with a wrong attitude, after all I am doing it for God” that just don’t think it. Don’t say it. You simply never know what life will throw at you. It is human nature to be disappointed when people don’t appreciate your efforts. That may happen to you one day, you may say “I would never handle it in the way those Christians did” but you just don’t know.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on April 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

        Those are some really good points, and that sounds like a horrible experience. I guess my question would be, is there a point at which your past no longer directs your future?

    • Sarah House on June 22, 2017 at 11:53 am

      You hit the nail on the head! I am having the same exact experience with my pastor as I serve on the leadership team at my church. I love my church and will not leave because I know the enemy wants me to flee! I do however feel like pastors that have a committed staff need to at least acknowledge their leadership on Sundays just as much as they do the members of the church. A little encouragement goes a long way!

    • Barbara on July 3, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      It seems as if you really have a problem with your pastor. First you say he is distant…then later in your post you say he should not have friends. Maybe your pastor is not friendly or does not communicate well. Have you ever thought about inviting him and his family to your home for just a friendly visit? Maybe things has happened in former churches that grieved him greatly. There are no perfect pastors…we all struggle to exist in this world. Pastors and their wives and children carry a heavy burden. Pray for him.

      • Sarah Jagenberg on April 12, 2018 at 8:20 pm

        Barbara you are wrong. Most pastors are distant and arrogant. It is their JOB to lead the sheep, That means caring for, communicating and appreciating all those who attend and or serve. Why do you call it a heavy burden? When you are truly operating in the truth and in love WITH HUMILITY, it is never a heavy burden to serve God, and ESPECIALLY to ” feed the sheep”. These attention seeking people who call themselves pastors are a shame to true Christianity. I think about all the churches I have attended and served, and I just want to vomit. The leadership is almost always deplorable and lacking in love. I’m not saying all are this way, but it is definitely the majority.

  44. Lindsay Tamblyn on February 8, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Carey, you make some very good and honest insights in your article. As a pastor fresh out of leading a church I have to say it feels very weird not to be leading anything at the moment. We still love the church despite its imperfections. My wife and I acknowledge we are called to ministry, but at this point very broken and in need of TLC. We feel displaced but not discarded and fully expect to serve and function in our calling once we come through this season. For now it’s about seeking God and finding him for ourselves again. It is unsettling after 20 years of pouring our hearts into people and it seems like we now need to find a whole new purpose. Perhaps other ex-leaders feel similarly too.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 10, 2017 at 6:52 am

      Lindsay…thanks for this. You’ve served so well and it’s really strange when you’re not! I stopped being the lead pastor 18 months ago and it still feels strange some days. But the point is the call on your life lasts as long as you live. I really appreciate your comment and the thoughtful way you wrote it. Said a prayer for you, and I trust your new place will become evident soon. Thanks for your great heart and faithfulness to Christ’s church!

    • BR Stokes on April 22, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      I’m a retired from the Pastorate two years ago. Retirement means you take it down a notch and are not busy every waking moment. Plus, I have always had a personal ministry that I am presently recalibrating to be a teaching ministry and plan to go teach at churches and various Christian venues locally and nationwide. So I am looking for a new church home in my neighborhood. A place to pay my tithes, have a Pastor, church home and family, and be acknowledged as a member of the Church’s ministry team that assists the Pastor as needed, no particular title or assignment but being an “affiliate or associate minister” there. Do you think this scenario is realistic and would be acceptable to a Pastor?

  45. Shelli Fitzpatrick on January 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Seems to me if a church was more about preaching and studying the word of God and less about how to do and grow church the Holy Spirit would see to the details. I read a lot about programs and formulas and I am left wondering when did humanistic psychology replace being led by the Holy Ghost?

  46. William R. Floyd on January 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    The very spirit/nature displayed by the institutional section of Christendom is completely foreign to the Spirit/nature of God. It’s more of a danger than a useful tool. At best, it’s like bunch of middle schoolers trying to teach elementary kids how to graduate from college. There’s a growing number of believers recognizing this and leaving the systems in order to follow The Lord. This article is very unbalanced.

  47. Jimmie Riley on January 4, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    The congregation was growing numerically and spiritually. There were the normal obstacles and challenges any pastor faces but my long-term goals were coming to fruition. God was doing so much–but after four years I was forced to resign. My wife had become depressed and suicidal after the constant pressures of the elder women and traditionalism of the long standing members. During the four years we were there my wife faced quite a bit of difficulty and judgement and looking back I’ve learned I was not her advocate as I should’ve been. At this time we are not regularly attending a church. I would love it but my wife is still on the mend. I say all of this simply because not all people have decided to ignore church for selfish reasons. I pray we will be able to attend church together regularly again and I would love to pastor a church again. For now I’m taking this time to grow, reflect, and help my wife mend.

    • robin on May 13, 2017 at 5:55 am

      God knows your heart and our families are a very important ministry. I commend you for loving your wife as Christ loves His church. There is a season for everything and this is a time of rebuilding and mending. There is a lot of great things that happen in a mending season. As you know he works all things for good and this is making you more like Christ which is His ultimate goal.

      • Barbara on July 3, 2017 at 12:27 pm

        There may be season for everything…but there is not a season for anyone to be unchristian to a pastor’s wife, or any other Christian..This happens in many churches today. And that is exactly the reason most churches are closing today. Not enough genuine Christian love for one another. Too much criticism, judging, and jealousy among the members. And I might add unforgiveness!

  48. William Hartley on November 24, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Sad to see that all 9 points are negative. One big one is that, when one is gifted with leadership gifts, it’s hard to not see them being used. Like Lumiere says in Beauty and the Beast, “life is so unnerving for a servant who’s not serving.” I fear an article like this might serve to shame gifted liters into not leaving again, even though that’s what they’ve been wired and gifted to do.

    • Susan L Prince on May 21, 2017 at 8:11 am

      This! This is a very good point!

      A servant not serving, or being allowed to serve the way s/he is gifted is grievous and causes that person to shrink over time. It also causes a person to begin to doubt their value and worth which never leads to anything productive.

  49. Aaron Fuller on November 24, 2016 at 7:27 am

    As someone who loves their faith tradition’s distinct form of worship, it is hard to be a member of the community of faith because every time I do, I have to listen to how my colleagues are either not doing a good job or asking me what my future plans are in terms
    of what church I intend to serve next. While for the most part I can politely deflect, it makes it very hard to join the community and to worship.

    I suppose I could just go to any church, and I have, but I find myself missing important elements that help connect me to God and feed me spiritually. As hard as I try, non-liturgical churches don’t work for me, and I think that’s ok to say. I just hate having to choose between worshipping outside of what is meaningful for me, or lying about the fact I am a pastor.

    • Jeremy on January 11, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Spot on noting the blessings of liturgical worship. Nonliturgical leaves me feeling hungry.

      Could you be on “sabbatical” rather than being tempted to lie about being a pastor? Or possibly go to a different liturgical denomination?

    • Mark Jones on March 26, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      I am also deflecting the comments and questions. “So, what’s next.” My answer is really, “I don’t even know why I am here TODAY!” -and all the while knowing that I had to force myself to do that much. I have sat out a few weeks and that is not the answer because I also know that the postives the local church offer out-weigh the problems. Here is something I found in my inner discussion of where to attend now and trusting the Holy Spirit to use me where ever I can be used: I was disappointed with the search because the search had become about me and the things I felt the church should be and not embracing it for what it is with grace shown towards its imperfections much like Jesus and our own lives. You said the one thing I found was my problem in your comments. “Worship outside what is meaningful for ME”- who then are you worshiping if that’s who you’re looking to make it meaningful for? That’s exactly what I was doing. Looking for it to have a meaning for me and when I could be in community with others that at least recognized if anything Church was never about it being worshiping, teaching about, serving or evangelizing for ME. Praying for you and all the hurt pastors here that I am so crushed have to feel the way we do- but it was for Him that we did it to begin with wasn’t it?

  50. ServantHeart2012 on November 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    I made the mistake of believing I was being hired by the local church I attend for my skills, abilities, and willingness to “support the mission.” To the contrary, I was reluctantly hired because the person in charge of my department thought I would be a good fit. I am retired from a 33 year career (not in ministry) and was old enough to have fathered nearly every other person on staff! What I found out is that I was resented by many simply because of my age. They felt I was “watching” them and waiting for an opportunity to “share wisdom” with them. (to put it nicely) That assumption was completely without merit but it didn’t matter. They simply wanted to do ministry their way and didn’t want a “parent figure” around to “oversee” their activities and offer criticism as had been their experience growing up in church. They wanted full independence and autonomy to do new things. I wanted that for them! They were and are to this day doing an incredible job in their ministries!
    I should have heeded the “red flags” during the hiring process. The delays. The rescheduled interviews. Being told to report to work on a certain day, but not being asked to complete required documents or being added to the payroll until much later should have all signaled trouble . . . and they did. But I reassured myself; “Everything’s fine.”
    Long story short, I stayed on for 8 weeks and quit without giving notice after several “passive aggressive” incidents made it clear I was not just in the wrong seat on the bus . . . I was on the wrong bus! I stayed away for about a month while watching services online in order to keep receiving the messages. After much prayer and reflection I returned to continue to serve as a volunteer and to worship.
    When I was a kid I fell off my bicycle . . . more than once. It hurt. I have a visible scar from one particular crash. I always got back on my bike after a fall. My experience being “on staff” at my church hurt too. It left an IN-visible scar on my heart. But just as God healed my surface wound from falling off my bike, He is healing the “wounded heart” I experienced when people assumed I was the enemy and treated me as such.
    Nearly two years later I still attend the same church. Admittedly, it isn’t the same as it was before but I intend to worship there until my time on earth is through.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 23, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      This is one of the most encouraging, humble notes I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks for not giving up, despite some shoddy treatment by the team. Remarkable…really!

    • robin on May 13, 2017 at 6:04 am

      Very encouraging! This is how we need to approach the local church. You decided to grow through this instead of getting bitter and moving some place to never be known. That shows a spiritual maturity that I pray is taught to others. I have read several articles about how millennials really want to connect with a more mature generation in the church. We need every generation in the body of Christ to show the fullness of of God in His wisdom, maturity as well as fresh perspectives. It is a blessing that you have such grace on those who did not treat you correctly. The Lord blesses the humble.

    • Vicki Heidorn on June 5, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Well lived, well said. Thanks for sharing. Humbling.

  51. Ronnie Lee Murrill on November 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    The unfortunate thing that I see is that churches often do not value the resources to be found in experienced leaders and assimilate them and their abilities into different forms of volunteers service. I attend regularly and quite honestly do not have any contact with anyone in the church unless I initiate it myself. I attend a church that has about 3700 in attendance with multiple services and is really a great church, but they lack an awareness that people need more contact than a packet of tithing envelopes in the mail each month. When I read articles like this, I see that much of the responsibility for this conundrum is placed squarely on the former pastor, staff, volunteer; but where is the responsibility of the church to engage people in ways to create a welcome place for those who may be weary or just retired, I have remarked that we have arrived at the time of the self-serve church and many people fall through the cracks because they just don’t understand that if you don’t make the effort to connect yourself, you may drive away disillusioned.

  52. MakingaDifference on September 21, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Having worked here on staff, it is a mess. What I am having a hard time with is the spending that is going to worship services and expensive equipment and less to ministering to the needed. Too much wasteful spend and not enough focus on the simple things and the business elements of the organization.

    • Barbara on July 3, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      I find that many pastors are starting Bible studies in their homes for those who really want the word preached and taught. And not with the idea to build another church…just to study the word! Of course they may need a secular job or be retired for their income…But sure beats always putting out fires! There are people out there in the world that would love to attend Bible Studies and to be near real sincere Christians who really care.

