WHY CONSUMER CHURCH MEMBERS LEAVE YOUR CHURCH Thom S. Rainer

Most of the time “I’m not getting fed” is a lame excuse to say the church is not catering to my desires and preferences. It’s a clear indicator of We have seen the growing trend of church member consumerism, and it has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

 Here are some reasons why:

1. Because they never get satisfied. That is the nature of consumerism. Desires are met only for a season. Then the church member wonders what you have done for them lately. And if the church members feel like he or she has gotten all they can get from the church, they will move on to another church or drop out altogether.


2. Because they have no greater purpose. We all know church members who are the pillars of the church in the best sense of the word. They are giving, serving, and sacrificial. They have a greater purpose than themselves. They seek to serve the Lord by serving others. They never ask, “What have you done for me lately?” because they are too busy doing for others. The consumer Christian has no purpose beyond his or her own preferences. And that’s really no purpose at all.


3. Because they are often divisive. Consumer Christians seek for themselves. And if they don’t get what they want, they can be critical and divisive. They may leave when they sense the support for their negativity is waning. They will complain that other church members did not support them. And they are, thankfully, correct.


4. Because they know better than everyone else. You can usually count on consumer church members to send the pastor an article or podcast link to demonstrate how other churches are doing things so much better. For the consumer church member, the grass is always greener – until they move to the greener grass of the next church. And then they see problems there.


5. Because they don’t understand the meaning of biblical church membership. Check out the characteristic of a church member in 1 Corinthians 12. It’s all about how the members of the body are functioning for the greater good of that body. And look at 1 Corinthians 13. We call it the “love chapter,” but it’s really how church members are to relate to one another and to the world. The consumer church members can’t relate to biblical church membership because it’s sacrificial and driven to serve others.


So, pastor, know that you are not alone when you hear those dreaded words, “I’m not getting fed.” It has been said countless times by countless self-centered church members. Rejoice in your church members who serve, encourage, love, and sacrifice. They are God’s instruments in your church.


The consumer church members are nothing but noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. When they leave, there is a lot more peace and God-given quiet in the church.

EIGHT BIBLICAL STEPS PROCESS FOR LEADING CHANGE

Acts 15 illustrates that effectively leading change in the church involves a process of listening attentively to the movement of the Holy Spirit, to Scripture, religious tradition, respected believers, noted experts and pertinent facts.

Here are the steps to that process and a potential application for leading change in the church:

  1. They listened to the conversion experience of the Gentiles. Application: Listen to those most impacted by the change.
  2. They listened to the Pharisee experts in Mosaic Law. Application: Listen to those most opposed to the change.
  3. They listened to respected believers witnessing these conversions. Application: Listen to respected lay leaders supporting the change.
  4. They listened to Peter’s perspective. Application: Listen to the Pastor and Staff’s perspective.
  5. They listened to Paul and Barnabas’s descriptions of signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles. Application: Listen to experts who have observed and experienced the impact of the change.
  6. They listened to James expounding on Scripture connecting the dots between Peter’s testimony and the words of Amos. Application: Listen to what God’s Word has to say.
  7. They listened to the Holy Spirit – “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Application: Allow people time to pray and hear from God on the change.
  8. They voted on the change – “Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church decided.” Application: Allow the church to vote on the change.

“When the people of Antioch read the letter, they rejoiced at the exhortation.”

Six Ways Pastors Can Find the Work-Life Balance Sweet Spot

  1. Plan the church year, then plan your week. A schedule facilitates both a plan and a vision. Your church schedule in any given year is a roadmap for discipleship. Plan church events, sermon series, and programs one year out, then plan your week around the annual church calendar. Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, spend 30 minutes refining your weekly schedule. Keeping a schedule is one of the best ways to increase productivity with fewer hours.
  2. Take your weekend every other week. The five-day workweek is a recent phenomenon. The first five-day workweek was instituted in 1908 by a New England cotton mill to accommodate Jewish workers who wanted off on Saturday. In 1926, Henry Ford started letting his factory workers off for both Saturday and Sunday. The two-day weekend didn’t catch on nationally until 1940, when the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated a 40-hour workweek. The Bible calls for a day of rest—one day, not two. One way to control work hours is to work a six-day week every other week. Rather than cramming a lot of work into five days, spread it out over six days. Also, pastors should count Sunday as a day of work, not rest.
  3. Build interruptions into your schedule. The work of a pastor is often disjointed. Pastors get a lot of interruptions during the day. So plan for them. As you schedule your week, build into each workday about 30-60 minutes of “interruption time.” If the interruption doesn’t occur that day, then leave a little earlier and surprise your family by being home.
  4. Identify time suckers. This one should be relatively easy. Block trolls on social media. Block the number of a person who calls your cell phone incessantly. Let people know you will only do a set amount of counseling before handing them off to a professional. Set an email filter for the person who includes you on all those forwards.
  5. Create systems of care. One requirement of pastoral ministry can take up more time than any other: pastoral care. A hospital visit can take half a day, especially if the hospital is not located near the church. A short phone call is rare in ministry. Most people enjoy talking to their pastor. The role of a pastor includes congregational care, but it doesn’t mean the pastor must do it all. Assign a day of the week to each staff person or a deacon for hospital visits. Use your schedule to create natural breaks, like making appointments one hour before a Wednesday night service. Set limits on how far you will travel to see a church member (and remember, you can always make exceptions if needed). Create a system of care rather than attempting to do it all.
  6. Get regular rest and exercise. You’ll be surprised at how much energy you have and how productive you are if you simply get rest and exercise. Sleep at least seven hours each night. Playing catch-up with sleep on the weekends does not work. Exercise at least three times a week. Schedule both your rest and your exercise and make them a mandatory part of your calendar.

