I love it when a new family visits our church. It is exciting, isn’t it? I am not totally sure what our retention rate is, but we seem to have one or two people or families visit every month. Sometimes they stay. In 2014 we had 8 families/individuals come but we also had 7 families/individuals leave. It is wonderful when people come. It is not so wonderful when they leave. We all have experienced that. It stinks! Sometimes its for good reasons. Sometimes it’s not. Pastor Josh Mauney has a great post about how we feel when people leave. You should read it here: The Most Honest Post I Know How to Write
For an average church, having one family join could represent a 5% increase in your church’s membership. If you add two or three families your church has the potential for 10-15% growth in one year. That is the power and impact of each and every family. Our church lost 3 families in October. That was 16 total people, nearly 15% of our church gone in one month. That is hard to deal with. These were highly involved and faithful people. Two moved for jobs and one was just ready to move on. We loved all three. I hate that they are gone. But my experience tells me that others will come. They always come…and they always leave. That is just how it works.
Our Average Church has been slowly growing over the past 4 years. In October of 2010, we had 39 families or individuals that called our church home for a total of 94 people. Four years later we have 51 families/individuals that call our church home for a total of 110 people. We have slowly added families and individuals. But we have also lost families and individuals. In fact, from 2010-2014, we have only 17 families (43%) who have made it with us these past 4 years. The ones we started with account for only 33% of our current congregation right now. Were I to study it more closely, my guess is we probably turn over a third of our congregation every year or so. That is tough on us Average Pastors. Just when we gain momentum, one family leaves and it takes it all away.
As I have tried to deal with this reality I have learned a few thoughts that make it easier:
- Every family matters– I had to realize that at some point that family chose to come here and contributed at some level. They are part of our story. They are important and I need to be thankful for them.
- They came from somewhere – We have had some wonderful people come. We have had wonderful people go. Every time I have to remind myself and our leadership team, they came from somewhere. They left another church and pastor who probably grieved when they left. We cannot praise God when a family comes and be mad when they leave. We need to rejoice in both.
- They are His people, not ours – We don’t own people. I realized that most people these days only come to us for a season. We are stewards while they are here. Cherish and appreciate them. And when they leave, graciously turn them loose.
- They all will leave – Gone are the days when church members are born in a church and die there. They all will leave. You will too one day! Every pastor, staff member and church member will leave the church they are at. Be gracious with those who leave. Love them and celebrate them.
We have had many wonderful families come and go in the past 4 years. Some were only here for a season. Some moved away. Some just didn’t want to be at a small church anymore. I have learned to roll with the ebb and flow of families coming and going. I learned to rejoice when they came. And now I am able to rejoice when they leave. I still grieve, but I can do it with thankfulness. Because in the end, they always come…and they will always leave.