  53. Vernon Choin on August 29, 2016 at 4:03 am

    I think a lot of people can relate to this topic… There are a lot of other topics that converge with this.
    My own experience with trying to become involved in service is… I’ve experienced the “Who will go?”, being called and answered ‘Here am I, send me!”
    And in stepping forward found the church that I was involved in said, ” No, We don’t need you.” or just as bad… “We don’t see how we can use your talents.”
    The problem I’ve believe is that of not disavowing my past. I’ve always told people that God called me to Him through the Assembly of God Church. I’ve had the experience of “Speaking in other Tongues.” even though that was a long time ago… and I don’t feel moved now to speak in that fashion. I believe it may have been God’s means of getting my attention at the time. Since I wasn’t listening to anyone at the time. I’ve found that I am immediately suspect once they learn of my experience, instead of looking at my life and what God has done to me in bringing me closer to Him.
    Do we place to much emphasis on having our “club dues” being paid up… Does every one’s experience have to match our own? We have a lot of people who would like to be active in Church a lot of areas who may not be able to tithe fully because of their financial position or mistakes they’ve made managing money.
    Sometimes, doesn’t it seem that we do a lousy job of helping people find themselves, and places to serve because of our lack of vision and lack of yielding to the Spirit? Do we make a mistake when we insist on “Doctrinal” purity, as in Denominationalism.. rather than the Spiritual Essentials that our Doctrines are based upon?

  54. Pam on August 21, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Nikki, I am so sorry for your pain. You have suffered a tremendous loss and are probably experiencing a lot of grief. I am not an expert on grief, but I know that people need to go through the stages of grief before they can recover.

    I have been thinking lately about how the church serves their own. I don’t have a solution – just thoughts and questions.

    I have many wonderful people in my life who serve me well. For example, when I go to my doctor, dentist, chiropractor, fitness instructor, or hairdresser, they all seem genuinely glad to see me and want to help me. They know me well and even often ask about my family. They want to help me get well, have good teeth, have less back pain, and get fit. Some even reach out to me when I am absent for a while. If they did not serve me well, I would not return as a customer, client, or patient. This system works very well.

    Church doesn’t work this way. I pay my church no matter what. I sincerely don’t know what to reasonably expect from the church staff if I have a need. I have been reading on the Internet how members who need help from the church are takers and not givers. I don’t know what to make of this. Many people give their time and money to a church – something goes very wrong in their life, and then they need help. When they don’t get the help they need it doesn’t seem right to me. This system is broken, right? You were a giver for eight years, and then you needed some help. The help you needed seems reasonable.

    I feel sad for your loss. I hope someone with real answers for you will give you some advice. There is a guy that blogs about grief but I can’t think of his name. I will try and look for him when I have time and post his name for you.

  55. Nikki Morrow on August 7, 2016 at 11:12 am

    My husband and I have attended and served in our local church for 7+years. We were highly dedicated to children’s ministry. We taught and learned from ages k-3rd grade. Our church is southern Baptist but non traditional. I thought very highly of the preacher. Where it all turned around was when my sisters fiance had a terrible motorcycle accident. He was in icu unconscious for 2 weeks. The doctors said that he would probably never wake up and if he did he would never be the same. He has a 5 year old daughter. That was crushed and cried every single day for her daddy. Prior to his wreck on Easter Sunday he attended our church. Which is a huge deal because he had really hard bad feelings against God and the church. That day he went to the front broken and crying. And was believed to be lead in the salvation pray with the pastors dad. He contuined to come to church for a few weeks and then the awful wreck happened. He thought the world of the preacher and so did his parents because they seen such a changel in him. Well I called the preacher and ask him to please come pray over him and the family. The family was broken and kept asking about the pastor to come. He came once and visiting hours were over in the icu unit. He said he would be back down the next day. Well the pastorsame wife had broken her arm. Understandable we did not expect him to come back for a while. He texted a few times asking how he was. But that was it. He was in the hospital for 3 months he woke up after the 2nd week. But could not walk or talk or move the right side of his body. Long story short he made a recovery and his home now with constant care from his parents. We have yet to hear from the pastor. I’m so hurt that the pastor wasn’t there for him and the family. We had attended and served in that church for almost 8 years. We never ask for anything. We always volunteered for any event. I’m just torn and broken from the response of the church. I don’t know how to get over this. We tried attending 2 churches after that but it never felt like home. Now I am at a point that I don’t ever want to be a part of the church. My husband wants to go to church. I feel like I can worship God on my own and spread his love to others outside the church. Please help I do not want this to come in between my husband and I. Thank
    you for reading this

    • Mackenzie on January 9, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      I am saddened that your pastor failed to be there. But remember he is human and allowed to fail. I pray you find the grace to forgive him, or you’ll never heal. There could be a number of good reasons why he didn’t come, or there could be no good reason at all. We have to remember that even though they are our pastors doesn’t mean they should be held at a higher standard of living or faith. We are all on this earth and all equal in the eyes of God.

      Don’t forgive some to excuse their behavior but to prevent their behavior from destroying your heart… You see satan is using this whole thing to bring you away from God. Is taking a tole on your faith, your grace, and possibly your marriage?

      Talk to the pastor, let him know how you feel. Forgive him, and move on. Him and the church knowing how it hurt you and your family will help them be aware to know they need to do it better next time. Don’t stay at that church if you don’t feel like being there anymore but keep looking. You Tried 2 churches but they’re are plenty more. Community is important in our faith. God didn’t call us to worship in our homes by ourself and go out and do good alone. He called us to come together with one another, make disciples…

      I’m praying for you. I know you posted 5 months ago, I hope all is well. God bless!

  56. Asret Enoria on July 20, 2016 at 6:53 am

    What if you’re unjustly fired as the result of gossip and manipulation in a smaller community that has destroyed your ministry and resulted in a church split? What if you cannot just move away because you had to get a job to pay the bills and are stuck in the that area until you find a way to relocate to whereversville?
    And what if people who participated in your demise are scattered among remaining Biblical churches in the area, as are the people who were friends and were hurt by the goings on but they want to talk about it and all it does to help them is eat away at your soul to you keep a distance so have no where to go to church that is safe and fresh?
    And what if part of your parting contract was a muzzle from sharing openly?
    And what if every time you make the long drive and attend some kind of decent church out of town your stomach literally feels afire with despair and loss, you can barely keep from bawling your eyes out or wanting to scream obscenities with frustration?
    And what if, sitting in those services, a weird clarity that our church culture has fallen into performance, programming, politics and sales instead of being about God, relationships and obedience take you over and you feel hopeless?
    So then what if you know you need to get back at it but you can’t go back to doing church in that way?
    And what if the idea of telling your neighbour about Jesus without a church to commend to them leave you adrift?
    And what if getting to know someone new overwhelms you anyhow because the getting to know you bit is just to complicated to answer or to be a good testimony would nearly require you to lie or keep them at arm’s length anyhow?
    And what if others you try to talk to get help because you know you’re damaged either drag you down into their own embitterment or give you canned, pithy answers or want to charge you a fee you can’t afford?
    What if your heart is broken because your once on fire for Jesus daughter is now finding her unsaved friends safer to share with than other Christians, plus sees her parents flounder, so has put church and Christian community aside?
    What if????

    • steve naum on August 12, 2016 at 5:36 am

      I’ve been there and as much as the personal pain hurts it is even more heartbreaking to watch those you love struggle because of things that happen within a church.

      It was a process but things got better when I chose to forgive those that hurt me and my family. Every day, whether I felt like it or not I would say “I forgive _____” and say that persons name. There were several to forgive. I would ask the Lord to help me let go of the pain and confess that I trusted him in this. I am simplifying this..it was heart wrenching.

      After some time, when my emotions were less raw and God was working on me, I contacted each person and apologized and asked for forgiveness for any part I played in the situation. THAT was freeing! I only received one response from that group but I was okay with it.

      I prayed a lot but definitely not perfectly. God felt distant but I told Him I trusted Him and asked Him to help me with my faith.

      We took a couple of months off from going to church, which I wasn’t hot in the idea, but respected my wife’s emotions. God led us to a church which isn’t perfect but I know that the Lord’s bride is His church and if He loves people in that church, including me,who let Him down regularly, then I need to love those people as well.

      I’m not 100% recovered from the pain and I don’t expect the pain to go away but I choose to trust the Lord and His goodness and I told Him that I WILL follow Him. So I exercised my will to trump my thoughts and emotions.

      He shows that He is always faithful and I hope your pain is used by Him to make you more complete and that you are able to glorify Him more than you would have if you hadn’t been hurt.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on August 13, 2016 at 7:51 am

        Steve…wow. This is perhaps the healthiest response I’ve seen around this issue. Good for you for owning whatever part you played, praying through it, looking inward and upward rather than just outward to stay angry at others. And thanks for doing the tough work of forgiveness, which I’m sure was needed all around. This is really amazing…And I’m sure you (and the church) are so much better for it. Thanks for sharing this!

      • FedUp on April 3, 2017 at 1:13 am

        But, when you set about to forgive and you realize that the same situation and sentiments exist–not in one person, but in the WHOLE SYSTEM.
        As I wrote in my Prayer Journal—“It’s not the “DOING” (forgiving), Lord. I’m truly not angry at a single person. It’s the “WHO–ING” WHO do I forgive? Because You and I both know the problem would have been the same no matter which church (my denomination) I attend.–Because it’s not a single problem, it’s a systemic problem. He was able to start a NEW church, walk away from the stale, jaded and judging Pharisaical temple. I don’t have that power, authority or privilege. My doctrines are based on the Bible–I can’t just toss it and go “anywhere.”

        After 15 years of every time I walked through the doors (and I held the key and walked through a LOT) having to listen to the snide comments, the willful ignorance (by this I mean, they did not know what they were talking about, yet they refused to just “Come and See” and find the Truth, for themselves.) Feeling worse when I left, than when I came— It finally dawned on me, if I just stopped walking through the doors—-I wouldn’t have to hear it any more. I wouldn’t have to deal with rigid, closed minds, and I wouldn’t have to have my heart BREAK for what COULD have been; SHOULD have been! To see so much potential and promise just tossed to the wind. Why would we stand in our own way?

        • steve naum on May 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm

          I’m sorry that has been your experience and I have to admit that it is similar to mine.
          The tough thing was to lookin the mirror and realize that I was a part of the issue.
          The beauty of the Lord’s love for us (His church) is that He is committed to work out His plan and establish His kingdom through the imperfect people that make up His church. He is longsuffering with you, me, and the other guy that drives us nuts.
          Another revelation, is that all people will disappoint someone. I’ll dissapoint you and you’ll dissapoint met. That means the “jerks” at church will do so also. I’ve lowered my expectations and it keeps my internal attitudinal barometer on the right track.
          The last thing that I’ve come to realize is that when we think someone is doing the Christian life “wrong” it reveals the pride in my heart. When I am upset about the other guys self righteousness it probably means I have some of that running inside of me.

          Love God, Love people. Otherwise you’re going to end up a lonely, angry, and bitter person who doesn’t mature in Christ. It’s difficult to grow when you don’t have other Christians around you, whether they are “good” or “bad” Christians.

          I wish you the best!

    • Nick on August 22, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      I am there – Jesus.

      …a deep anger welled up within him…”Master, come and see”, they said. Now Jesus wept.
      ‭‭John‬ ‭11:34-35‬ ‭MSG‬‬

      I too am in this place. Very similar – whole family set adrift by institutional religion. A PK myself with decades of active service, going low and dying to self the whole way whilst trying to work this programmatic evangelicalistic toxic culture.

      No pat replies from me. There is a very real case for justified holy discontent.

      One of the prime sources of this b#%s&@t are the bible colleges that continue to send out wave after wave of nieve formulaic immature graduates. Drunk with conferences and the in-house trappings of the industrial ministry complex. Happy shiny shallow.

      Here’s an idea, stop. Stop writing. Stop your book deals. Stop your platform building. Stop your building funds. Stop blogging. Stop doing what you’re doing. Put down the mike and just shut up. Stop thinking the church needs a building. We have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within us, in a temple not made with human hands! That’s our sanctuary. That’s the genius of the gospel.

      How did we get here?! £130 billion pounds spent on maintaining Church of England property alone. That’s just one of the problems.

      It’s not how it was meant to be people and you know it.

  57. Ryan on July 7, 2016 at 7:39 am

    I have grown frustrated with church leadership because most don’t really want to fix anything. Getting things done involves honest, open discussion, hard work and making some tough choices. I have found many church leaders use the church as a place to hide and use phrases like “the Holy Spirit will guide us” so they have no accountability. Most church leaders can’t even tell you what their goals are for the next 1, 2 5 years. Church is messy typically because the leadership is a train wreck and they have no idea what leadership really is. There is no leadership development.

