East Molesey 1

Closing the Back Door

We are often asked to run an evening for sides people in order to hone their skills in welcoming new people into church. There’s more to welcoming than a smile as someone arrives for a service!

Many churches in the Diocese of Guildford are working hard at trying to get new people to join their churches but there are possibly more leaving the Church than joining.

In 'The Road to Growth' Bob Jackson researched the reasons for decline and growth in the Church of England. He says: "Churches that grow tend to be those that have a welcoming front door that is wide enough to walk through. The job of welcome entails finding each newcomer several friends within the first few weeks..."

People want a church where they can make friends, not just a friendly church! But the welcome is not the only thing. Jackson continues…"…churches have a back door as well as a front one. People leave as well as arrive. Churches with weak relationship glue are leaving the back door wide open because people are able to walk through it unhindered by the trauma of leaving friends and community."

However good a church is at welcoming people through its front door, trying to engage and keep people is more problematical. Some stay for a few weeks whilst others who have been coming for years may decide to leave, even if it is only in their hearts. Philip Richter and Leslie Francis did some research in the 1990s and discovered then that "…1500 people leave British churches every week not counting those who die, or simply transfer to another church."

The figure is higher now and more people are leaving. We need to understand why and work out what we can do about it in order to stay true to Jesus’ image of the good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep and runs after the one.

You may download the powerpoint slides. This presentation has been used with PCCs in the diocese to help them to

  • Discover why people leave churches
  • Recognise the signs before they leave
  • Think about which of these people is most likely to return?
  • Work out what action the local church can take in order to stop that happening.

Closing the Back Door of Church Part 1

Closing the Back Door of Church Part 2

You can use the powerpoint in a number of ways - as it is, invite us  to come and facilitate an evening, day or weekend with your PCC or contact us for notes to go alongside the powerpoint.

For further information or to get a copy of my notes please contact us by email at pdet.admin@cofeguildford.org.uk or telephone the office 01483 484924.

For further reading:

Appleton, Bonnie, Closing the Back Door of the Church (Grove Books 2010)

Francis, Leslie J and Richter, Philip J Gone for Good? Church leaving and Returning in the 21st Century (London: Epworth Press, 2007)

Fowler, James Stages of Faith (San Francisco: Harper, 1981)

Hendricks, William D. Exit Interviews: Revealing stories of why people are leaving the church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993)

Jackson, Bob The Road to Growth: Towards a Thriving Church (London: Church House Publishing, 2005)

Jamieson, Alan, A Churchless Faith: faith journeys beyond the churches (London: SPCK 2nd impression, 2003)

Jamieson, Alan, Journeying in Faith: in and beyond the tough places (London: SPCK, 2004)

Jamieson, Alan, McIntosh, Jenny and Thompson, Adrienne, Church Leavers: faith journeys five years on (London: SPCK 2006)

Murray, Stuart, Church after Christendom (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2004)

Murray, Stuart, Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a strange New World (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2004)

Richter, Philip and Francis, Leslie J. Gone but not Forgotten: Church Leaving and Returning (London: Darton Longman and Todd, 1998)

Riddell, Mike, Pierson, Mark and Kirkpatrick, Cathy The Prodigal Project: journey into the emerging church (London: SPCK, 2000)

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;

it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31

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