Leaky Buckets: On Church Attrition

Thom Rainer, Founder and CEO of Church Answers, recently noted:

Each year, for every 100 people who attend your church, you will lose

  • 1 person to death
  • 9 people to moving
  • 7 people to transfer to another church in the community,
  • 15 people to declining attendance frequency.

That’s 32 people out of 100! 

I’m still not sure what to make of this analysis. I am in no way doubting the veracity. I also realize that these stats represent a national average, and that there will be some varaince from community to community. For instance, where I live, in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, we have the largest population of military personnel in the world, so we often see more move away in any given year than would a church in almost any other region.

I think most stunning stat is that 7% of church members simply change churches every year. Of course there are all sorts of variables as to why some may change churches – and there are both good reasons and bad reasons for someone to leave their church. But either way, good reasons or questionable reasons, it is sad. It is sad if 7% are leaving simply for consumeristic reasons (a “Bad” reason). But it is also sad to think that 7% of churches are giving their members “good” reason to leave – i.e. the church has allowed a toxic culture to develop; or the church has develued God’s Word, and has consequently become heterodox and unfaithful; or even that the church has become so in-grown that it is not faithful in engaging in God’s Kingdom Mission, whether globally or locally, and so those who are committed to a holistic mission and to the Great Commission long to be part of a body that shares their (biblical) missional commitment.

If only I could believe that a significant part of that 7% were leaving a vibrant, healthy, faithful church to participate in the planitng of new vibrant, healthy, faithful churches in other communities where faithful churches are not presently present… It happens… But I have my doubts that “mission” is the primary reason among the 7%.

Lord, have mercy!

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