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Have you ever left a church after you'd been there a LONG time?


J'swife
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We've been at our church and with our pastor for 20 years, but things that are issues have never changed (even though some issues have been addressed) and we are feeling like it might be time to move on.  It's a small church and there are not a lot of people involved in the church, so this would be VERY hard and noticeable.  The lack of organization and care of the overall property and building is becoming a problem and we're just tired of being one of the few families that actually does things.  We are not taking the consideration lightly and I know that it takes people like us to run things, but when no one cares that the floors are dirty or that things don't get done, it becomes a real problem.  We don't live like that at our house and don't want to see it like that in a church.  My husband runs the sound board and he's tired of things being thrown together before the sermon for him to have to deal with, it shows in our service.  Sunday was the first time EVER that he was so frustrated over a few things that when I said "have you thought about leaving." He actually said yes, I have.  I thought years ago that we should leave, but he did not feel that was what we should do.  For him to say that it's BIG and maybe it will just pass and he will realize that we need to stay, I told him we should meet with the pastor, I think he just thinks nothing will change, there is a board, but the pastor sometimes does what he wants anyway.  Right now there's plans for a big neighborhood picnic/outreach and with the building/grounds being the mess that it is, dh is really upset that anything is even being planned.  I really wish he would say how he felt, be praying for him, the men meet this Saturday and maybe he will.  I dunno. 

 

The thought of going to another church kind of overwhelms me, but I'm just burnt out.

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We have switched churches, but only for theological reasons.

 

I'm sure there must be a lot more to this story than just yard work and last minute sound changes. I'm sorry you are feeling burnt out.

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Yes, after about ten years we did.  We live in a small community too, where most people know each other, so this made it even harder.  What made it feel a little easier was that our church was in the middle of getting a new pastor.  It seemed like a good time for a transition.  We left on good terms, and were up front about it.  (Didn't just disappear one Sunday.)  When I say be up front about it, I don't mean we listed all of our complaints.  What we did was explain why another church had more of what we needed at the time, mostly for the kids (a high school youth group, etc., which our other church didn't have).  People were actually pretty understanding, although I'm sure they guessed there were more reasons too.

 

It's a tough decision though.  Mostly, we wanted to be in what we felt was the best environment for our kids.  When you look at a decision with that perspective in mind, it's sometimes easier to make big changes.

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Yes, my husband and I left the church we were married in, that I was baptized in, and that the boys were dedicated in, about seven years ago. We knew it was the right decision, and we found a new church home very quickly. However, it ranks as one of the hardest experiences of my life. Definitely not one I would change or do differently, though.

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No but we're currently considering it. We've been at our current church about 8 years. Before that we left 2 churches (different places we've lived), each of which we'd only been at 1.5 years. If we leave our current church it will be very difficult as this is the church our dc grew up in. And they want to stay because it's what they know, y'know?

 

:grouphug:   OP, your situation sounds more clear cut than ours. And having been there so long adds another layer of complexity. But it was even hard moving from a church we'd been at only a short time so I know this isn't an easy decision.

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Yes, we're in the process of moving to another church. It's very painful, but I know we're doing the right thing. We're pretty open with our kids about our reasons and we're hoping to teach them how to deal with manipulative people.

 

We've been transitioning slowly - first Wednesday nights and I was amazed of how our kids flourished in a new environment.

 

:grouphug:  to you. It's not an easy decision.

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I left my family church right after marriage. I grew up in it. It hurt for a long while and it still stings to see some of the people that used to be like family to me. Our church had a mass exodus though. I'd say nearly a split between two families that dominated the small church. Everyone that left scattered to their own churches. We see less of family than when I grew up. It is bittersweet. I miss some things but I know me leaving was best.

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I've done it before, and my husband and I have done it once in ourmarriage. Truly, it's something I look at for an excuse to move out of town, because then I don't have to explain why we left - people just assume it's a location thing :o

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I left a church after 10 years.

 

There were serious leadership issues.  After reasonable, biblical ways of trying to address it with the senior pastor by lots of different people, about 80% of congregation and 2 of the 4 elders (the senior pastor was one of the 4 elders) left over the span of a couple of years.

 

My take is that you should address it with the senior pastor the right way.  If he responds correctly, great.  If not, move on and let it go. Don't think about it, don't discuss it, don't wonder if it's still going on, don't fret and worry about other perfectly capable adults who choose to stay, don't end friendships with people who choose to stay.  Just move on and enjoy the new place God leads you to.

