When the Church Becomes Unchurched

How do we keep our church community from wanting to become unchurched?

How many of you struggle with churches? Are you among those who don’t feel that the church gets you? Do you seem to feel that church is where the high school cliques have evolved into older cliques and groups? Does your church seem to cater to the young and old and not really meet your needs?

You aren’t alone. Many churches haven’t figured out the happy medium. With the rise of churches who are meeting needs through music, activities, support groups, and other venues, many people are flocking to bigger churches as opposed to staying in their rural or outdated congregations. People are going to places where they feel their needs are being met. Or they just aren’t going at all. Some folks believe in God but they don’t think that they have a true role in the church because the church has failed them.

Generations of folks have gone to church because their parents made them. Over time, they developed their own sense of belief. Some folks no longer believe that there is a God. Some believe but they don’t agree with the hypocrisy of many Christian churches. Still, there is an underlying message to our churches. We are tired of being overlooked. We are tired of feeling that we don’t matter. There are too many congregations that are not addressing the needs of many individuals. The biggest complaint is that people are tired and there isn’t enough money to do things the way that are enticing to others.

On the flip side, the bigger churches who have alienated their congregations, don’t always adapt accordingly. This can really be a tough pill for the bigger churches to understand. After all, they were mightier at one point. No one likes to work with a reduced budget but sometimes the manpower, the budget, and the emotional and physical results would be worth it if some of these bigger churches took a slice of humble pie and actually ate it.

Jesus knew the struggles that his disciples would face before they ever faced the circumstances that they did. When I look at today’s churches, there is a part of me that really wants to slap a few people. How can we truly say that we are a Christian community when we aren’t really reaching out? How can we look ourselves in the mirror when society blasts Christians for being hypocritical and they are for the most part correct.

The biggest thing I’ve seen over the last thirty years is that people are just giving up on the churches. This doesn’t solve anything. The only thing it does is create more problems. I can understand when folks leave because of a job, or school, or even health reasons. Instead of confronting the issues, our churches are placing the blame on other things. The biggest argument I hear is that we need to focus on the youth and that’s true to a point.

As the youth age out of the youth programs, they are still in need of things. They need support, encouragement and the feeling of belonging. They aren’t the only ones. I love the church I go to but in many ways they struggle with these same issues. If you aren’t old or young, there isn’t really anything to keep you engaged. I’m really pushing for change with them and I hope I’m not the only one.

I went through a very rough divorce almost 13 years ago. When my husband and I got married, he didn’t want to go to church. We had serious fights about it. When I begged him to build a foundation in faith, he fought me. That should have been a clue we were doomed. See if you don’t have some of the same core values, it’s really ten times more difficult to make things work. He was a charlatan. He could charm most people before they even realized what was happening. When we split, there were some in the congregation who took me under their wing but I still had to seek support outside the church. As many folks that we had who had gone through a painful divorce, you couldn’t talk about the issues at church in a non threatening manner. There were always those who looked at you like you were the biggest loser on the planet. God help you if you were childless. There were those who would say things that they didn’t mean to come out like vinegar but there wasn’t enough elixir to make what they said tolerable.

After my miscarriage, all I got was pity. No one knew or understood what I needed. It would have been very helpful to have my church family say let’s go bowling or just get out for a while. No one did. Activities, support, encouragement, inclusivity are all a core component of churches uniting for more of a positive change. If you know your church is struggling with this, why not see where you can make a difference? If you constantly wait for someone else to make the change, it more than likely won’t happen.

As we all change and grow, our needs will too. God understands this. I just hope that as everyone transitions in their lives, that churches will see the need to recognize those transitions and adapt accordingly. Otherwise, they are setting up the scenario for their church to quickly become unchurched.

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