    You have ministry volunteers who are leaders by title but shouldn’t really be allowed to lead anything. Not because they are bad people but because they are not leaders. In a church there are too many feelings. Just because you want to lead a small group does not mean you should. Your gift of facilitation may be terrible but most churches allow it and then wonder why nobody shows up. If you dare mention that they are not a good facilitator you get the song and dance of how they are serving God. Again, not dealing with the real issue.

    Number 5 on the list is comical to ,me because their are many smarter individuals within a church that could help but its never taken advantage of. Church leaders don’t want people smarter than them. It exposes their lack of leadership. If church leaders would realize that members are smarter and have been more successful maybe they could put away their stubborn pride and learn a thing or to. But just like this article shows, its the members fault the members should just stop it. After all church leaders know everything there is to know, right?

  58. Renata Tweedy on June 7, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    While I’m sure I could identify on some level with each of the 9 reasons you cited if I took the time to self-examine, at the forefront of my experience were 2 others:
    1. Mourning your old church
    2. It’s surprisingly hella hard to make connections in a church you’re not the pastor of! (Unlike when you arrive as the new pastor and everyone is quick to connect and help you integrate)

    My husband and I left our church because they could no longer afford to keep a second staff member and so we moved out of the area. But I LOVED our church family, and for a long time going to other churches just made me feel sad and lonely. And not just because I missed my friends, but because it takes time to cultivate new relationships.

    I tried out our local Wesleyan Church for awhile, thinking it would be the easiest place to make connections and that I’d be able to get involved (for the purpose of growing those connections) quickly because the staff knew me. But not so, unfortunately. I don’t know whether churches don’t bother “courting” new people who should be able to connect themselves (since they were once in charge of “courting” others) as a rule, or whether that was just a solitary experience. All I know is that I tried as best I could, in my state of mourning for my old church family, to make a new start, and when I just got too tired and decided to take a break, no one (despite being FB friends with the leadership team) ever followed up.

    Then I took a longer break (a year). I stopped being in mourning, having found ways to keep connected with the people from my old church who I was closest to. I made connections in my new community that were not church connections. And eventually I figured I’d try again.

    I visited every church my GPS found for me, at least once. No one besides a greeter greeted me. No one sat with me. No one (not even ONCE!) even sat in my row! And whatever else could have kept me from coming back (style, structure, quality, environment, theology), it was that feeling of not knowing how to make that FIRST connection, to get my foot in the door, that did it, every time.

    Eventually, my first connection (to a church my GPS had failed to find and I didn’t know existed) happened in a coffee shop, when I happened to strike up a conversation with a young gal who turned out to be a pastor and like me was using the coffee shop as a second office (for the air conditioning). While we spoke, I was Googling her church.

    Honestly, there was nothing about the church that would have appealed to me as a “consumer”. But she was nice, and after my failing #churchsearch, nice was all I needed. And so I figured I’d check it out a few weeks later.

    I was greeted warmly and genuinely multiple times by multiple people, with words, shoulder pats, and a welcoming hug or two. Someone sat in my row and engaged me in conversation after the service. And the pastor I had met – who remembered my name – embraced me and introduced me to people.

    The church isn’t anything special, and really sucks in a lot of ways that most church do. I know there’s stuff going on under the surface that I’m SO GLAD isn’t my responsibility. But I’m thankful to have found a place where connecting seems possible. While Sunday services hold little appeal (they never really did for me before, either), I’m finding some COMMUNITY, and that’s why – though I don’t attend every week – I’m happy to say I’ve found a new church home.

    • Allan Spragg on July 3, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thank you for your story. My wife and I are in the same situation. Laid off two churches in the area for the same financial reasons. Couldn’t afford to keep us. We made many good relationships that we attempt to keep up but the thought of going to another church right now is difficult. Still love the Church, love God, keep up on devotions but church, well, that is just not happening. I relate to your mourning comment. This is just a short note but thanks for your openness and honesty. There are many people (staff included) that do not attend church and often it is not for the the reasons of identity, stubbornness or bitterness. It never occurred to me that I was mourning but I believe this is exactly what is happening. To have it occur twice in the same basic area only makes it more poignant and a real blow to my heart. Blessings, keep us in your prayers if you think of it. Allan and Karen – Ontario, Canada

  59. chris burris on May 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

    First as pastor or former one I’ve seen the ugly of church, the unrealistic expectations that congregations place on you especially if you serve as a bivocational or tent making pastor. Your family gets your leftovers because you work 40 hours a week at a regular secular job and another 40 at the church or more. Balance cannot happen and yes your spiritual life does tank some. However for the most part congregations have this idea that church should be a one man or woman travelling pony show. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. By the way in this instant burger king society we created people want instant results. That is because we live in the last days. It literally is the days of Noah. So putting all of these aspects together it creates a storm of great proportion. Consider as well as a Southern Baptist the average congregation wants to change pastors every two years. Again this puts your family in great distress. Full-time ministry positions are not the norm.

  60. Debbie Fulthorp on May 13, 2016 at 7:22 am

    I find it hard to attend church as a former female lead pastor not because of these reasons, but because I have tried to get involved, but there are little to no places for me to serve where I feel my strengths might lie. Give me a small group, let me disciple them, let me teach a Sunday school or a Bible study. Encourage me to be a greeter. Where can I fit in? I feel like a square peg in a round hole. I also have chosen and been called to ministry as a vocation. That can be problematic when I have a family to feed and people aren’t open to hiring a woman in church leadership. So is it difficult for me to attend church as a former lead pastor? yes. I see so many areas that I could help in. At the same time, I am in a transitional place, so I don’t know how much I can get involved, but I still long to be involved. I try to fit in where I can – even if it is in the nursery for the time being.

  61. Anonmusic on March 30, 2016 at 1:56 am

    As a former worship leader, I’ve found that my God given talents are more useful for His kingdom outside of the “church”. I was part of a fairly large church with thousands of members and never got a single word of encouragement. All I ever received was criticism and not in a constructive way. The sins of my past were always brought up as if Jesus never transformed me, while the people pointing the finger were living lives consumed by sin. I’m not saying I’m perfect or sinless, none of us are, but I had come a long way from the life I had been living through Christ. It got to the point that rumors were being made up by people who I thought were my friends. Not only were they making up lies about me, but about some of my mentors as well. They discredited everything that the Lord had used us for and in a matter of weeks had basically ruined our reputations. The treatment of the congregation was bad but a strong character could overcome. What drove me over the edge was learning how the church operated behind closed doors and had done everything illegally. All the permits, all the codes, everything, had been done the wrong way. Everything soon became about money and every message was about tithing and offerings of more and more. It was disgusting. Meanwhile my non Christian friends are the nicest people I have ever met. Homosexuals, atheist, and every other person that the church denies, treated me like family. I felt loved. I never felt anything except for condemnation, jealousy, and hate from my church family. I know not all churches are the same but it seems like every person I know that leaves a church has the same to say about their church. I’m tired of man ruining what God wanted church to be. He wanted a community of believers and instead we have groups of people who judge, hate, and backstab anyone to get their way. I see my community as church and I spread love one person at a time. I think the four walls of church should be broken down. It has become corrupt like the Jewish temples that Jesus destroyed

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 30, 2016 at 3:50 am

      Thanks for sharing this, and I just want to say I am so so sorry. I wish what you said isn’t true, but as you painfully experienced, it is. I agree that this kind of leadership grieves the very heart of God. I pray for the day churches reflect the heart and ethics of Jesus…and in whatever small way I can, am working toward that day in this space and in my local church. God bless you.

  62. Den' on February 24, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    For me, I just grew weary of not being important to church people unless a guitar was in my hands! The most recent church a served at gave me a huge, unpalatable dose of this kind of medicine recently! In the same seven day period, I buried my mother, my nephew, and my home was burglarized, all just before Christmas! When my mom passed away, the pastor was on vacation. After I got in touch with my brother to let him know what happened, THE NEXT PERSON I CONTACTED WAS MY PASTOR! Again, he and his wife were on vacation, and he had apparently promised her that he would ignore his phone. So, he saw my message when it came in, but “…couldn’t respond to it.” There was absolutely NO follow-up Pastoral Care from this church to my family! Not a flower, card, or phone call! This isn’t the first church to treat me that way. I’m not only a church musician, I am a professional musician, but sadly, if my guitar could play itself, I feel like the average church person wouldn’t even care that there is no human being playing the instrument!
    I served at one church for a long time for free. When the topic of compensating me even a small amount was raised, their leaders encouraged me to look elsewhere! I did, and it didn’t take long to find something! The former church got mad at me when I left! I ran into one of their members months later, and he said to me, “Brother, we sure do miss that guitar!” I thanked him, while thinking to myself, “Yeah. I’ll be sure to let my guitar know how much she is missed!” The majority of people love my talent, but they do not love ME! That’s only part why I’ve stopped playing for churches. It would takes more time than I have to type (and you to read) for me to list all of my reasons!

    • Den' on February 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      To add to my comment,; Folks, if I am your pastor, and I get a callthat your parent just died, I don’t care WHAT I promised my wife! I’m going to go to her and break that promise, and tell her, “I need ten minutes! First I need five minutes to call our church member and offer prayer and support. Then, I need five additional minutes to inform the associate pastor of what has occurred so that he can make contact with the bereaved family in our absence. We will check on them as soon as we return home.” THAT, ladies and gents, is what a PASTOR is supposed to do!

    • James Smith on September 8, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Den, I’m so sad to hear what you went through. I recently went through a similar situation where I was worship leading for a congregation and had something very traumatic happen, and didn’t receive pastoral care. My father committed a crime, and he was later incarcerated. The entire church turned its back on me, and no one (not even the pastor) will communicate with me. I eventually left the church, and was very bitter by it. I didn’t attend for almost two years. I eventually moved from the are found a church that focused on Recovery. I joined a few classes, and have discovered that I had other talents, and a bigger heart for hurt people. Today, I am actively playing keyboards again and supporting a worship leader who understands the pain I experienced. The ministry is very unconventional, but it works for me. I wouldn’t give up. God may indeed have a future plan for you.