 

I think we don't do enough to create realistic expectations about church membership. I think many people have a conscious or unconscious expectation when they join a church that everything will stay mostly the same and unless they have to move for work they'll live and die in that church. Then things change doctrinally or culturally in a church and too many of us are completely floored by it, even though we know plenty of other people who have been down this road at other churches. 

Also, sometimes God just decides to move someone out of their current church into another for various reasons that have nothing to do with church politics or doctrinal issues or personal issues with leadership or membership.  Sometimes, he trains believers in one church family and then moves them to a new one in more need of that skills set or at that maturity level. It's just time to move on.  Some people seem to really fight it and I think it's because they don't have an expectation that something like that is always a possibility.

 

Personality is a huge factor too.  There are people who cannot handle change in a healthy way.  I have a parent like this.  They decide that because the strongly prefer things to not change that any change is something wrong or bad.  They can't even process the idea of changing until not changing has created terrible problems that could've been minimized if they had just accepted it when the time came and transitioned into something else in a more timely way.

Finding a new church isn't easy, but I think if you have a short list of non-negotiables on doctrine and church policies you can sift through potential churches very quickly by visiting websites and making phone calls to leadership and eliminating most of them before you leave your house. Then you can have a much shorter list of good potential candidates that you can attend  in person and chat with the leadership in person. If you don't have a very clear idea of what you really want in a church and you can't articulate it, it's so much harder. Also, I don't have a problem with believers taking a break between churches for a while as long as they're still meeting the commands to believers in Scripture and they get back to finding a church in a reasonable time frame.

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Yes, and it's been difficult.

 

One of the very first things we did when we moved to this area 16 years ago was to find the local church of our chosen denomination. In fact, we started attending church before we rented an apartment, while we were still camping out in the motel. Between my involvement in the choir and folk music ensemble and serving on committees and running events and teaching Sunday school and the kids in religious education and youth group and pageants and children's choir and holiday events and and and, it was a huge part of our lives for a dozen years. In fact, we rented the house we've lived in for the past four years largely because of its proximity to the church.

 

Over the years, I went through phases when I felt spiritually out of touch with the church, but it was my kids' second home and the community was our extended family. So, I kept sucking it up and re-committing. 

 

Then we had a falling out with church leadership over an issue specific to our family. We did our best to mend fences and get past it, but none of us could really feel the same about the church after that. My daughter was working a lot of weekends and wasn't attending regularly, anyway. My son continued attending Sunday school and youth group to be with his friends, but curtailed any other involvement. My husband, who was always primarily interested in the social aspect, just quietly stopped attending at all. I tried for a while, but without the rest of the family there and with the lingering negativity from the personal situation, all of the deeper issues I'd been struggling with for years just kept rising to the surface. And eventually I stopped going, too. 

 

Although he continued to attend occasionally, when my son graduated from high school last year, he chose not to participate in the recognition ceremony at the church, because it no longer felt meaningful to him. 

 

Meanwhile, my daughter moved out of state -- where she immediately found a new church at which she is very happy -- my son is living on campus during the school year and sometimes drops in at the old church when he's home for weekends and breaks and my husband is back to sleeping in on Sunday mornings. I've gone through a very rough period of mourning the relationships and community we lost and trying to transition to a different church. In my case, this means looking outside my denomination, and, although I like the church I've been attending, I don't know if it will ever feel like "home." In addition to the substantive differences in theology and such, I'm also finding it very difficult to find ways into this new community while attending by my introverted self. So, sometimes I leave the service on Sunday mornings feeling nurtured and glad I went and full of good intentions about getting more involved, and other times I walk out feeling more lonely and isolated and lost than when I walked into the sanctuary.

 

I'm sorry. I don't mean to be discouraging. 

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Yes, we left the church I had attended since I was an infant(so a total of 30 years) about 1.5 years ago. My dh had been going there for about 15 years. The pastor I grew up with had retired and we stuck around for a year or so, but it became more and more apparent that it was time to move on. I was scared and reluctant at first but we have found a church we really love and I think it has been a great move for our family. Sadly our former church has hit some rough water since we left. We now attend a church whose pastor is a guy that my dh went to church with through Jr. High and High School. We have made more true friends in the last 1.5 years then we had made our entire married life. 

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We left after 13yrs... it was where we got married and had 5 of our 6 kids and started homeschooling.  However, 2 sets of good friends had moved away and another decided to swtich churches.  It was time.  We just knew it.  We were really holding on because of the relationships...and they were gone.  

 

There weren't any heavy theological issues we had - more logistical problems.  Our church got a permanent building further from our house... it was very tiny church and we wanted something larger for the kids, and we had always had some issues with our pastor (nothing major, just the small things that tend to add up over time).  Anyway, like I said...it was time.