Work hard for your church. It’s biblical! You can’t minister effectively if you’re fried. Most pastors struggle with balance. The ministry has far too many lazy bums and workaholics. Pastors should model spiritual disciplines for their churches. Work-life balance is a key part of living in a way that glorifies God.


5 LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM ENTREPRENEUR LARRY LEVY

1. Culture matters

As Larry says, “Culture is the single most important thing in a company, and it starts with leadership.” Culture isn’t just some “nicety” you reference during new employee orientation and then forget about. It should guide everything you do as an organization. Larry stresses the importance of understanding and communicating organizational culture, and then only hire staff who embrace and embody that culture. He is a believer in hiring people who are attracted to an entrepreneurial atmosphere. As Larry puts it, “Growth and entrepreneurship are aphrodisiacs. People love working for the winning team.”

2. Be open to new opportunities

Larry didn’t set out to create the largest sports and events catering company in the country. However, he was (and still is) an entrepreneur at heart. Forty years ago, when he and his brother saw the opportunity to revitalize a Jewish delicatessen on the seventh floor of Water Tower Place in Chicago, they did it for the challenge, not because they wanted to run a deli for the rest of their lives. That opportunity would be the genesis of what would become Levy Restaurants, which today is an international organization with more than $2.5 billion in annual revenue and over 35,000 employees.

There have been many other examples throughout Larry’s life when he seized on unexpected opportunities. Larry reminds us to be open to them. Look around corners. Be excited for what could be, even if it doesn’t necessarily align with what is.

3. Be prepared to evolve as your business grows and scales

Going hand-in-hand with embracing new opportunities is the need to evolve as your business grows. Larry didn’t know what that delicatessen in Water Tower Place he first walked into 40 years ago would one day become, but he did know it couldn’t stay what it was. As he searched out new opportunities, new markets, new business ventures, he ensured that the structure and operations of the business evolved, too. Levy Restaurants would not be what it is today if Larry hadn’t been willing to challenge the status quo and let go of tried-and-true ways of doing business. Yes, change can be unsettling, but it is the lifeblood of any business that wants to grow and thrive.

4. Know what you’re good at … and what you’re not so good at

No person can do it all, certainly no one in a business that is growing and expanding. Larry understands that reality well. As Larry explains it, he is the “ultimate delegator.” He has learned what he’s good at … and what he’s not good at.

For example, Larry knows he’s good at selling, but not so strong as an operator. He long ago learned to delegate and trust his colleagues to own those responsibilities (such as operations) that are not his strong suit. His business thrived because of it.

But for delegation to work, trust must be earned … just as there has to be a willingness to place trust in others. That foundation of trust goes back to company culture, and a sense of shared ownership in a company’s mission and vision. Everyone on the team must be heading in the same direction, with a sense that they are in a position to help move the company in that direction. When employees feel that, they are all in.

It all comes down to doing what you love. As Larry says, “When people ask me what I should do, I always say, ‘What are your passions?’” That has been Larry’s guiding light throughout his career.

5. Be vulnerable

Just as no one leader can do it all, nor can they know it all. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. Own (and share) your failures. Ask for help and ideas. In short, be human. Teams like strong leaders, but they love leaders who are honest and real.

For Larry, that vulnerability took the form of knowing he wasn’t emotionally ready to sell his business when first approached by the eventual buyer (Compass Group). He had poured himself into Levy Restaurants for decades. He knew it would take time to emotionally prepare to let go. It took him nearly two years to get ready, but when that day came, both he and the business were prepared for the transition. That honesty resulted in everyone involved being better off in the end.

During our discussion, Larry also showed another vulnerability. When I asked about his mom, he choked up. He shared the impact she had on his business and how much he missed her. In short, he shared that he is human.