I ran into a man who used to attend our former church at a basketball sign up for my children. He and his family left maybe two or three years ago. They used to help immensely with children’s ministry. His wife is now very ill, so I feel for him in his new battle. I did get to talking with him about church and asked him where he attends. His first comment, after naming the church, was that they left because they felt the children’s ministry at our former church was way to entertainment oriented. I know another couple that left about the time this one did, and that was the complaint. I personally felt at the time that my kids were still getting Biblical learning in their classes. I helped in classes, and at Awana. With all combined, my kids were really learning a lot. However, I do see the point about the entertainment focus. It’s gotten worse. I still felt that the leaders on the children’s side of things were trying hard to keep the gospel in there. It really was slipping though, with videos and games filling time that had nothing really to do with anything. There was a core story, and I did like it and the hands on teaching (like eating real food in class that they would have eaten in the region of the Biblical account…goat cheeses and whole olives with pits, figs, nuts, and the like…flat breads). Some things were good, but it was evident that entertainment was the focus often.
This old member also mentioned that when they finally began going to another church, they realized how much the Bible teaching was lacking in the old church. He mentioned the problem with small/life/house groups was that they were not being led by people with any true theological training. If the pastor wasn’t preaching the true word (but was following some sort of schedule rotating topics/books/and themes) and was expecting learning to be going on in groups, it wasn’t that the seminarians were teaching. Especially if small group/life group/home groups were actually also studying themes or books other than the Bible. He mentioned that his “traditional” church now had traditional music and expository preaching word for word. He said they spend months on a small section of the Bible. Also, the kids have Sunday school in the first hour (everyone has this option including adults, and older children stay with parents in church. The people have family time in church rather than segregating children and youth out so heavily. This is refreshing to him. He said the former church was “too seeker friendly.”
Themes repeat when speaking to people who left or are considering leaving our former church.
1. The Bible is not preached as much as people desire.
2. Dissatisfied with children’s ministry or youth ministry. Mostly, the idea is that the kids are being bombarded with much entertainment and not with enough Biblical teaching. One elder even complained that the youth don’t carry Bibles at all.
3. Desire for family to be able to be together rather than segregated in the church time.
4. An identification that the church is following some sort of trend or plan, either seeker friendly,
emergent, or just a direction change.
5. A fear for their children’s future if they stay in our former church.
6. Some who are not young families with children have noted a problem with their needs not being met. Singles and older adults have actually asked and have been told the church is focusing on youth and young families.
We’re considering trying this family’s church. If we can get organized, we may go next Sunday. Many former members of our church go there. I feel we need a support group for “former XYZ church members.” Too bad we couldn’t have broken off all at once, and then we wouldn’t be scattered all over the churches within a 20 mile radius!