Doug Idema

A Conversation on Retaining the People in Your Assembly

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On Saturday, April 28th, about 40 men and women were kindly hosted by Malton Bible Chapel in Malton, Ontario.   Together, we met to have an open discussion about why people leave the assemblies.

It was a busy day, packed with group discussion, table discussion, “hot seat” interviews and especially looking at what God’s expectations are of us.   We learned from each other, but especially from Him.

The basis of the day’s focus was a “Why People Leave” survey that assemblyHUB sent out in late March 2018.  We received 126 responses to the survey.  For a summary, please see this PDF file.

The top 4 reasons people leave, based on the survey, are:

  • Disagreement with leadership or lack of leadership
  • Church not meeting personal or family needs
  • Church is not changing with the times
  • Conflict within the church or with other church members

The top 3 demographic groups leaving are:

  • College / University Students
  • Couples, with children at home
  • Singles, not married

Throughout the day, we prayerfully sought to understand each of the top reasons people leave and discussed strategies for stopping the trends.  The discussions and topics were many, but here is an example of some.

  • As a leader are we heeding the Father, feeding His flock, ready to bleed for His flock
  • Being a leader in a church requires high levels of commitment, sacrifice, understanding the state of each member of the flock. What time are we investing?
  • When someone leaves the assembly, it is ultimately the leaders responsibility.
  • Are we flexible to change as required, while holding to Biblical doctrines, principles?
  • Our churches need to be a place where people’s needs are met. Do we know the needs in our churches?
  • Do we know the flock well enough to anticipate when people may leave? Are we willing to leave the 99 to bring back the 1?
  • We need to have a vision that our congregation can identify with, rally around and which help drive us forward.
  • Are we trying to be Brethren or Biblical?
  • Do I know why people leave my church?
  • We need to have a sustained focus on developing and discipling our next generations.
  • We need to tackle issues that are prevalent in the world today.

We wrapped up the day with a model that can be used in churches to understand the issues and improve the situation.  We were finally challenged as leaders to persevere through the good times and bad.

Thank you to those who participated in the survey and those who met with us on April 28th.  It was a good day, filled with honesty and optimism.

Stay tuned for our next Leadership Connect event, being planned for November 2018.

Doug Idema


  1. Avatar

    Good morning. One reason I think the younger people left the assemblies were because most assemblies (at least as I recall from my assembly days in NJ) don’t vote in church officers, and there are no term limits. As a result, a small number of men gained control (usually from the largest families), there was no way to courteously rotate them out or move younger men in, and the old men cling to power long past their effectiveness dates.

    Another reason (and this will vary based on assembly) was dreadful preaching. The priesthood of all believers doesn’t mean that the men of that congregation are good in the pulpit. The quality of preaching also suffers because of the constant rotation, and the preachers’ lack of training. Also, there was way too much preoccupation with the book of Revelation and the end-times.

    Speaking for myself, I had us leave the assembly in Columbia SC (back in the late 1980s), for two reasons, The first was that I recognized what a stunting effect assembly culture would have on the spiritual growth of my wife. Secondly, two of that church’s elders started shouting angrily at me during a small-group Bible study because I said something that connected Israel and the Church. It was outrageous.

    That experience also firmed up my opinion that the hostility to having a F/T pastor was an overreaction, and energized by a spirit of rebellion.


  2. Avatar

    If I may be allowed to comment, being one who left the assembly, and also as a former elder. First, I live what the assemblies stand for, and what they have done for the Body of Christ. My foremost concern is the emphasis on “leadership.” In other words, too much of it. And the symptom of that issue is found in much of the discussion points in your article. If I read my Bible correctly, every child of God has a Spirit-given and enabled gift. Everyone has at least one. The reason? To profit everyone else in the body (assembly). The assembly is THE place to not only find out what your gift is, but to use it. For the benefit of everyone.

    Instead, the “elders” are no more (or less) than what many local churches in the denominations have only one of… a Pastor. He does it all. And in the assemblies I’ve seen, the same goes for the elsership.

    May I suggest a return to first principles, when those who left the established denominations many years ago left because they didn’t see NT principles being evident.

    I could say more, but just leave it at this: too many don’t know what their gift is and they can’t use it as a result. Those in leadership don’t know their place, giving themselves too much responsibility, taking it from those who should be more involved, but aren’t.



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