The Five Stages of a Church Dropout: From Highly Committed to Goners

It’s painful enough to lose any church members, but it is particularly painful when the church member was highly committed. We call these dropouts “Goners,” because they were once one of your best church members. Now they are gone.

It has been both painful and amazing to see the consistency in the patterns the Goners follow. Though Goners have been a sad phenomenon for years, the pervasiveness of Goners is a reality since the pandemic.

1. Lower commitment in key roles. Goners begin their dropout journey by attending small groups less frequently, by attending elder or deacon meetings less frequently, or any number of reductions in key roles.

2. Less frequent worship attendance. At his or her most active state in the church, the Goner was present in worship services at least three or four times a month. At this stage, they attend worship services once or twice a month.

3. Resigning of a key position. In stage 3, the Goner steps down from a key position such as teacher, elder, or a key ministry leader. Their stated reason is typically “family reasons” or “personal.” They will keep the reason vague lest someone suspect they are simply less committed to Christ’s church.

4. Reduces or stops giving. When the Goner gets to this stage, he or she is almost gone. Most pastors don’t have access to financial records, so they don’t see this stage. That is why it is important for the person with access to the records to let the pastor know that the church member might need a visit.

5. Leaves for a “good” (not really) reason. The most common reason is that they are not getting fed. You would think these members would have learned how to feed themselves by this point. Another reason is that the church does not have adequate ministries for their children. Can you imagine a missionary saying that about a church? Someone with a true mission heart would see this void as an opportunity to start a ministry.

Yes, losing any church member is painful. But when that church member was once one of your more committed members (and/or a good friend), it is particularly painful.

By the way, most of the Goners never find another church that meets their perceived needs. They are gone from any commitment to a local church.

They are truly Goners.

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