  63. leumas2855 on January 28, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Somebody said somewhere that there is One prayer the Lord prayed that has never been answered: That they may be one.
    I’ve been at this church since 1974. (Initially I got there working in their printing press. Even then I asked myself why when people are supposed to work for the Lord leaders will go out of their way to make things harder) except 10 years, where my wife and I went to another church because of overt racial hostility by the speaker, leader of the organisations southern African Branch and brother of the organisations UK branch. We were fostering at the time and usually mixed heritage kids. Nobody stopped or challenged him. Fortunately the church now is multi ethnic.
    The other church we had gone to went down because the son of the previous pastor believed that he should be pastor (not even his mother could agree with that) and with some of his worshippers made life difficult for the pastor, who was able to attract some young people from surrounding area, teaching and encouraging them to follow the Lord, till finally he left.
    So having looked around we ended back in the first church which had changed somewhat. Over the 10 years away, the printing press having been closed, I was working self employed on the premises, continuing some print related activities. A new pastor initially from England had come from South Africa to run church and organisation. As I was in the building I was able to help him getting his head round computer and producing church mag and publications. We had a good friendship going, one of the reasons we came back to the church. This was ok till he left the co-pastor on his own to do some work along a church unity setup locally. Then the co-pastor had to return to Australasia for family reasons. The replacement “pastor” (the church had asked for a local, rather than another SA import) a friend of the one having gone to the church unity, wasn’t a pastor nor had ever been one (great shame his wife wasn’t the pastor!): Christ came Not to break the broken reed, he believed in finishing the job off and setting people against each other, (the good shepherd goes out of his way to safe the sheep, but here one got the impression he would have rather put the lost sheep out of its misery) even setting near enough youngsters up as elders and making longstanding solid elders resign. He promised roles to young people e.g. even to the point where they resigned their job as they were after the administrators job, only the administrator didn’t believe God had told her to go. This carried on for 3.5 years till he went back to Sout Africa to do administrative work. My wife had as her ministry apart from her work and not being musical at all, prayerfully put together a weekly information Powerpoint presentation and with others run the song projection from a table near the front, I had initially as deacon been asked under the pastor and co-pastor to look after IT etc and so cared for the website and introduced life services (I had freedom to do it). reasonable help being given by the sound desk to have a corner for the purpose. That all changed after a 5to1 meeting accusing me of underhand doings (some of the testing and setting up for AV I did on my way home from work (church being more or less on the way) after my late shift) That I wasn’t sharing, that I wasn’t submitting, that my wife and I and another guy (he is known for Not willing to work with anybody else and being deliberately awkward. What’s in his favour is that he is the son of a previous pastor (during the time the organisations london leader died and the initial guy from SA came) and so he will always get his way and get excuses made for bullying behaviour) were splitting the church. After that meeting everything just got ripped out, my wife had to beg for a signal to run the projection, till eventually she gave up. The guy mentioned above Had to have the projection from the back, not that helpful in a pentecostal service where sudden changes happen and you are Not able to whisper to the projectionist from the platform. I was told to hand over the web over night (nothing at all was done on the website for more than a year) The church and leadership were fed spin to justify my wifes and my treatment, preventing me, even when that pastor had left to work in my talents and giftings.
    The church went looking a while for a pastor, then the unity pastor entered the search from finder to candidate and so returned.
    Now things were quite different to before and we felt it! There used to be informative sharing, church being informed and discussed with and generally freedom in ministry given. Then my wife suddenly found herself in a 5to1 meeting where she was accused of things and attitudes that weren’t true: Not a team player, having her own agenda etc. This left her fearful to do anything, even things she was trusted before with and could get on without constant checkback.
    My wife, she was administrator and with my assistance produced local magazine, calendar, leaflets etc. When she died of cancer I continued the started issue and produced a further issue, only using church and wider Church related content. I got praise heaped how good it was and if I was willling to continue with it. Then came the quite unnecessary handcuffs: only local church related stuff to go into the mag. I asked then for the new administrator and the pastor to get content to me. Nothing happened and I did ask repeatedly, not even a contribution by the pastor or the elders or departments and of course I couldn’t produce a mag with just a few regular notices but not being able to e.g. use wider Church relevant things like Missions, Bible translations, outside testimonies or inspirations.
    Then I suddenly found in a Bible College session the pastor saying for people to give feedback how they are finding the studies to “another guy who is producing a more professional magazine” Nothing had been indicated before to me and as that guy didn’t have any real experience it turned out as a one time time wasting experience for many people who neede to help him, especially as he is unable to be taught. Even the pastor, a journalist told me how frustrating it was and I knew as I helepd too.
    So, and I am still willing and able for the mag, I bided my time seeing what would happen. Then another of the pastors friends who had gone to another church showed up intermittendly and I found out that he was going to do the mag (9 months later it’s still not happening, basically he doesn’t really know how to either (I did a music mag layout for him in the past, but rather than have it printed through me where I worked and could keep an eye on it decided to have it printed lots of miles away and when they didn’t do it right then blamed me (being in financial print at the time we used well advanced methods then, now commonplace, before the distant printer knew how to handle files properly)
    After the guy to whom I had to hand over the website over night (we were good friends and later worked complementary together) felt he needed to leave for another church over our church having women preaching. The pastor asked me create a new website. I did and asked for elements necessary and a bit of sticking head together. No help at all forthcoming.
    I found out again accidentally while in the car on the way to a resources exhibition, that he was looking at buying an expensive website package (he didn’t as I reiterated that I am working on the website and need some of the input requested before)
    Just yesterday I’m being told that a young person who I have no issues with (a sweet daughter of the awkward guy) wants to do the website, but as before, rather than working together on it (my regular work is in a young environment with 2 of my colleaggues being about half my age) almost saying let her have a go and possibly fail.
    Design ageism sited Interestingly doesn’t apply to the guy supposedly doing the mag who is exactly the same age as me.
    The bottom line and I believe it’s part of the Curch is that we ignore scriptures on unity, treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves, talking about Building Bridges and yet making each others minitry life hard within a fellowship, even to the point of feeling I go to this church who’s minister is … but I haven’t got a pastor (maybe it would help if I was more successful and leader at work, had more money etc rather than being a pleb.
    The church no longer is being really involved, just being told (maybe) what the pastor and elders clique are going to serve up. That comes a bit hard when the same people used to share in every sense of the word and you felt an integral part. Ageism positionism and division have become the norm; it is said that it is good to have a divers church and yet young and old are not encouraged to work and complement each other.

  64. Darren on January 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Because I find after 14 years of serving as a pastor/ mission pastor/ worship leader of what ended up being an abusive Christian cult that alienated me from friends family and even my own God given gifts… that most of what was and is said in church is not even based in reality. I’ve either led or participated in dozens of healthy and unhealthy churches across the planet and have honestly found… I prefer to spend my time with sinners! They have more integrity than any church leader, or church as a whole. Furthermore churches and their leaders should be the last to pipe up and rail against those who are flawed and struggling as this simply isn’t the model that Jesus set forth! Talk that me about Jesus who turned over tables in the church! Talk to me about Jesus who called people a leaders a brood of vipers… Not too much unlike the common phrase,”sons of b**ches”. Talk to me about a Jesus who made more wine at a party where the attendees were already drunk, and he made more of the good stuff! Oh and did I mention, it was because his mother requested it! Talk to me about the friend of prostitutes… That is the man so many of you claim to follow, yet would never let become a member of you precious little church… I mean really? Why would I or anyone want to participate in the charade of current Christian culture? While I seem less than impressed by church. I still value its role in its dealing of good deeds and see its monetary impact on the world and its significance in helping other parts of the world that struggle and in times of disaster… But I also see it as an opportunistic means to force feed other amazing human beings a message that if you don’t join us, we won’t help you… Jesus NEVER did this!!! Yeah, not to mention the fact that the bible, while it is a great book and one we all should read… It is embarrassingly flawed… It isn’t based on fact. It is however based in mysticism. There is some historical relevance which I’ve come to appreciate, but if you or anyone thinks it’s an absolute… Then here is where we part ways! I’m intelligent enough to know that God isn’t as impressed with these writings as we think he is… There is far too many stories throughout history that precursor, the bibles regurgitated versions of them… Like the story of Noah for example… Check Persian history first! Look it’s like this. I appreciate your wonderful effort to keep people contributing there time, and money to the local church… It helps you sell your books and prop up the system… But please be honest about it all. Uncover the motives, be apparent. Stop parading Jesus through the mud that is the current church, and let him be free to hang with sinners with honesty and integrity of spirit to be themselves… Thank you so much for your efforts, your heart, your passion and drive, also for your openness! I have no doubt you are a well intentioned man! Blessings! I will follow Jesus.

    • Jesse Yamashita on November 19, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      The story of Noah and the ark was written by Moses per the leading of the Holy Spirit. If a similar story had shaken you off from believing God’s word is faultless then thats a good way to cling to Jesus more and prove that His words are far more real and truthful than others who try to debunk Him and His words. A follower of Christ should seek out His perspective first before others

  65. Rachel Srubas on January 23, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Dear Carey. Respectfully: enough with the lists.

  66. Cory on January 23, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I was a youth pastor for 4 years. Grew the program, built teams, salvations…all the stuff that’s expected of a paid staff pastor. It was exciting for a season but I realized about 3 years ago that it was pointless. I was unhappy and depressed. I haven’t been to church since and I’ve never been happier in my life. I don’t think Jesus died so I could spend my life trying to rustle up a crowd for events at some local brick-and-mortar building where those people may or may not make en emotional response to a song or a sermon where we’ll then tally the hands raised and or ourselves on the backs. I didnt and still don’t see that anywhere in the life of Christ. So I stopped doin that and started hanging out with the “wrong” people. I share a meal, a good drink, and a meaningful conversation with folks that are down and out. Sometimes I tell them about Jesus and other times I don’t…whichever way I feel God might be nudging me to go. I’ve never felt convicted about leaving church or inviting people to church. I cannot live within the box that the local church provides and tries to squeeze people into and I’m not confident in any church that I would invite someone to one for a service or special event. I understand pastors/leaders/church folks aren’t perfect…and that’s fine. I still have close friends that serve and lead in churches and we love one another. That’s not my issue. The whole system operates differently than what I’ve read about Jesus. We have different, culturally and sociologically based rules and expectations in the church that Jesus never laid out for us. I think it’s smart what you’re saying about owning our own mess and imperfectness but I don’t think it’s possible for someone to really see Christ and really discover who they really are with the local church leading the way. I think once people no longer have guilt about attending or serving in church they can truly trust God and hear God and listen for God in their own lives. We as the church should be okay with people finding their own way because that in itself is us trusting that God can, will, and does speak to people without our help and without us counting thier raised hands after our services. But seriously, I’m still finding my way like everyone else. Just my thoughts and experience.

    • £ionheart on January 27, 2016 at 4:14 am

      I think there are few reasons why Christians lose their enthusiasm in going to church. Many churches are just stuck with programs. They forgot what their mission is. Church mission is to win soul, teach the soul for growth, train men who shall be able teach other also and send them to reach more souls as what 2 Timothy 2:1-2 taught by apostle Paul. Pastors/leaders should never neglect ministry of the word and prayer as acts 6 taught. Pastors/leaders start to become bored as soon as they neglect to study His word and stop praying. We must understand the battle is spiritual and the battle must be fought by sticking to the truth by means of deep study of His word and kneeling down our knees. This what Jesus and His disciples show us in Acts 2:41-42. Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Biblically speaking, fellowship and assembly should not to be neglected. I don’t see any reason at all why we should go out of the church.

      • Cory on January 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

        I’ve gotta be honest with you; all of that sounds extremely boring. There is not battle to be fought (Jesus won any and every battle that needed winning on the cross when he died for all of us.) Also in 2 Timothy it seems fairly clear that Paul is addressing Timothy specifically about his calling and what he is to do…I think in America we tend to read one or two scriptures and blanket the meaning to include every church person or every person that calls on Christ. If we operated like this (and globally as a church we do…albeit not every church then we’d push the uniqueness that God put in all of us right out of the picture essentially creating cookie-cutter Christians that follow the rules instead of being let by God.) Same concept in Acts 6: we’re not all pastors/church leaders and we don’t want to be. Here’s the thing though; you don’t know my story and I don’t know yours. Church may be just what you need and just where God has put you. You can’t put that box around everyone else though. There are a lot of folks that love Christ and are like him in many ways that have nothing to do with a church building or church crowd yet they are still part of his church.

        • £ionheart on January 27, 2016 at 10:16 am

          Brother wherever you may be, I would like to encourage you to press on and continue serving the Lord according to the calling He called you for. You mentioned that you were a youth pastor that is why I quoted you 2nd Tim 2. It was pretty clear really that Paul addresses it to timothy’s calling and leadership but the text speaks also of continuity of teaching the truth, keeping the fellowship etc. Men like you and me who are faithful serve as a link to this unbroken chain. I agree that Jesus already won the battle. He atoned us and freed us from guilt. He saved us. That doesnt stop there. We need to grow in grace. Grow in grace means to continue studying his doctrine, fellowshiping, breaking of the bread and prayer. These can only be done in the church. A church is not necessarily a building though. When Paul said he is a debtor to all sorts of person he only not speaks of his own but also to the church as a whole and that is universal. We can not repay God of what He has done even for a lifetime but He entrusted us (the church) the mission to win souls. You and me are debtors. We are eternally indebted to God and the more we realize how great His grace is the more we be in gratitude to Him. Try to listen to John macarthur’s preachings and you’ll be encouraged for sure. God bless you brother.

  67. Sep on January 22, 2016 at 4:18 am

    So all the reasons are because of the person who isn’t attending any longer????
    How about we be a little more honest here about what usually causes this, maybe you could add Reason #10, “they don’t see that the leaders they’ve served or serve are doing it for the right reasons”

    Just like dating or divorce you need time to go back for the right reasons.

    Sheesh-talk about throwing the first stone, I wouldn’t automatically blame the sinner.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 22, 2016 at 6:51 am

      Thanks for the comment. It’s not about blame. It’s about responsibility. Sometimes we just need to own what’s in us. I know when I do, I grow, learn and become healthier.

  68. Colin Nielsen on January 22, 2016 at 12:23 am

    I guess the real question is why are you serving? Is it for you, or God? I think every person who serves in any capacity whatsoever must be just as comfortable cleaning the showers, toilets, and windows as they are preaching. Yes I know there is a verse about serving tables, but not all pastors have the apostolic anointing of the early church leaders. Jesus washed feet as our example.

