By Sam Rainer
“A family from your church wants to join our church.”
The pastor who called me was genuine in his request. We don’t have many people transferring into our church from other churches. And we don’t have many people transferring out either. In this instance, the reasons were noble for leaving our church and going to another church. I’m glad we had a conversation about it.
Transfer growth occurs when a church member moves his or her membership to another church.
It’s also the case that a few churches seek transfer growth as a strategy—never explicitly stated, of course, but completely obvious. Typically, this unstated strategy is expressed in a benign but pretentious phrase like, We’re the best. Why would you go anywhere else? In today’s consumeristic society, I’m not surprised some churches would use this tactic. However, my missiology leads me to believe that “meet them where they are” refers to unbelievers, not other church members.
There are plenty of bad reasons to transfer to another church. Reasons like “They’re the best.” Or “They have the program I like.” Or “They play music I like.” Or “They have coffee every Sunday morning.” Far too many churches have low standards of membership, and transfer growth tends to bloom like algae in these environments. I don’t want to sound too harsh, but it feels slimy when people jump into churches for those reasons.
But not all transfer growth is bad. Not every person is a church hopper, looking for the next best thing. In fact, there are good reasons to transfer to another church, even one right down the road. I’ll give five good reasons you should accept transfer growth.
- Geography. In today’s transient culture, transfer growth is an inevitable reality. Most churches will experience some transfer growth. When you move to another city, you should transfer membership to another church. Additionally, churches should reach out to believers who are new to the area.
- Theology. When a church makes wholesale changes to doctrine, then it’s time to consider a move to another church. If you believe something completely different than what your church believes, it’s better for you to find a church closer to your beliefs. When people come to your church because of doctrine, then you should consider receiving them.
- Family. It’s best for families to worship and make disciples together. When two families blend together, they should attend the same church. When parents move back in with children in their last season of life, decisions must be made about what church to join. Family reasons are good reasons to transfer.
- Abandonment. This reason is tragic, but cases of abandonment occur. I know of occurrences where one group in a church pushed out another group unjustly. The abandoned group must find another church. You’re not wrong to receive this group at your church.
- Life stage. This reason is broad, but a life stage change could be a legitimate reason to transfer churches. Sometimes you get to an age where you can’t drive as far and you must find another church closer to your residence. You might adopt a special needs child that could require a completely different schedule and necessitate a transfer.
Several good reasons exist to move your membership to another church. Not all transfer growth is bad.
Posted on March 4, 2020
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
Have you ever been mistreated and lied to that you feel like transferring to another church in the same denomination? Worst part is wife doesn’t want to go to another church and blows it off. I’m dealing with a couple of people who lied to me and supposed to be pastors themselves and that they already destroyed my trust in them. Anything close to spiritual abuse?
Steve, I grew up being taught by the SBC church in our little village that a church is a VOLUNTARY organization for the propagation of the gospel. Emphasis voluntary. No, I do not become family or marry the church. I voluntarily unite with it for the purpose of the propagation of the gospel. Yes, I can leave anytime and for any reason since it is VOLUNTARY. Of course, if I united for the propagation of the gospel odds are I won’t leave unless I can do that more effectively elsewhere. (With our grandchild, there was no way to lead that child to a life of voluntary association for the propagation of the gospel when church was seen as painful and something to avoid like the plague.)
Someone castigated those who change churches as having a consumer mindset. You bet they do…..that was how pastors got them into the church in the first place. The whole church growth movement/seeker sensitive bandwagon is using consumerism to lure in a crowd. When we draw people not with the gospel but with “come to our church and have it your way” why are we shocked when they leave because things are no longer “their way?”
I’m happy to have found a place centered on Christ, with a service designed to speak the truth rather than to appeal to carnality. I can voluntarily associate there for the propagation of the gospel. But you better believe if they cease to focus on Christ and on preaching the gospel, substituting entertainment and a light show and fluff, I will be the first one out the door.
Providing substance may mean lower attendance numbers but just might mean higher conversion numbers.