Closing the Back Door of the Church

Thank you to Jeff for inviting me to contribute to this site. I hope I can contribute something of value to the ongoing conversation we can all enjoy.

The subject of this post has been swirling around in my mind for a long time, but a recent day spent at a seminar,coupled with a determination to get pastoral care working right in the church, has stirred my thinking.

Let me begin with a simple definition or two for our thoughts:
The back door of the church is used to describe the exit path of anyone who leaves the church in a non-positive way. In other words they leave unnoticed, or in a bad way with guilt or hurt or something similar in their baggage.

The front door is the point of entry into the church through which everyone arrives. It’s also the exit path of those who leave positively. The front door is all about welcome and integration into the life of the church.

Given that these definitions are working definitions, it’s highly likely that there will be times when we mix our metaphors, but as long as we understand that there is a good way into church, agood way out of church and a bad way out of church, we should be okay.

My personal goal is to develop a strategy that connects the front and back doors and helps as many people as possible to leave well if leaving is what they must do.

This conversation is mainly about the back door, but if we manage the front door well, I think that will help us manage the back door better.

People get to the back door for a whole host of reasons. A good strategy for closing the back door must begin with how we stop someone’s progress towards the back door of the church. If they reach the back door, it will be much harder to stop them once they cross the threshold.
I also think that it’s important to understand that no matter what we do, some folk are set on a path that can only ever lead them to the back door of the church. Personal choices and lifestyles, a growing sense of the Holy Spirit convicting them of their need to make changes, can mean that some people will choose to leave rather than face the truth.

However, just because this is true for some, it does not mean it is true for everyone.

Here’s a starting point for thinking about how people arrive at the back door. Ron Kallmier, who lead the seminar I recently attended, pointed us to Luke 15 and described three ways people end up leaving the church (becoming lost).

1. They get lost by accident. They just wander off like a sheep, not really paying attention and before they no it they are lost.

2. Lost through the carelessness of someone else. Plenty of people end up getting hurt at church and by church. That hurt and pain festers and eventually they can stand it no more and make their exit.

3. Lost by choice. Like the prodigal son they make a choice to leave the church because it suites them to do so.

If these are the three major reasons people are lost from the church, we will need to take them all into consideration when building our strategy.

I look forward to sharing the conversation with you.

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