  69. Debbie McChesney on January 21, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    This post and all of the comments are so encouraging. Last Spring, my husband and I left our church of 10 years where we had both been on staff at different times, and were always actively serving “off the clock” in many different capacities, from music and drama to hospitality to leadership. Over several months, God spoke to both of us individually about going to another church. When we finally talked about it, and realized that God was calling us to something “different,” it took several more months before we could get to that place to announce that we were leaving. It was emotionally very difficult, especially for me. That was the only church family I had ever known. Here we are, almost a year later, hopping from place to place, and wondering what in the world we are supposed to be doing. We have lost count of how many churches we have tried, but I know it’s over a dozen. Nothing seems to fit, and we just can’t put our fingers on it. And I miss serving in a body of believers. We still look for opportunities to help friends and neighbors anytime we can, but it’s just different. I miss singing with other singers, and praying together until our legs go numb from kneeling, and watching other servants grow into positions of leadership. If God would just stick a big finger over where it is He wants us to go, that would be great, but I don’t think He’s going to do that. In the meantime, we are learning a lot about who we are in Him, and that there are lots of sweet, loving churches in our area. When one has spent a decade believing that in order to be useful to God, one must be plugged into a local body, it’s really difficult to be unplugged and not feel like a total outsider.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 22, 2016 at 6:50 am

      Thanks Debbie…that’s a tough one. Sometimes our identity gets wrapped up in what we do, not as much in who we are. So glad there are sweet, loving churches in your area. Did you ever wonder whether the next step is just to pick one and engage?

      • Debbie McChesney on January 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm

        The identity piece is one of the very first things that God revealed to me. That was a tough one to realize, and I can’t say with confidence that I wouldn’t fall into again. But I do know that there are more opportunities to reach and disciple others when serving in a local church body, so I’ll take that risk.

        I have thought that we just need to pick one and go. The rub on doing that is getting two independently-minded firstborns to agree on which one. 🙂 As with most stories, there’s a lot more to it than there is space to write it out, and no one really wants to hear all that. We will keep searching. Non-attendance is not even an option for us. I would appreciate prayers. This is truly exhausting. Thank you for your response and for recognizing this “category” of believers. Just to know that there are enough people like us that it merited being written about makes me feel less alone in this journey.

      • Gail on February 27, 2016 at 6:53 pm

        Hi Carey and thanks so much for this blog… it is soooo on point. Debbie shared the very words that I’m also going through right now and yes, it’s certainly frustrating.

        As a matter of fact, this is how I ran across your blog. I typed into my address bar: “Lord, where am I attending church tomorrow?” and this is what I found.

        Despite not being connected to a church family, I serve in the community, working with the homeless and the elderly. There are several churches that I absolutely adore, but I can’t bring myself to join. I believe the primary reason, is the fact that the Word of God seems to watered down, but the worship is incredible.

        I enjoy the teaching of Kenneth Copeland, Dr. Saddiki, TD Jakes and Andrew Wommack, to name a few. And how I wish they were in the Houston area, but, they’re not, so I know I either have to find one here, or move. And right now, I don’t hear the Lord telling me to move.

        I also prefer a church home with a diverse community, because this is the Will of God, for us to love one another and come together in fellowship. Where the teaching is Biblical and the leaders of the church and visible ministries (worship and usher) appearances are aligned with the Word of God and not looking like they’re attending a club, instead of coming into the presence of God.

        Am I being too unreasonable and unrealistic in my expectations.

        Can you please give me any spiritual insight… I would certainly appreciate it.

        Thank you

        • Carey Nieuwhof on February 28, 2016 at 8:19 pm

          Thanks Gail. I really believe there is power in connection and participation in the mission of the local church. We are encouraging people to try 5 local churches these days. One should provide a decent fit. A C+ experience in a local church is more powerful than an A+ experience with church online or church on TV. That’s my view.

          • Gail on February 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

            Amen… this is very, very true. Thank you for your insight… this tells me that I’m on the right path. I’m not giving up and the scripture is clear, when it tells us to not forsake the assembly of the saints. There’s strength and power in solidarity. God bless you.



  70. Marty on January 21, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    My wife and I were formally on staff at a church before resigning our positions. I moved on to another career while my wife after being out of ministry for an extended period went back as a Children’s Pastor at another church. I’ve found it hard to connect back in a local church environment and have long struggled with how we do church. Lately a challenging question I’ve struggled with is how does a children’s pastor with a young family be a mom when each week they’re expected to be out with children each service while I’m sitting alone with my kids in the pew. Does this kind of busyness actually model poor leadership when part of your job as a pastor is to model healthy spiritual leadership in your own family? I think part of why pastors leave ministry is because they miss many opportunities for connection with God and the church family because they’re busy “doing the work of the ministry”. I don’t see a lot of church leaders modelling family first ministry and I think it’s killing us. It’s killing our pastors and feeds some of the ministry idolatry you’ve spoke of. I think if I had a do over after being in pastoral ministry I would commit less to ministry duties and more to taking care of my own spiritual life and making sure I put my family first. I don’t think Jesus thinks being more busy means you have more connection with him. I find the busier I get the less God gets of me.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Marty thats tough. Thanks for your comment. I can empathize and relate. I would encourage you to answer this question: how can I live in a way today that will help me thrive tomorrow. It clarifies much for me and kind of establishes boundaries. Hope it does the same for you.

  71. smells like teen crap on November 19, 2015 at 1:00 am

    I have not been in church since 2011 and from than on, i just need to find another church, you see churches around my area are just bad as it is. pastor’s dress like pimps and wearing gold rings. ever since then, i never trusted them. i just need advise and prayer.

  72. Mike on October 21, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Good article. Been on staff full time for 20 years as youth pastor. Feel like a complete and utter failure. I’ve lost the desire to keep going. No real issues with leadership and have a great senior pastor. My issue is mostly with church kids and parents. Gotten to the point I can’t stand them. Think it’s just time to quit. Oh well.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Mike…thanks for this comment. Oh man, doe you think it’s burnout? I wrote a lot about burnout in my new book and maybe this link will help in which Perry Noble and I talk about our burnout: http://www.careynieuwhof.com/Episode2. Praying for you!

      • Mike on October 22, 2015 at 9:23 am

        Thanks Carey. Burnout? Probably so. Plus everything else it seems. I read several of your articles last night. I can relate to a bunch of the symptoms. Sad part is, I have no desire to even want to try to be healthy. I love this church, started there my senior year of bible college and been there ever since. The church has gone through many transitions but the biggest in the last 18 months and its been great. But I just feel impotent and of no use and no fruit. Don’t think recovery is is an option cause I just don’t care anymore. Thanks for your prayers and ministry. Take care.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on October 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

          Hey Mike…I’ve been to the point where I stopped caring about important things. The good news is you can care again, even more deeply. I just want to encourage you to seek some trained help and get some great friends around you.

          • Mike on August 5, 2017 at 10:16 pm

            Hi Carey. It’s been a long time since I first read this article and responded. I just thought I would give an update on the last 22 months. I’ve been in counseling for 9 months now. It’s been good. I sought out the counseling on my own and let my senior pastor know I was going to go. He’s been patient with me. I’m still struggling very much. I live Day by day with the ups and downs and mind games. Still feel burned out but still going. Still not sure what the future holds and that’s frustrating. I’ve never quit anything before, always pushed through so I’m in unfamiliar territory and it scares me frankly. Anyway, I keep up with your posts and articles and enjoy them and learn from them. Even had my senior pastor listen to one of your podcasts. He enjoyed it. Thanks for what you do. Mike.



        • Heather Miller on January 22, 2016 at 2:19 am

          Hi Mike!
          Looks like it’s been a few months since you posted. I hope things have changed for you since then! I can’t imagine the potential for burnout potential with 20 years of non-stop ministry. Maybe a sabbatical would be a good idea–get some time and breathing room, give you and Jesus enough space rest and assess where things are at. I took a leave of absence from work after some very intense ministry. Made sure to surround myself with supportive friends and to talk with somebody regularly (therapist not from my church). God and time healed up the burned-out places.

          Anyways, 20+ years is amazing, and I can’t imagine the number of students, parents and entire families God’s impacted through YOU! Thanks for sharing–the struggle is real!

          • Mike on August 5, 2017 at 10:19 pm

            Thank you Heather for the kind and encouraging words. Mike



  73. KH on September 2, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I’m in a weird spot. The church my family has attended for over 10 years cut my children’s director position I had for two years due to budget issues. I was not hired for the newly created position. But a new member and “friend” of mine was hired. From a friend standpoint, her actions of persuing the job while hiding it from have been incredibly hurtful, I’ll spare you details. What was even more hurtful was the staff committee’s passive attitude towards me through the whole process. I feel very stuck. I don’t want to stay but I don’t know where to go either.

  74. Trisha on August 25, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    I was the children’s director for a few years. While going through a pastor change I was let go in a really bad way. I was hurt and still am very hurt. I’m still angry (it’s been almost 2 years) I have been at a new church but we feel God us calling us somewhere else and my husband wants to go back to our old church since they have a new pastor now. I’m having a really hard time with the idea. I don’t know how to tell if it’s God or not telling us to go back and honestly my flesh is 100% against it. I’m so confused.

  75. Bruce D Johnson on July 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Carey, great list. As you can tell by the feedback, you’ve hit a nerve. Thanks for speaking into it and for the grace you’ve offered in responding to people as they’ve shared their pain. Well done.

    As someone who used to lead a large church and then left ten years ago, I’d add another option. Personality Type and The Problem of Knowledge. My wife and I attend church 45+ times per year, (so it’s not that we don’t attend church) but as an INTJ (Myers Briggs, “everything can be improved” type), what I find most difficult is turning off the senior pastor critique mode (lighting problem, poor transition, grammatical mistake on the slide, non-verbals of vocalist off putting, text used out of context, poor title choice, illustration doesn’t actually illustrate the point the preacher is making, actually the opposite, etc.).

    In other words, for some of us, it’s not the desire to be a critic (#4), it’s that it’s hard to turn that part of the brain off (and for those who are like me, we do this wherever we are, not just at church but with associations, restaurants, businesses, relationships, events, etc.). It’s how we’re wired.

    So, for some of us, the reason it’s hard to attend church isn’t because we don’t, it’s because we’ve been on the inside and having designed services for decades, we’ve been trained how to think and once you know something, it’s hard to ever go back and act like you don’t know that thing (re: the Health Brothers in Made to Stick and the problem of knowledge).

    Or, to put it another way, don’t assume every reason why ex-church leaders struggle with attending church is negative. Personally, I’d love to just attend a service and not notice all the dropped balls. I just can’t. When the the lead vocalist is in the dark and the back up is lit, or the slide person doesn’t forward the slide until after the next four lines have been sung, or an illustration doesn’t actually illustrate the point, it’s hard to not notice that.

    So, I don’t disagree with your list, I’m just suggesting that there are some other reasons (I just listed two) that aren’t driven by anger, ego or other negative emotion that make attending church difficult. Because of our commitment to the church, my wife and I attend most Sundays, but probably twice a year I’ll “play hooky” and go for a two hour bike ride for an extended time of prayer and worship on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, those are usually the two most worshipful Sundays of the year … because there’s nothing to evaluate. Hope that adds to the conversation.

    • Myklk on January 21, 2016 at 11:56 pm

      Thanks Bruce
      That’s it exactly for me too – a regular attender, a former pastor and someone who notices the details but who is having a hard time not “exegeting” the service. I’ve spent my whole ministry life evaluating and analyzing the service to improve how I lead and manage the various aspects of the church but when I’m not in leadership anymore somehow it turns into complaint. Getting to the point of admitting that it’s not my responsibility any more is tough.

      • Bruce D Johnson on January 22, 2016 at 10:33 am

        Mykik, thanks. I’m with you. In my case, the way I’ve made peace with it is that I’m fine with it not being my responsibility any more (if I wanted that mantle, I’d get back in the pastorate :-). So, I talk with the pastor and program director. I offer ideas. Some get taken. Some don’t. And I’m fine with that. However, I can’t turn off that part of my brain that’s always figuring out how to improve something (which happens all the time whether I’m eating out or attending a chamber meeting or watching a television show or …). Learning to accept how I’m wired has freed me from the expectation of just being able to sit back and enjoy a service. The challenge is to make sure my critiquing doesn’t hinder me from asking the question, “In the midst of all those mistakes and missed cues, is there something that you [God] want me to hear today?”