 

After about 6 months of being gone we realized that we wished we had done it sooner.  I think looking back we could see a few more issues that we just ignored. 

 

The other 2 previous church moves were over theology and we weren't there nearly long.

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Yes, we left a church after being members for a long time (we're not old enough to be anywhere for 20 years at this point).  Any social organism, including a faith community, can become ill and rehabilitating/making a church a better place is very difficult if people are not willing to step forward and do the work.  It's probably a lot of work even if people are willing to step forward.

 

My take is that you should address it with the senior pastor the right way.  If he responds correctly, great.  If not, move on and let it go. Don't think about it, don't discuss it, don't wonder if it's still going on, don't fret and worry about other perfectly capable adults who choose to stay, don't end friendships with people who choose to stay.  Just move on and enjoy the new place God leads you to.

 

This.

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Yes.

 

We left the church we'd been attending for the last 12 years - the one DH actually grew up in his entire life - last November.

 

It was very difficult.  But it was more difficult to get to that place where we knew it was what we had to do.  For a few years, there had been some happenings that were giving us pause.  We were extremely involved: DH ran the sound board since he was about 15, was a youth leader and a deacon and overall just a well known, solid guy in the church; I worked in the nursery, with the youth, and was on the worship team.  Our best friends were on staff.  We both did musicals - I was the choir director.  We were always there, every time the doors were open, it seems.  Our kids knew where everything on the entire campus was, from the youth building to the catwalk above the stage to the baseball field out back.  Every nook and cranny was their home.  

When things began changing, we were still okay with it.  Things were getting a little more trendy, which isn't necessarily bad, but they hadn't crossed a theological line as of yet.  DH's parents (who had moved to this town 35 years ago, at the time, just to help get the church off its feet with DH's uncle, who was coming in as a new pastor) left.  A few people left, but not a big exodus at the time.

As I already mentioned, leadership changed a lot, and things began taking a different turn.  Many more theological problems began to surface.  More people began to leave - little by little.  

Since we left in November, there has been quite an upsurge in people leaving.  

 

One of the most difficult things about it is that we are in a rural community where that was, by far, the largest church (around 400-500), especially of our denomination (or even anything similar).  We tried different churches for about three months before settling on one that isn't perfect... it honestly has its share of things that I'm not in love with... but it's the best we can find without having to drive 45 minutes or more one way.  :(

 

 

Leaving was hard, but deciding to leave was harder.  DH knew it was time several months, if not a year, before I did.  I kept sticking with it and sticking with it... and then, one day last summer we were talking about what kept us there, and for me there was really only one thing.  In October, that one thing was suddenly gone, and it became pretty clear that there were no strings to hold us there anymore.  

Sometimes I felt sad about leaving; we would be at church on a Wednesday night and I'd get teary because I'd remember things that had happened at one time or another in one place or another in the church.  Then I'd remember that those things weren't the things that were happening now - and everything that made those things happen - the people, the circumstances, everything - were no longer even around.  So it wasn't like I was ditching our way of life; our way of life was just changing.

Sometimes people want to try to point fingers and say that we left because we don't like change - No, we're totally okay with change.  But not all change is necessarily good.  It's not like I'm saying 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', but if it ain't theologically correct, don't preach it.  :P  

 

Anyway, that's our experience with it.  We're only 6 months later and everything is fine.  From what I've heard, the church has changed even more.  We still have friends who go there - though some of them just chose to leave in the last month or so.  

 

But sometimes it is just time.  Good luck to you in whatever you decide.  :grouphug:

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I left my 18-year Presbyterian Church to become Orthodox Christian.  My story is very different from yours on all counts, so I'm not going to go into it.  But I have a cute story for you.

 

My mom and dad go to a large but not a mega-church...1000 members, that sort of thing.  I asked my mom once whether she ever wanted to go to a smaller church.  She didn't even pause--"NO!"  I asked her why not.  "TOO MUCH WORK!"  

 

She has always been the Newsletter Lady for every church and every group she was involved in.  She's an excellent writer.  And that should be enough for any one member to take on.  But when a church or group is small, there aren't enough hands to go around, and it ... is... too much work.  

 

Her vehemence cracked me up, though.  :0)

 

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We spent one year in a parish where Everyone was Someone. Within a couple of weeks from arrival, I was choir director and my husband was treasurer. Workliad for all members was very heavy, for legitimate causes. I bailed within six months owing to other reasons; remaining family followed six months later.

