Six Reasons Why Women May Be Leaving Your Church

July 20, 2015

I have the opportunity to be in many churches. In that regard, I am observer of people. When I enter a worship service, I do a quick scan of those attending. And almost every time I look to the congregation, I notice one clear reality: the majority in attendance are women.

It is for that reason that volumes have been written the past couple of decades about getting more men to attend church. In this brief article, however, I want to look from a different perspective. I want to understand the motivations for women who leave the church. My process was simple; I quickly reviewed thousands of comments on my blog. Many times, I read a comment where a woman told me she had given up on a church. Here are the six most common themes:

  1. Overworked. “I had trouble saying no when I was asked to do something in the church. The leaders piled so much on me that the only way I could get relief was to leave the church.”
  2. Not valued. “I really don’t think the leaders in our church value women. Our roles and opportunities are very limited. I am frustrated. I hope I can find a church where my gifts are appreciated.”
  3. Relationally hurt. “There was a group of ladies in our church that did everything together. When I tried to join them, they paid me no attention. I don’t want to be in a church of cliques.”
  4. Lack of quality childcare. “The preaching was great and the people were friendly, but the childcare was a mess. It was both unclean and unsafe. I’m not taking my child there.”
  5. Busyness. “I work full-time. I have four kids at home. I have so many responsibilities. It’s tough to give even more of my time to the church.”
  6. Husband does not attend. “It’s tough coming to church without my husband. I am totally responsible to get our three kids to church. And I really feel out of place because the church has groups for married adults and single adults. I don’t know where I fit.”

Church leaders: see these comments as opportunities for ministry rather than problems that can’t be solved.

How would you address these concerns? What is your church doing now? What more would you like your church to do? Let me hear from you.

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  • A common denominator I have found with many women who leave is that they are “easily offended.” Once offended, they can not move beyond – sort of myopic. There is a lot of spiritual immaturity with the women I am around and it is just plain wearying. Yes, they need to have good teaching which they receive at our church, but they also need to get over themselves. No, I am not bitter but yes, weary of dealing with this one.

    • You can’t seriously read through this heart-rending thread and dismiss it as “They’re just easily offended” without a real insensitivity to the abuse and suffering described here. But perhaps you are just specifically describing your own church situation.

      There are people and churches out there who aren’t full of women leaving the church because they’re easily offended. If this is wearying to you, there are other churches out there. (And then you see why people leave churches.)

  • Have been part of a big church for 21 years . 18 years of that married with kids and the four divorced and left to fend for your self. Most people do not know what to say so they avoid you and after that I just feel so a lone you stop going. Would reach out to people and they would not call back. We are to be the body of God but we are letting some people fall through the cracks. Now I work all weekend so i do not have to deal with the looks and feeling that you have done something bad just because you are divorced.

  • For some reason I came across this article and unfortunately it is very true. I’ve lived it & continue to experience this in churches. I have been in ministry for 23 years and as a young 33 year old woman I have found myself relating to :

    1. Overworked: It seems like in order to be in ministry, one must give their entire schedule and life to the church.

    2. Not valued: I’ve had to continually face my pastor in love after hearing him telling my campus pastor behind my back that he needs to make me my “b!%ch,” in order to keep me from outgrowing his worship ministry. I don’t feel safe to be a single woman in a high leadership position at this church.

    3. Busyness: After telling them my schedule, that I cannot commit to a full time volunteer position with a full time job that pays my bills, they have outcast me and made me feel like I’m not fully committed. However , my relationship with the Lord is greater than the offense and the lack of spiritual maturity.

    It’s almost easier to be a married woman in ministry, than a single woman in a high leadership position & have to continually trust that God is solely over shadowing & leading my life.

  • AuntSusie Burke says on

    Why do Sunday church families have to ‘tuck’ their children away to daycare during services. Children should be welcome in church to hear the Word of God. Children should be instructed as to their actions and ultimately the parent(s) guide and lead this family unit. Private viewing and “crying rooms” should be available for anyone who cannot refrain from interrupting the service. But, to dismiss young folks, children, babies from the Blessings is unkind and an interruption in their training/learning experience.

  • RE #2,
    My husband died a couple years ago, and I’m still young enough that while I’ve cut down to part time, I’m still working. For years prior to that, he and I were “heavily” involved in providing music for our worship services. Since his death, I’ve had to practically “force” people to let me continue to, occasionally, use my God-given gifts to be involved in and add to our worship. Several months ago, a Family Christian catalog (which I’ve since misplaced) included some stats on # of widows who are no longer involved in their congregations. I showed that page to my pastor (granted, right before a service when there wasn’t really time to discuss it), and his comment was that we have a card-playing group where single women/widows can come (on a weekday morning) to play cards…. and as far as worship, I guess the idea is that people are supposed to just show up, stand up & sit down on cue, but not really be involved in worshiping.

  • Great observations that needed to be made. Even in groups where women have opportunities for ministry outside of the typical “women’s ministry” mold, this type of ministry can pose a challenge to healthy growth if it’s too shortsighted.

    All may, some should, none must is a good rule of thumb. Too much pressure to be involved in a ministry that simply doesn’t utilize people’s gifts and talents is going to scare some off. Women with careers and caregiving responsibilities often don’t have time to be involved in kitchen or decorating for a luncheon duties for the umpteenth time.

    Hospitality and a welcoming environment for coffee hours and social events is important, but should not be the entire focus of a women’s ministry. Women, particularly younger women, need opportunities for spiritual growth.

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