  76. Geninne Tatum Bridge on July 12, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    All the above points are great, thank you Carey for listing them. One I had hoped was on here was in this article was the fact that you relate to the congregation differently. Your reasons for stepping out of the leadership role changes the dynamic of how people see you and how you interact with them. That’s a source of tension for them and you. It can cause discomfort and uncertainty – especially if there is new leadership.

  77. April Heriot on July 9, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    I know all of this can apply to where my husband and I are on certain levels. However, even though we are pressing in and attending speratically, it has been difficult because we feel like when our marriage problems surfaced (even to us) we were no longer useful to the leadership team. We feel like outcasts tossed aside. We feel like no one has been available to really press in and pray with us and to hold our hands through some very difficult things we went thru with our children in the way that we mentored and held others’ hands. It’s difficult and we are heart broken but we are trying to press in. We know some of this with our church may be the enemy wanting to attack with lies and we know some if this is a true reality of what’s happening in our church. We are praying through it and set our minds to be the difference. We are just not sure if it’s time to move on or tough it out SO right now a sabatical and prayer is what we have while trying to humbly and honestly sort out where we are and where our church is and what God is saying. I cried reading this article and replying – it’s all so difficult and heart breaking. There’s a lit if healing all the way around that needs to take place. Encouragement and meaty wisdom without cliches are welcome. Thank you so much fir this blog – it’s comforting to know others have been there and overcome – we are big on vulnerability. God’s blessings to you and all those responding with vulnerability.

  78. Jason King on July 2, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    What’s missing in this picture?

    Humility. Submission. Grace. That’s all.
    That’s me. I have become the critic. I led worship in a mainstream denomination for over 7 years, and they were some of the best years of my life. The relationships I built with my team and congregation members still follow me today. After I was married 11 years ago I left the church (I just couldn’t say no to my pastor when there was any need). We went to a church where they didn’t need me. I struggled with the worship in that church for over 10 years. It was never done just right, they went left when I knew they were supposed to go right (thats not prideful at all, is it?) I could worship to guest worship leaders like Jason Upton or Rita Springer or people from Bethel. But I don’t know why. We left a year ago. I’ve never been without a home church. I don’t like the feeling of church shopping, and well, no one seems to lead worship the way they are supposed to. I know I need a spiritual kick.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 3, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Jason…that’s an incredibly humble and honest reflection. Thank you. Keep going my friend. It’s hard for us who have led church to feel less important, but we started as worshippers and we will finish as worshippers. I am encouraged by your humility and honesty.

  79. Alyce H Cook on June 29, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I’ve been retired 3 years and my husband and I went back to our home church. We have found ministries and activities to get involved with which are very fruitful along with the wonderful fellowship with acquaintances and a few family members.
    The problem is that the pastor is troubling in the sense that he has the characteristics of one who is ADHD. He can never stay focused on any church issue; he jumps from one idea to another; he gets verbally frustrated when members can’t go along with him. We see now why he has never stayed at any location for over 3 years. The personnel committee has lovingly tried to talk with him about his approaches and lack of focus and attention but he honestly doesn’t seem to get it.
    Most are saying that he has no wisdom (which I am now inclined to believe).
    I have, and still do, try to give him only encouraging thoughts and suggestions but he listens to no one. So now, if he asks me anything, I just say, ” pastor, you’ll just have to figure it out on your own and see what happens.” And he is fine with that.
    His sermons have been very spirit filled except for the fact that when he is discontent, it comes out strongly in his messages.
    Presently, I’m feeling like not going to worship on Sundays, but only continue with my activities that I’m involved with. In thinking that, I feel hypocritical in some sense.
    Its just hard for me to listen to his spirit filled sermons and then throughout the week, listen and watch his manner in which he dictates, decides and operates.
    He doesn’t seem to live the life he preaches at all.
    The members are sensing it also, but as a retired pastor I make a point of not saying a word to them because I know I had flaws also while pastoring.

    I’m in constant prayer for this pastor and also praying about why I can’t just be content. I’m guessing that wherever I go, I’ll find some problem. But some are not as bad as others, I suppose.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Alyce…stay encouraged. The church is bigger than we think it is, and your faithfulness will be rewarded.

  80. Jo Anna McCormick on June 19, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Ouch! This is so true. These feelings hit me the minute I walk in the door of a church. I feel lonely, because everyone doesn’t know me. I wonder if everyone else felt this lonely visiting the churches we led.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 19, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Joanna…thanks for you honesty! And what a great question. I’ll bet that’s often true. Now you have a heart for those people. Love that!

  81. Tim Bradshaw on June 18, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I do think you make a lot of great points regarding reasons why leaders leave, and the need for honest self-evaluation of our part/perspective on church polity.

    However, rarely have I seen a modern church not operate in a manner in which encourages the dichotomy between leader and follower. I believe the current climate of church operation is such that it too often mimics the consumerist driven marketplace. It is set up for failure from its very organizational scheme. Too much work for volunteers drives the want of more staff to support growing/attractive programs, which drives the need to justify that staff, which drives performance reviews, which drives agendas to perform, which drives leadership to ‘own’ it more, which drives more control into the leaderships hands, which drives volunteers to feel like a mere hirelings, which drives an ‘us-and-them’ atmosphere, which drives less volunteerism, which drives more pastoral work load, which drives… and on and on. All founded in the basic fact that many people attend a church because of misplaced idols (point number 2, can operate both ways: the applauded and the applauders). And the church feeds that idolatry under the guise of mission (aka programs).

    Church staff is in itself kind of a non-biblical construct. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just saying it isn’t really spoken of in Scripture aside from negative admonishments from Christ on how religious leaders should lead. Frankly, if a church is large enough to need more than a single pastor, it is probably too big for honest, authentic community and too focused on the above programs.

    I am very optimistic that Christ’s church will prevail, and will continue to be a light in this world. However, I am also not so blind as to not see that staff and lay leaders do not have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo for simple financial reasons. Is it really all that different to have flashy programs for attraction, or doves for sale in the vestibule? Both have the intention of facilitating obedience to God. Both have the danger of becoming an obstacle. An ultimately both are idolatry. So why is it that we call people to attend where idolatry is practiced in the very way in which church is operated? Guilt? Tradition? Fiscal need?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Love your nuanced approach Tim…thank you for the balance and perspective. I’m not sure we would agree on every point (but on much I do agree)…but it’s wonderful to hear a different view so thoughtfully expressed. Thank you!

  82. Lupe Portillo on June 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

    This was helpful for me. Thank you.

  83. amanda on June 17, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    I’m so thankful for this post. Even though we have good intentions to serve we need to be careful not to make ministry an idol..the saddest thing is to realize that you gave up things..that God never asked you to.(such as time with children & family) & you can’t get it back. ..although the process hurts…its heart shattering to realize that your identity is so heavily related to what you do..and not who you are in Christ..my heart continues to ache for those currently in this situation & yet dont know it!! It can be the greatest gift to be freed from position..and to first be a worshipper.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Thank you Amanda. A heart that aches can be a great thing.

  84. Lois Wilson on June 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Sometimes we don’t attend church because we have been beaten and crucified. There is more hate, judgement and narrow mindedness in the church than outside of the church. Your reasons listed above are full of blame. I pray that YOU are never treated by a church where you currently serve or might serve in the future in the manner in which I (and others) have been treated. I am a pastor. A female pastor. A pastor with dreadlocks and tattoos who fed people out of her own pantry when the church declared that they didn’t want poor people lining up at the church door. YOU have judged me without even knowing me. How’s that for a reason for not going to church? I love worship, but not the dog and pony show that takes place in most American churches on any given Sunday. I love people, and see Jesus in the streets and on the trains of New York City every day. Good luck, pastor. The spirit behind Your “nine reasons” (judgement in sheep’s clothing) is exactly why you won’t see me in church any time soon.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 17, 2015 at 5:31 am

      Lois I’m sorry you were treated this way.

      • Lois Wilson on June 17, 2015 at 5:53 am

        Thanks. But unfortunately the people who should apologize, don’t. I have forgiven and pray for them….but line up for more abuse (delivered in the me of God)? No thanks. Jesus spent way more time with the non-religious, and so do I. BTW the same people who think they have the answers regarding why Christians should go to church also think they know why non-Christians don’t go to church. You should ask them some time. They’ll tell you that they feel no real acceptance and love there. Hmmmm. I gotta say that I agree. I tell them that they would love Jesus if they could meet him. It’s just hard to meet him in the church.

    • £ionheart on January 27, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      I am sorry but I need to correct you. There is no luck in the bible. It is all done through our God’s sovereign grace. Just say God bless you not good luck.

  85. James C. Higgs on June 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I teach, lead worship, do children’s ministry, anything ask. Still do not “belong.” Deep pain remains from the Church split and personal attacks on my character and family. I do not fit in and do not enjoy the people. I am stuck as its my wife’s home Church and she is unwillin. To leave. I serve God and make the most of it. Ot appeatd to be a 3 and 4 on your list. Maybe even a touch of 5. Its a rural church and with my level of education its toigh to communicate.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

      James…so sorry to hear of the pain and the heartbreak. Have you seen a Christian counsellor to work through and pray through the situation? It might help.

  86. Coob on June 14, 2015 at 10:15 am

    My husband and I have gone through all of these phases, but our situation is also a little more complicated. We attend our local Hmong church because it has always been our church. It is a family, cultural, and social church. In the past we were active leaders, and for several years after we returned from overseas, we decided to be good and faithful followers. Then we went through a phase of “you want to see change, you have to be part of that change,” so we got into leadership again. With our commitment to our family and the greater community, we still hold minor roles and positions within our church just to stay connected somehow; However, we feel that our church is not meeting our spiritual needs. We yearn for a closer, deeper, and more meaningful walk with Christ, and we feel that our church does not have resources, personnel, professionals to work with mature Chrisrtians. I guess it is part of being critical, but if we are craving for steak and steamed vegetables as spritifual food, but we are only being served baby’s milk, we feel we are not spiritually growing. We want to look for another church, not for ourselves, but also for our children. However, as we mentioned earlier, our church has always been the church that our family & relatives attend. It is where most Hmong believers go for cultural and social support. These ties are stronger to break away from than you think, so we passively attend and continuously pray that the Lord will give our church a spiritual transformation.
    Any suggestions?

  87. CJ on June 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

    As a military Chaplain, for me, the reason is when I go to church, it’s hard to not see people in the same light as the religious crowd that Jesus constantly criticized and rebuked. I am so disillusioned with the current state of the church (little c) and how the focus is on isolationism and building religious country clubs instead of reaching out to the hurting and ministering to them. The missions focus seems to always be on other countries rather than the local population, while church members look down their noses at those who practice all those evil sins instead of seeing them as Jesus saw them. When you spend all week, or months at a time on deployment, working with hurting, broken people, and sharing the love of Christ with them, going and sitting in a pew seems contrite and fake. I am more comfortable in a field service surrounded by hardened men and women with M-4s than I am surrounded by the suit crowd.

  88. christoph on June 13, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Okay I expected a different swing. Here is one case. A pastor of a local church stepped down after 40 years of ministry. Another new pastor took over that role. Should the “retired” pastor still attend that specific local church? Perhaps that is another topic. In that case he remained, and was more a hindrance to the new guy on the block.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      Completely other subject for sure. As a general rule, no. Find another church. But sometimes it works if the character of both pastors in question is very solid and the relationship between the two is really strong.

    • Steven Galindo on June 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      The assemblies of God urge retired pastors to attend elsewhere for that very reason.

  89. Amy Mercer on March 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    For me personally – when I was working in Disaster Recovery Ministry in Louisiana and had stepped out of the local church setting – my soul missed the liturgical year – the passing of seasons and the associated planning for special services, especially Lent. I felt out of sync – and like a bystander instead of a participant – until I was back on staff in a congregational setting again.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      So glad this is your story Amy! Glad you’re back.

