How to Leave a Church


Often times, I have addressed church hurt and pastor hurt over the years. Many have stories of being hurt over the years and I am one of them who has a couple stories under my belt. For some, they have experienced a messed up pastor or church. Others just simply had a different way of viewing a situation but it still hurt. Then for others, if we are honest, the pastor or church may have been bringing a truth we did not want to accept and we embraced it in pain instead of humility. There are many reasons for church hurt.

However, that is not the point of this post. This post is about the other side that most never see. It’s when the pastor is hurt.

Pastoral relational hurt is one of the biggest reasons pastors resign and leave ministry.

In my case, we are very relational church. The people in our church family are just that, family. When people leave out the back door without a word, let you know they won’t be back in a text, or leave in explosive ways out of the blue…. it can be very damaging.

I won’t bore you with all the stats but over time when these situations happen, they back up on a pastor. They get harder and harder to process and not take personally. I have been the lead pastor of the same church for 14 years and while the good, deep relationships far out number the painful goodbyes, there are days that the collective hurt weighs heavy.

I guess as a pastor, I’m now suppose to leave you four bullet points on how to leave a church well but I don’t feel like that’s the point of this post. I simply want to shed a little light on a side of things most don’t get to see.

When you leave a church, communicate.

If God is leading in a new way, let the pastor celebrate it with you as you leave the front door that is always open instead of sneaking out the back. (I have many of these stories and love when we can celebrate new starts with people we love).

If you are leaving, don’t say that you are just taking a short break to try to soften the blow. Tell them you are leaving and do so on good terms. Saying you are taking a break usually leaves a good pastor praying for you, reaching out to you, and then confused over time.

If you have a concern or frustration, share it and talk it through. Far too often, things that could have been addressed when they are small become huge, explosive, and damaging.

I realize not all people go to a relational church. I have had people share with me that they have never met their pastor or that their pastor would not recognize them on the street. (This blows my mind)

However, if you go to a relational, smaller church and you feel you need to move on …. consider it as a break up and talk it through. Keep unity even if you’re not staying in the church.

Far too many people leave a church for another church like they decided to start going to Wendy’s instead of McDonalds for their hamburgers. Don’t be a consumer.

Leave with love, communication, and unity.

Random Thoughts.

Pastor Tom Hypes

About Tom Hypes

Tom Hypes is an ordained Pastor who has served in churches and the camping ministry for over 25 years. He currently leads at The Shepherd's Fellowship and volunteers at Leapin' Outreach (clothing ministry), Marion County Citizen Circle (helping clients with transitions from prison to community), Kirkpatrick Food Pantry, and ministers in the local nursing homes. He has also contributed to Group Magazine, CBA Marketplace, and Youth Worker Magazine. He serves in his ministry in the partnership with his family; wife Jenni, son Ryan, and daughter Emily.