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I don't think I'd leave a church for the OP's reasons alone, as this lack of "stepping up to the plate" and take on responsibilities is prevalent everywhere. Rather, I'd step back from certain jobs and let someone else step forward. If no one does, then perhaps it just wasn't as important to others as it was to you. It seems that a clean floor should be a priority, but perhaps it needs to be worked into the finances of church upkeep and hired out, rather than a volunteer position. 

 

There may also be issues with a pastor who is placed in a church for 20+ years. I can imagine that there could be a lack of "excitement" and energy to make changes, keep current, or look at 5 or 10 year plans for the future.

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We left a church that I had attended for 27 years and dh had been there for 21 years.  We should have left 2 years earlier than we did.

 

 

It was a hard call and we tried to speak up and stand up for some things and were blasted for it.  Several other families left for the same reasons.

 

We are now in a much larger church where we are very active.  The kids love it and my special needs son has been on one family mission trip with dh and 2 mission trips with the college/adult group.

 

I do miss some of the people at the old church since we knew them, their extended families, the community, etc. but things weren't like they used to be.

 

It is not easy.

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A friend of mine just got me to look at a situation like this from the other side. She asked me how I would feel if there were people in my community who disagreed with everything we were doing and were constantly giving silent criticism (or overt criticism)? She had experienced this, people who stayed out of obligation but never were happy campers and were always telling her what was wrong with the church. She said in this case she was glad when those folks moved on. She said it was much better for everyone.

 

I'm sure you are much kinder about your frustration. She just made me look at it from the other side, that's all.

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I don't really have the luxury of leaving our church, but about 20 years ago I had to switch to the "other" church of our denomination in our town because dh got a Sunday-only job there.

 

It was really hard, and I felt a bit bitter and resentful.

 

God was there, too, I learned. It was good for me to become a little less judgemental. The first church was warm and enthusiastic, and the second earned the nickname "Frozen Chosen" BUT as I got to know people, I could see it was more a stylistic difference than a theological one.

 

Sometimes the Spirit uses common situations to provoke needed change, change that may not happen without the spark of discomfort, so I'd pray on it and ask for discernment. The issues you present may not be the only ones present, and I'd be open to the possibility God is trying to tell you something about your church, your life, and/or his direction for you.

 

 

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We were in a church for 10 years.  They got a new pastor and he was awful.  Many people wrote letters to the district office about him but he didn't go away.   The final straw was the day he walked in and told 5 associate pastors to pack their bags and get off the property and never come back.

 

We walked out that day too and never went back.

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Sometimes people want to try to point fingers and say that we left because we don't like change - No, we're totally okay with change.  But not all change is necessarily good.  It's not like I'm saying 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', but if it ain't theologically correct, don't preach it.   :p

 

:iagree: Hugs to all.

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We have been at our current church for 11 years and are in the process of bowing out. We told them we would teach our children's class until Labor Day, and to find replacements by then. We had promised a couple of special activities to the children 9-11 year olds, otherwise we would have resigned before now.

 

Leadership has changed, and the church is making a move towards legalism that we are not comfortable with as well as pushing an A.C.E. school down the throats of the parents. I suspect they will lose a lot of people. Within the church, there are about 20 retired couples, and another 30 couples that are younger and homeschooling their children. Only two families are willing to place their children in the school, and the other families with school age children are using the public school and are not willing to use an A.C.E. model school as they either do not want to pay tuition or see the very limited offerings at the high school level vs. AP's, DE, tech center, etc. at the ps. The school is floundering financially so there is a lot of begging constantly for money and fundraising. We are all very tired of the pressure to make donations or to buy things we do not want, and now that the leadership has decided to take the pressure to a new level by making sarcastic comments in the church bulletin and from the pulpit about how the school would be flush with money if people didn't homeschool or use the "evil public indoctrination system", we are not willing to stay. This was never a problem with the previous pastor and church board. It appears that the new pastor and his friends are the ones determined to do this. Due to the legalistic nature of the school - girls cannot cut their hair or wear make up, girls should never wear pants, boys must never allow their hair to get long enough to touch their ears or the collar, girls cannot wear sports clothes (culottes are provided for PE and many activities are prohibited to females so that their culottes won't flip up which means they spend a lot of time just standing around instead of pursuing physical fitness), families should not engage in mixed swimming, families should never attend movies, and on and on - the pastor is making hints to the men in the church that they need to institute these rules at home.

