EXIT BEHAVIOR & Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher. But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus. #LifeWay #research

by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 6/26/18.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

CHURCHGOERS STAY PUT

LifeWay Research switch churches

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

About two-thirds (63 percent) of churchgoers who are 65 or older are completely committed to attending their same church in the future. That drops to 50 percent for those younger than 35.

Older churchgoers are also least likely to want to leave their church. When asked if they’ve thought about going to another church in their area, 92 percent of those 65 or older say no.

Overall, 15 percent of churchgoers say they have thought about going to another church in the past six months. Eighty-five percent say they have not.

Of those thinking about going to another church, about half (54 percent) have already visited another church. Forty-six percent have not.

“If people are thinking about leaving your church, chances are they’ve already started looking,” said McConnell. “So they’re probably halfway out the door.”

LifeWay Research reasons switch church

Read more here … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/26/what-makes-churchgoers-stick-around/

GROUP EXIT & How a Negative Legitimizing Event Can Push People Out of Your Church … (and How a Negative Decision is Different)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/24/15.

I’ve written about how research reveals you can prevent group exits in churches by altering two “triggers” during the process of introducing a new idea.  The first trigger you must alter is called a “negative Legitimizing event.”  Here a person in leadership (usually a pastor) legitimizes a new idea and the “change proponents” begin to run too fast with their new idea. This headlong speed will eventually lead to “status quo congregants” feeling left behind and polarized.  The result is polarization in the church between the change proponents (who you need for cultivating new ideas) and the status quo (who you need because they control the finances and have experience).

I have written a book describing this (Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press) as well as created a short introduction in my “Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Wesleyan Publishing House) at this link.

But, a negative legitimizing event is very different from a “negative decision.”  And, often my students confuse the two.

So, I thought I’d share a little bit more clarity on what comprises a Negative Legitimizing Event. This is because at first reading, students can miss-identify the “negative legitimizing event” as simply a “negative decision.”  It is really more than that with many of you correctly identifying a “negative legitimizing event.”

But, for further clarity let me explain how I once addressed the difference between a “negative legitimizing event” and a “negative event” with a student.   You see, sometimes students don’t find the “negative legitimizing event,” but instead describe a “negative decision” a leader has undertaken.

Here is an example of what a student once said:

”My Negative Legitimizing Event: The senior pastor at the time felt that the church financially could not sustain a full time assistant pastor. So, in order to pay bills and for the church to be financially stable, the senior pastor and the local board of administration, decided to eliminate the position of the assistant, which was for all purposes, the position of a youth pastor, one specializing in the ministry towards teens from ages 12 to 18.”  This person is a good student, but was thinking I was asking for a “negative event” and thus described a “negative decision event.”

Here is my response:

A “Negative Legitimizing Event” is different.  It is a decision by someone in power (Pastor Jim in the textbook, Whitesel, 2007, p. 158, para. 1) who legitimizes a change, without first building broad support for it.  A “Negative Legitimizing Event” probably happened in this student’s story, but he did not make it clear when and by who.

Thus, if you have questions (or if you are a student, before you post your answer to this week’s questions) reread pp. 157-158 (Whitesel, 2007), plus look at the Questions for Group Study on pp. 157 (especially “Trigger 2”). This should help you identify who/when/where did someone in power legitimize a change without first building broad support. And, thus the leader’s “legitimizing” of a change, would result in a “negative” outcome and lead the church down ROUTE A to group exit.

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177

For more info see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  The figure is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).

GROUP EXIT & An Exercise to Help You Notice When People Are Preparing to Leave a Church

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/23/15.

Research indicates there are six stages and five triggers that occur before groups exit a church in disgust.  But research also demonstrates that be altering just two triggers, you can prevent group exit.  I have written an entire book on this (Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press) as well as excerpted a short introduction from on it from my book “Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Wesleyan Publishing House) at this link.  If you have not already done so, read the link before undertaking the exercise.

For this leadership exercise, investigate how to correctly spot (and not replicate) “Negative Legitimizing Events.” This exercise is called “Locate the Negative Legitimizing Event.” It is similar to pin the tail on the donkey.

We begin with a scenario with three actors.

1  Read the story and tell us which one created a Negative Legitimizing Event.

2 Then, create your own story.

2.1  Make it about a ministry-related situation and include three characters.

2.2  Then give us three options for the person who committed the management faux paux: i.e. they created a “Negative Legitimizing Event.”

I’ll start.

Pastor H had been a proponent of Sunday evening small groups, and he had spoken on this at many denominational seminars.  Pastor H thinks Sunday evening small groups might work for this new church, and he consults a nearby pastor (Pastor D) who tells Pastor H, “you must be firm with them.  They’ve drove off other pastors and they will if you aren’t forceful with them.”  Pastor H decided that Sunday evening small groups had been successful in his previous church. Thus, he decided to announce to the congregation that everyone should go to Sunday evening small groups, even if they were already involved in committees, Sunday Schools, etc..  He announced this from the pulpit. Pastor J is a retired pastor who attends the church and was sitting in the audience.  Pastor J begins to call others congregants from his Sunday School class to complain.

Here are the options for a “Negative Legitimizing Event”

Option 1:  Pastor H tells the congregation the church is going to implement Sunday evening small groups.
Option 2:  Pastor D tells Pastor H he must be firm and forceful with the congregation.
Option 3:  Pastor J calls other congregants from his Sunday School class to complain.

Now, if you are not a student in one of my courses you can find the answer here.  But, if you are a student, please undertake this exercise before you click the link for the answer.  And, if you got the answer wrong share a bit more in class regarding what you learned.

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177

For more info see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  The figure is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).