Question:

Over the last couple of years, members (particularly young adults) have fallen away from the church. It concerns me, as I have heard that they are going their own way and some now have relationships (boyfriend or girlfriends). I am not sure how to deal with the situation as these people have been an intricate part of the church for years. At times when I see them I am not sure how to deal with the situation, and I feel resentment toward them. I know they probably sense this, and it becomes frustrating because I donít what to say. At times, I tell myself to talk to them but I just can't find the courage to say anything. But I am hoping that I can be strong and find the words to show them that members continue to care about them.


Answer:

I understand the frustration. People come to churches with all sorts of expectations regarding what the church can do for them. It is especially noticeable in small congregations when people come but leave because there are no children their child's age, there isn't enough people their own age, or there isn't enough activities, etc. It is frustrating because demographics is out of a church's control. And the fact that people don't stay means that the very segment they are looking for never builds up. However, the reality is that they are looking for the wrong thing.

The church is about serving the Lord where each member contributes what he or she is able toward the overall effort. When people leave, they really demonstrate that they are not apart of that effort. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (II John 2:19). John is talking about false teachers, but I've noticed that most people who don't stay with a church start talking about the church as a group separate from themselves. They don't look at themselves as a part of the group, making it easier to leave.

Since I believe that one must be faithful to reach heaven (Hebrews 10:23-25), when I run into people that left the church, I feel sorry for them because they don't realize what they have lost. I usually don't get into personal matters because I don't want it to appear that everything is fine the way things are. Instead, I'll usually say "We've missed you and would like you to be apart of the church again." For most, that is the last thing that they want and they'll end the conversation. But at least I know that I left the door for returning open to them.