  90. Charles Hodsdon on March 1, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    So glad you re-posted this. It is one of my favorites. I keep a link to this post bookmarked and use this list as a kind of checklist for my recovery from burnout. 3,4&5 are still more a part of me than I like to admit. It is tempting to externalize and blame others. I appreciate you helping me to keep it real and helping me recognize that I have my own issues.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 1, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks Charles…we all have issues. So glad we’re in this together. Keep hoping!

  91. Tina on March 1, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    #4 is the truest for me. After being on a team planning the services and then critiquing that service it was hard to leave and then walk into services and not want to fix them or fix the environment. It took us two years to find a church and I finally realized why and that’s what helped us find one.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 1, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Me too. You don’t participate in a service, you evaluate it. It’s so hard!

  92. Zachary Jeans on December 18, 2014 at 8:00 am

    I appreciate this conversation. I read every comment. It makes my tummy turn to think back on the numerous times I’ve experienced sucker punches, in the church. My heart goes out to everyone who has tasted the bitter disappointment catalogued in this blog, and comments.

    The reality is that we expect better from those who claim to follow our Lord, and we’ve been wrong. It’s one thing to be betrayed by someone who doesn’t wear a cross, because it’s not on their resume. But when it is an associate pastor, youth leader, or board member, it’s another thing. It’s not wrong to have those hopeful expectations; the bible suggests our leaders should be honorable. That said, the epistles spend a good chunk of parchment warning against terrible leaders in the church.

    I’m reminded recently that our hope is in heaven. That is where every tear will be wiped away. That is where death will be ‘dead’. And that is where we will raise a cup of the finest wine ever comprised with our good shepherd, Jesus. (Isaiah 25:6-14) The work, the service, the relationships~ they’re all messy this side of heaven.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Zachary…I’m so sorry to hear about your story. That sounds like a really tough situation to be in. I’m glad your trust in God is strong. Stay strong and I pray you find a great relational church.

  93. leper on May 18, 2014 at 3:47 am

    This isn’t always the case. I was the asst pastor of a local church and after my pastor died, a new guy came in and basically threw out anyone in position of authority. He and his wife were such micromanagers of everything that happened in the church, that if you did not in essence, ‘bow down’ you weren’t even welcome to sit in the pews, let alone the pulpit. The Bible talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing and this guy is definitely a wolf. On the outward appearance he is so welcoming it is like syrup, used car salesman. But behind the scenes he is dividing families.

    All my family did was sit on the pew, pay tithes, and be willing if asked to help in any way but it was only a matter of time before we were told to our face that we had bitter spirits, that we weren’t team players, that we were trying to steal the church from the pastor. I am not sure where he got that idea. I went through a period of cancer, and multiple hospitalizations due to heart issues. I was not looking for any sort of authority. But most of my friends, even those I had brought to Christ wouldn’t even come to the hospital, and to this day still don’t talk to me and even walk the other way if they see me around town.

    So, no. I am one of those who sits on the outside. I get my encouragement online, and in Bible studies with some elderly and nursing homes. I won’t go back to that church while the pastor is in charge. And there is no other church nearby that preaches what I believe. I am left without a home. But it is better to be homeless, than to sit in the tent of those who are looking for victims.

    • christoph on June 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Sad story. Thank you for your honesty

  94. Angel on May 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I am going through this right now. I’ve been on the worship team as a vocalist for 3 years now and was told 2 days ago that I was no longer allowed on the team. I was holding hands with my boyfriend on a missions trip and they told me that I as a horrible person and setting a bad example for for all of the teenagers present. That being said, what hurts the most is that I considered these people family every since I moved to this city. I don’t think I want to go back, but I don’t want to go to church and have people ostracizing me and glaring and talking behind my back. I am mature both in age and in thinking and spiritually as well. I still can’t see what I did as wrong.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 17, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Angel thanks for sharing that. I wonder if you are able to have a direct conversation [or even the second one] to clarify and work through what the issue is. Sometimes those can be very helpful. I hope that as you work through the hurt you will be able to find a great place within the church. Our identity is not in what we do but in who we are in Christ.

  95. LL Stiles on April 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

    This resonates so much with me – after a couple decades in pastoral ministry my husband entered denominational ministry which meant him leaving pastoral ministry. As a family, we committed to being involved in a church in a new city and have done so for some time, however, a number of issues have limited our full commitment, (denominational speaking engagements that require being out of town on the weekends and often evenings), but most particularly for me as a mother to daughters is that the church has been sitting on making a decision on women in leadership for over a decade, prior even to our being at this church. Being in denominational leadership also means keeping silent on these particular theological differences, regardless of our personal convictions (the previous two churches my husband had women leadership). I have opportunities prior to our move and in ministries outside of this church to exercise my leadership gifts, but it is an issue that I am more committed to rather than less as the years have gone by. Both my husband and I are less and less involved in the church – both because of ministry commitments, but also as this issue and others (church services when we had invited a neighbor included the pastor calling for all those who loved Jesus to stand up to declare it) … many that we would consider to be significant issues – have meant our engagement in this particular congregation has diminished. I don’t like it – I wish it were different….I don’t know what to do with a conviction (amongst other convictions) of the full participation of the total community of Christ in the ministry of the Church and God’s Kingdom.

  96. C.L. Jackson on March 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Arrg. My Soul groans. 25 years in church. Doing the menial work because it needed to be done. We met at schools and had a lot of setup. Burned out. Couldn’t stand another group counseling motivational speech sermon. Many pastors in American culture have a type A personality and lack personal relationship skills. They are CEO’s and teachers rather than a shepard of the flock. 95% of the leadership looks like them, dresses like them, acts like them, agrees with them. Information only goes one way, the top down. Decisions are made with the assistance of the appointed, like minded, brown nosers and once it’s made there is no altering the course. Image is more important than being real.

    My kids spent 18 years in church and got words, words and more words, no actions. My kids have a deep belief in Christ, but graduated church, like high school, absolutely no desire to return in the 8-10 years since.

    I haven’t attended since 2007. My core beliefs haven’t changed, but church attendance has been beaten out of me. No sense in retuning to my vomit. I have instead invested my time and money with my kids, their friends, my neighbors and close friends. Spending time in real relationships and developing trust, a willingness to jump into the mud has produced more eternal rewards for all of us than all my years in church combined.

    For me, I now sincerely question if “Church” as we know it, is what Jesus ever intended. I also have some thoughts that God himself may be behind our exodus, driving us back into the world. We could all nail our protests to the Wittenburg door of our local congregation. However, we have decided to keep our mouths shut, for the most part. We voted with our feet and are walking by faith into a new land.

    I’ll spare everyone my thoughts on the feminization of the church.

    Thanks for your heart,

    Chris Jackson

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 26, 2014 at 7:42 am

      Chris I am so sorry to hear your story. That’s been heartbreaking I’m sure. I long for the day when we will see thousands of healthy churches. Not every Christian community is a bad one. In fact, so many are great. I am very fortunate to be part of a community that brings life. I hope you find one too.

      • C.L. Jackson on March 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Thanks Carey,

        I appreciate it. I have met very wonderful Christians at church and they have impacted my life. I’ve always been very independent and am not a joiner by nature. Most likely a root of some of my issues with the structure of church.

        Take care and keep up the good work.

  97. EverFaithful on March 10, 2014 at 3:18 am

    I agree with a good portion of this. I am a designer by trade and have been serving for 5 years since our church was taken over by another church. In a meeting I was recently told by a church leader that I am finding my identity in what I do when I came to them questioning how it was that some people were allowed to do many things in the church or had heaps more freedoms even though they were younger and had been at the church less than many people already there. I mean they are in almost every area at the church as are a few of their family members. Is it just me or does anyone else see a trend with churches replacing “older” experienced people with young, hipster types to run (particular technical, design or up front) ministries these days? I do not find my identity in what I do. I love what I do and I love blessing my local church with the gifts I have been given. And don’t get me wrong. I love new young vibrant people coming on the team. But when we start replacing people completely, ignore them and start making them feel used up at 40-45 it makes it hard to know where DO you belong?
    Will we now lean towards a beautiful cool people church or will we see the light and have a balanced, wise, effective church?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      That’s a tough one. As someone in my late forties, I realize one of my chief goals is to replace myself as a leader. So I’ve been surrounding myself with younger leaders (and a few peers) to ensure our church isn’t just ready for the future tomorrow, but today. I love working with younger leaders and learn so much from them. I think we (older leaders) have a role to play too. There is a wisdom that only age and experience can bring, but for sure I want to yield more and more front line leadership to the next generation. Ironically, that might make an older leader more valuable to the church, not less.

    • Mike Boosalis on October 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      We have the same problem in the local Greek Orthodox church in Minneapolis and on the diocese level. The church leadership and priest have their favorites and will only choose those same people for ministries. Only those who are married with children are allowed into the important ministries.

  98. christianmamabear on March 2, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Ouch. That hit home!!! I’m guilty as charged……and it’s even harder when the church you attended before was big and alive and vibrant, and the current choices are small, struggling and the attitude is so much different than any I’ve seen before….

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 10, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks for you honesty. Yes…that would be hard. But I’ll bet you can make a meaningful contribution.

  99. Tandy Adams on February 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I was in youth ministry for 20 plus years and a few years ago my MS progressed to a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I quit, we eventually switched churches because it was difficult for a new minister to come in and have authority with me there. At the new church I was eager to “just” be a member. I soon realized that was not who I am. God opened up a chance for me to me part of the worship team and eventually lead worship. My issue is, it’s still hard. I am very aware of how I come across and I don’t want people to think I’m trying to take over when I voice ideas or opinions. I do so as humbly as I possibly can and a lot of times I stay quite when I probably should speak up. I think it would be so much easier to just say forget it and become a casual attender. I guess that would be a reason I would add, it’s just easier.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      I love your story Tandy. Good for you! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  100. bhoward9270 on February 19, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    What great post, Carey. Thanks for this!

  101. Bobby on February 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Alright I want to say I love the things that you said it definitely will make a world of difference to a lot of people especially seeing the heart behind why you wrote what you wrote. I will say this my issue has always been wanting to fulfill the wil of God for my life and also To keep moving forward because of the fact of so many -haters not expecting or thinking that I would succeed in ministry. I have over the years had to try to prove to people who I was until I stopped caring about what they thought about me and Focused on what God thought about me . Thank God for deliverance from people. I think my issue has been because of the fact I understand people and understand the imperfections of human flesh that we are bound to make mistakes and that is one of the reasons why the grace of God steps in . I think my main issue right through here is beginning again in Pastoralship and the struggle of starting fresh .. Now I don’t have a problem with serving somewhere else while I build what God has given to me it is the struggle of walking alone and not having the mentorship that is actually God- lead to walk with me through this.

  102. Richard on February 16, 2014 at 1:07 am

    I have read this post several times now. I think most of the points ring true with me a little bit but, number 3 the most. Added to that, let’s just say I was hurt badly by leadership in my church. After much prayer and discussion with my wife I resigned from my position as a youth pastor three weeks ago. I sit here on Saturday night knowing good and well I am not going to go visit a church tomorrow. I left my church because it was the right thing to do. There was so many things going on I just couldn’t deal with everything anymore. I felt like I was loosing myself in the process. Something happened though after I left.I realized I am much more scarred and hurt than I had thought. I haven’t prayed in almost two weeks, and I have stopped reading. I think the main reason is I’m afraid to hear what God wants me to do, or where He wants me to go. I’m afraid of serving again. This hurt my wife and I so deeply that I think we just need time. I’m feeling very alone at the moment looking at a stack of resumes that I don’t want to hand out just yet. Don’t get me wrong… I love what I do, and I love my Lord and Savior. I have used my gifts to serve His Kingdom faithfully and with integrity. I will again, but just going through some pretty hard times right now. I got a lot from this post, and from the many comments.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Richard. That’s such a tough position to be in. I feel for you and just prayed for you. I wonder if you could get to a counselor to spend some time talking and praying through the hurt. Once processed, it’s amazing to see how God heals the heart.

      • Richard on March 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

        Thank you! Since posting, I have had a couple of churches in my area actually seek me out and have helped me through this time. They were aware of what was going on, and I feel so much better. To have a church understand and get where I am at and what I have been through without me even saying is huge. I have had a lot of tearful prayer in the recent days, and have really just let go of everything. In fact I now feel as though this was way over due. I even had my first interview yesterday, Thank you so much for your prayers. I will continue to heal, and grow during this time.