 

Under the previous pastor, the church was not involved with the operation of this school and did not push it on anyone. The current pastor is the driving force and has managed to get like minded individuals on the church board and in positions of elder. The whole place is changing for the worse, and we simply have to go as we feel it is very wrong to take matters of personal conviction and make them "theology" or trump the Gospel with lifestyle preaching.

 

This was the first strong evangelical church we've ever attended. It will be our last. I am pretty certain we are headed back to the United Methodist denomination as we always had good theological preaching, sound practice, pleasant, supportive relationships, lack of judgmentalism, and elder accountability. This church is independent, and I can see how lack of accountability is a very, very bad thing. We want to be back under a board of bishops again!

 

The hard thing is that we left a church 11 years ago because we were moving closer to my parents who are aging and need support and this church is their home church. At 72, I don't think they are looking to make a change, and since they do not have children they are raising, and are retiring from their ministry positions due to health, some of this doesn't affect or bother them in the same way we experience it. They are taking it quite hard. MIL also attends there but she is looking to make the move to another church. I don't like how hard this is on my parents, but the rubber has met the road so to speak, and we can not in good conscience continue.

 

OP, I am sorry you are going through this. But, sometimes families and churches have to part company for a variety of reasons and it can't be helped. I think the key is leaving gracefully and not creating waves out of hurt or anger.

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Leadership has changed, and the church is making a move towards legalism that we are not comfortable with as well as pushing an A.C.E. school down the throats of the parents. I suspect they will lose a lot of people. Within the church, there are about 20 retired couples, and another 30 couples that are younger and homeschooling their children. Only two families are willing to place their children in the school, and the other families with school age children are using the public school and are not willing to use an A.C.E. model school as they either do not want to pay tuition or see the very limited offerings at the high school level vs. AP's, DE, tech center, etc. at the ps. The school is floundering financially so there is a lot of begging constantly for money and fundraising. We are all very tired of the pressure to make donations or to buy things we do not want, and now that the leadership has decided to take the pressure to a new level by making sarcastic comments in the church bulletin and from the pulpit about how the school would be flush with money if people didn't homeschool or use the "evil public indoctrination system", we are not willing to stay. This was never a problem with the previous pastor and church board. It appears that the new pastor and his friends are the ones determined to do this. Due to the legalistic nature of the school - girls cannot cut their hair or wear make up, girls should never wear pants, boys must never allow their hair to get long enough to touch their ears or the collar, girls cannot wear sports clothes (culottes are provided for PE and many activities are prohibited to females so that their culottes won't flip up which means they spend a lot of time just standing around instead of pursuing physical fitness), families should not engage in mixed swimming, families should never attend movies, and on and on - the pastor is making hints to the men in the church that they need to institute these rules at home.

 

 

 

 

YIKES!  That would make me leave long before summer is over!

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YIKES!  That would make me leave long before summer is over!

Well, it is something that has happened only in the last year so at first we were willing to express our concerns and see what happened. Now that it's obvious this is the direction church leadership is going to take, we will be leaving. But, we hated to disappoint the children since they are looking forward to the two major summer activities we planned for the class that were announced at the beginning of the year. If we can possibly make good on those promises to the children, we must do so because it's always the kids that suffer for the folly of the adults. GRRRR....

 

We do have more than one vacation this summer and substitute teachers lined up for those Sundays. So I think the time is going to fly by...at this point, we duck out after the prayer and song portion of the service and go to our classroom to prep and wait for the kids so we don't have to listen to the sermon or snide comments from any corner. Leadership is still hoping we change our minds which isn't going to happen, but they can keep banking on that pipe dream if they want to do so. Not our problem.

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 Leadership is still hoping we change our minds which isn't going to happen, but they can keep banking on that pipe dream if they want to do so. Not our problem.

I think this is happening to *many* cs of that stripe, not just yours.  Even their own graduates are choosing to homeschool rather than sending their kids.  Homeschooling has given the people a way to vote, but somehow the leadership isn't listening.  

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I don't have much time now, but I will say this much:

 

We left a church after being very active members for 10 years. We did not make the decision lightly or on a whim. Actually, we stayed years longer than we probably should have.

 

Changing churches had a tremendously positive effect on our family, and both dh & I wish we had done it earlier.

 

 

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We were not long time members but very involved members of a church and felt we had to leave it. The pastor was determined to justify his bad  behavior and even though people were determined to allow it to prove they were forgiving, we were not able to stay to uphold was what right. It was hard to leave because we had put so much work into the church, and it was the hardest working church I could ever imagine, but they would not put their foot down on sin and we were raising our kids. 

 

I felt like I was divorcing our church. It felt really bad to me for almost a year. Then I was ready to move on.

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