How to Deal with Flaky Church Attenders?

May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Q&A | 4 Comments
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Question: Okay, so… there’s this couple that used to come to church faithfully for a long time, but then they stopped coming. Their church friends tried to encourage them, but nobody could really get a straight answer about why they stopped coming to church. They would just sort of mumble about not feeling connected, or going to a different church, or feeling let down by such and such church leaders, and things like that, but they wouldn’t be specific. People kept trying to follow up and encourage them for a long time, but finally just accepted that they weren’t coming back. Now, once in while, maybe a couple of times a year, out of the blue, they show up on a Sunday morning, and all their old church friends just go nuts. They fawn all over them, and tell them how glad they are to see them, and make a really big deal out of the fact that they’re back, but the next Sunday they’re not there again, and it may be five or six months before they’re seen again. My question is this: Is it right to make such a big deal over them when they show up, or should people just be polite, but have more of a wait-and-see attitude, unless they come for at least two or three weeks in a row?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I know it is disappointing when people leave the church for superficial reasons – especially young married couples who really need the blessing of fellowship and service in the Body of Christ. And, yes, it can be frustrating when (from a personal standpoint) it looks like people that we care about are being flaky about church attendance. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm over their friends showing up at church – even if it can be kind of a set-up for disappointment. There may be a temptation to judge the motives of the couple you are describing as being attention-seeking, and to try the tactic of ignoring them when they come to church to see if they will come for several straight weeks until they satisfy their desire to be noticed, but I can’t find any Biblical support for that sort of judgmental speculation or pragmatism, and it’s usually not wise to judge someone’s inner motives. Probably the best thing to do is be happy when they do come to church, keep praying for them, and try to be happy for the people who are absurdly overjoyed to see them. Romans 12:15 says that we need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (unless they are rejoicing in something evil – I Corinthians 13:6), so that seems to be the best attitude to have in this situation.

[One caveat is that there are people who wish they could come to church WITHOUT being noticed or fawned over, so when a big deal is made about the fact that they finally showed up, it has the opposite effect of making them not want to come back, but I honestly do not know how to combat that attitude. We can’t reasonably ask friendly church members to ignore guests or former members, and when friendliness is seen as a detriment instead of a benefit, there’s not much we can do about that.]


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