  103. Juanita Baim Crawford on February 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    After serving in musical capacities (singing in choir, choir director, organist, accompanist, etc) I became ill with a difficult, undiagnosable disability and was kicked out of a church (publicly removed from their church roll) because THEY would not permit me to worship in their sanctuary because of my disabilities. My problem was solved through an absolute miracle and now that I’m fairly normal again…..I don’t want to be hurt like that ever again….by Christians.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Juanita, that is a such a sad story. I’m so sorry to hear it. I’m thankful you are better. But I would just encourage you not to believe all Christians the same. We aren’t. We just aren’t.

  104. Mark Aikins on February 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Insightful and helpful. I was wounded and let go by several churches I served as a worship and children’s ministry leader. One of the main reasons I left was an unwillingness on the part of the head pastors to deal properly with problem people, many of whose genuineness of salvation I had to question, frankly. Thanks to God I didn’t lose my faith in the organized church…The Lord led my wife and me to a strong Reformed Baptist church that deals with membership and leadership much more seriously. I had tired of serving in churches where there was no sense of biblical discipline and where people were allowed to play at church and never confronted and challenged. Gladly, I and my wife are happy and involved in a church that welcomes strong preaching, God-honoring worship (rather than man-centered entertainment) and humble, loving leadership. Thanks again for your excellent article.

  105. GarySweeten on February 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Several years ago we started a ministry for “Seasoned Believers” who have known Christ and been involved in church life for decades. Here is what our research discovered.

    1. Many do not attend Sunday morning gatherings which tend to be set up for recruiting new people, evangelism or feeding people milk. Seasoned Believers want more than milk.

    2. Many Seasoned Believers are deeply involved in Christian service but not in a formal church setting because there is no place for them to serve in the church. Why no place to serve? a. Many current church leaders are threatened by Seasoned Believers. (One Pastor told me he did not want any mature people in his church because they ask too many questions.) Anyone with leadership experience is a big threat.b. Most church based opportunities are focused exclusively as “in the church activities” because few churches do anything for the community outside the church. Many Seasoned Believers must find places to serve in hospitals, schools, community groups, charities, non profits, etc. c. Many morning services are dull, talks aimed at immature, uneducated, people who are called in sermons to “serve the church” more than serve God in church or in the world. 3. Many churches are led by Preachers who attack Seasoned Believers like this article. It totally misses the mark about our reasons for finding non church places to grow and serve. It calls us selfish and un Christian when we want to do more for Jesus not less. Most churches will “allow” Seasoned Believers to pass the plate or teach Sunday school but not minister in any meaningful way. One former VP for a Fortune 100 company retired and volunteers for the Red Cross in teaching other volunteers about reducing risks in serving because the church has no place he can serve.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks for sharing this Gary. I agree one of the mistakes many Christian leaders make is not knowing how to engage high capacity leaders or people who ‘threaten’ them. I truly hope this changes.

    • christianmamabear on March 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      Amen! As a Christian for 40+ years and one who has served in the music ministry for most of that time, it’s hard to find a place to serve, especially in a small church with….um….control issues in the leadership. They’re unwilling to take suggestions and it’s frustrating especially when they ask for input, knowing full well the only input they want is input saying they’re doing everything right. Bumping heads is NOT my idea of serving…..so I tend to stay away.

    • Ashlei Moos on June 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

      But don’t aren’t we, as seasoned believers, responsible to surround ourselves with both people who are further in there walk, people who we walk with, and people who are behind us? It’s like saying there grown ups are going to eat here, and the kids table is for you over there. Isn’t it more biblical to live life at a family table and learn from and with people where they are at?

    • Liz on April 1, 2018 at 7:31 am

      It is true brother Gary, I have seen it happen over and over again even in my small country and still happening. Although I myself did not leave because of the reasons you mentioned, though I bear witness as I already mentioned, I now fellowship with a few seasoned believers as you would call them. I am ok but I still yearn for a New Testament Church where one can have all the qualities of a New Testament Church with all the right doctrine, discipline and order…..one reason which baffles me is why most churches have to have 1 or a Senior Pastor when the Bibles speaks of plurality of elders leading the Church and the other thing which I do not like is denominations which have brought separation within the body of Christ.
      Shouldn’t the 5 fold ministry still be in place ? Where are the apostles planting churches, in my country normally someone would split up from his previous Church and would open up another ‘new’ Church ….apart from denominations which I believe Christ’s Church would be much better off without.
      Saying all this , humility and obedience to God’s word would bring much change within the body of Christ, no matter the situation.

  106. John Creameans on February 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    So much truth here. Thanks Carey for posting it. I would love to see you write about the carnage that occurs in people transitioning out of church work. I’ve been guilty of creating the carnage myself and been the carnage…such a discouragement for so many when vocational ministry doesn’t work out. We have to get more open and grace-filled about church break ups.

    Too often its all about damage control and organizational preservation and image management…Thanks again…this was great stuff to challenge me.

  107. Jose on February 13, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I left church almost 4 years ago. I have many reasons or like they like to call them ( excuses ). But the one that got me the most was number 7. I saw a lot of that, leaders wanting to lead without being followers themselves. If any of us had a different opinion on what was told to us, that just meant that we were the one’s who weren’t right. I grew up in religion, started attending church when I was 5. When I left the church I thought I had spend all those years for nothing. But I do realize that I’ve learned a lot from it, things that I can and have applied to my daily life. Because of it I am a better person. I still don’t think I’m ready to go back to church but I am praying to God to help me find one.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Jose…can I just say I really like you? Love the responsibility you’re showing and the hope that still burns in your heart that things can get better. So appreciate this comment.

  108. Daryl on February 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I got to confess, this post is a bit of a miss for me. I appreciate your intentions (and I truly believe it does address some people) but I think this post is showing a misunderstanding of what some people are saying.
    I realize this is a faulty analogy, but I hope this helps bring to light what I think some people are feeling: the Church today is LIKE the church before the enlightenment/reformation. Many people who decided to move towards change – who were being called heretics, were being seen as forsaking the church. However, they loved Jesus and were trying to live out his mission.
    Today, many churches that have been influenced by the reformation, have gotten so entrenched (in things like current structures, forms, business models, etc) that they have become what “they” once fought against. This is true in many aspects of history. We often build things to a point where we love them so much, we are unwilling to deconstruct. Even though we are thankful that someone deconstructed before us. I would propose it would be too risky for most pastors to be willing to let their churches be changed drastically. Maybe former pastors are only finally open & able to see drastic change because they are not dependent on it?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Daryl I appreciate that you and I have different view points. However I think to suggest most pastors aren’t open to change because they’re dependent on it might be a bit of a simplification. I talk to a lot of pastors about change and I’ve found so many who long for radical change. They just haven’t found a way to bring it. Maybe we just know different people.

  109. […] Nieuwhof has made a couple of posts (here and here) responding to Miller’s thoughts.  In the first he outlines “10 Thoughts on Exiting […]

  110. Charles Hodsdon on February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    #3 for sure fits for me. How the sausage is made turns my stomach, and led me to resign from a leadership position. I put myself on sabbatical, and much of my time of rest has been focused on how I made the sausage making process messy. Part of that was #5. Our congregational model gave people who simply attended more power than those of us who spent countless hours a week in the trenches and studying what works. I know I grew bitter trying to move a church that didn’t want to move. That said it was only a few weeks before we found a church that was starting to think “Orange” . At first I went just for our kids, and my wife just couldn’t take the idea of church. After a month or so she was there with me, and 6 months in we are about ready to start the volunteer training process. We are skeptical, a little cynical, and definitely nervous, but we believe that God has more for us to do in the context of the local church, and Getting back on the horse is the goal.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Charles. Thanks man. Don’t lose hope. And keep working through those issues. As you dig through the hurt I’m confident that you will find healing in Christ. There’s a strong future ahead of you!

  111. […] Nieuwhof has made a couple of posts (here and here) responding to Miller’s thoughts.  In the first he outlines “10 Thoughts on Exiting […]

  112. Art on February 12, 2014 at 11:57 am

    #3 is the one for me. I’m still in church leadership, but if I wasn’t I’d have a hard time being faithful week after week after week after…

    The reason is I’ve seen that the driving force in church ministry is the ABCs (Attendance, Buildings, & Cash). Butts in the seats and dollars in the plate. That’s what we seem to live for. Now, if you are a business (like a restaurant) that is more understandable, but for a church… not so much.

  113. thebassman on February 12, 2014 at 11:40 am

    #3 & #4 very much resonate with me… as a volunteer who has been heavily involved several times in the past – once you’re no longer involved, or not involved at the level you once were, these 2 points so easily creep up on you – and it’s a constant battle to overcome them…

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Hey Tim…thank you. Appreciate your honesty. You’re right, it is a constant battle. And I think it’s a place for real growth. Thanks for battling through them and for all you do to support the mission of the church.

  114. Jacqueline Dorman on February 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I think this may be the case for some who still believe in the church model you are talking about but many do not. There are some of us that have realized that the modern church model hurts people more than it helps them. It isn’t about messy, or flawed people, we love them. It’s about controlling, agenda based businesses that call themselves churches. I have been in full time ministry for almost 20 years and I have been a leader at several churches and have ministered at dozens more. It is sad to see what has happened to God’s “model” of church. Silly top ten lists and uninspired teaching. Boring worship and money motivated programs. I along with thousands of others prefer to be in christian community where I’m surrounded by friends and family that love Christ and support one another. This encourages a lifestyle of shining my light to non believers in the marketplace through a consecrated life and a loving Jesus filled heart. You don’t have to go to a glorified building that calls itself a church every week to be fully engaged in the great commission. Jesus’s true model was a “go to” them model not a have them “come to” us model. If it works for you that’s fine but there is a growing number of us that it no longer woks for because we see something new emerging and it isn’t because of hurt or offense or anything else on your list. It’s simply because God has put it into our hearts to want something more.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 12, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Jacqueline, I’m very thankful you’ve found a supportive Christian community and am well aware that this community exists. I guess what I struggle with is what sounds like a categorical dismissal (maybe even cynical dismissal) of the local church as it exists. Although you have served in many churches, they’re simply not all that way. Just as I’m sure all communities outside the established church are not wonderful havens. I’m glad you found one that is amazing. I just would be cautious to characterize with sweeping statements.

      • Jacqueline Dorman on February 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

        Christian community is Jesus’s model. I’m not trying to come across as cynical at all. I actually make my living as a media consultant to large ministries and churches. What exists in America called “church” is not biblical, it’s business and like any good business it has to make decisions that are the best for it not the best for the people that attend it. I have seen the great harm this model does to many people and families and it isn’t isolated to one denomination or even a few churches. I believe God has opened my eyes to this and there is a God inspired movement sweeping the US where people are coming out of the “church” and becoming the body of Christ.

        • Daniel Indradjaja on February 13, 2014 at 1:31 am

          I’m sorry jacqueline but I have to agree with Carey here. To call the current church model unbiblical is really being ignorant of what some of these churches have done to introduce and grow people in Christ. I believe God is big enough to allow different models of church to reach different people. As Carey said, it’s great that you find a community you can belong to (I hope your community is also doing their bit to impact people’s lives who are not yet in your community), but the truth is many other people have also found eternal life through Christ even in the so-called “MEGA” churches. Stop being bitter and just rejoice in the fact that people are getting saved. No church is perfect, and I believe this sits with God just fine. 🙂

  115. Shelly Calcagno on February 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I SO related to this right now after transitioning out of a church staff role. The good thing I have learned is that I can’t NOT be involved in church life. It’s actually exciting to me now, after sitting for almost 6 months and just having a time of “rest” and “re-adjusting” in our new church – to think that I can now get plugged in and be part of the family from a whole different perspective from when I was a staff member. I also love that the things I cared so much about in my ministry role, are the same things I still care about and I know I still need to invest in as part of my church – and it’s exciting to think I can give support. As a person who needed support just a few months ago – I know how important that is!
    Thank you for this post!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 12, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Shelly. Great to hear from you. That’s so HEALTHY! Seriously…thank you for leading that way!

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