During a conversation with a close friend last week a couple of revelations either hit me for the first time or reminded me of things I had thought about on previous occasions, yet forgot. The friend, who has been through similar experience of late will hopefully blog about one of these ideas.
Over the past few years, as I have become more engaged in "emerging church" conversations and differing ways of expressing faith, I have seen a number of persons leaving the church behind. Called post-congregational, de-churched and leavers by a number of sociologists, theologians and demographics experts, these people have had a profound effect upon the church, mostly by their absence.
During this time many of my friends have become part of this demographic, some intentionally, some due to theological factors and some unintentionally (like Kristi and I at times). In fact, one friend, before starting a church of such persons, wrote a book on the subject (Life After Church).
Here is what popped into my mind regarding Leavers. Many Leavers I know are very lonely. Unless they are surrounded by a community of friends they either left with, were friends apart from church in a community they already knew, have great social skills or have a great work or neighborhood environment, they do not have lots of friends. Their friends have always been Christians, the kind they meet at church with similar interests and lifestyles (all of which are important).
I have seen it on many occasions. Friends decide to leave church and they move to another city. They are not the type of people to meet people at bars. Their experience with meeting people is simple. Go to church. Meet people. Find some people with similar interests. Meet their friends.
Without church as the crutch and without the skills developed by many outside the church (who had no options and had to develop the "meeting people" skills at a young age), many de-churched persons end up lonely, finding a few friends through work or neighborhood, but missing the deep relationships of their past. They may even long for the Christian community they had experienced, but since they are not interested in church, they have a hard time finding this connection.
So, in anticipation of the leavers, should churches and youth ministries work on people skills and relationship skills?
just a thought- next up ambivalence vs anger towards church.