Though each new church is different, as a general rule, new churches have a higher percentage of younger families in them than more established churches. This reality inevitably leads some young families who are already attending an established church that has very few young people to leave the established church and go to the new church. The new church may actually have fewer programs and activities than an established church, but the programs and activities that younger churches have are frequently aimed right at the needs of younger families. When young families decided to change churches, they should go through the formal process of joining that new church. Joshua Harris talks about this in his excellent book, Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God (Lifechange Books).
Because of my position, I am often asked by young families how they know when it is time to change churches. This is always an awkward moment for me. I know that my response will impact not only that family, but two churches as well. I know that if I tell them to go to the new church, then the established church may be losing one of the only young families it has left. I know that if I tell them to stay in the established church, I may well be hindering their spiritual growth because the new church may indeed be exactly what they need to pull them out of a spiritual rut and take them to the next level. I like them to think about how good a church member they have been in their previous church because it will be an indicator to how helpful they will be to a new church. Books such as What Is a Healthy Church Member? (IX Marks) can be useful in helping a family that is considering changing churches.
Here are some wrong reasons to change churches:
1. We want a church that is more “fun.” While church should be fun that is not its primary purpose. The primary purpose of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to a community that does not know Him. Will our changing churches help either church more effectively accomplish their task of proclaiming the Gospel? Read The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church Is Big in God's Eyes before picking a church just because it is "fun."
2. We want a worship service that has more “zip.” While younger people tend to like more “zip” in their worship than older generations, what is more important is that worship honors Christ and helps the worshippers be more in tune with what the Spirit is speaking into their lives. Regardless of worship style or music preference, one must ask which church will help the individual person focus on God and be more connected to Him. Which service has more "zip" may not be the correct answer. Consider books such as Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground? or Real Life, Real Worship: Developing the Heart God Desires to help understand the importance of worship.
4. The pastor (or deacon, or Sunday School teacher, or youth group leader, etc.) made us mad. We should never leave a church in anger. When we do, we simply take the anger with us to the next church. It may lay dormant for a few months, but eventually our anger will come out at the new church. This is not fair to the new church. If someone at our church has said something to us or our child that made us upset, we should speak to the person directly and get the issue resolved. Running from an issue does not count as “resolving” it. Gossipping about the issue to others does not count as "resolving" it. Only by going directly to the individual involved can we resolve such issues. Learn and apply the principles found in Peacemaking Pastor, The: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict before leaving a church in anger.
Here are some valid reasons to change churches:
1. Our child does not want to go to church at all because nothing at the church relates to his or her life. While every child goes through the occasional “I don’t feel like going to church” phase, when the “phase” becomes a clear pattern, our child’s spiritual well being is in trouble. It is time to find a church that will relate to our child for his or her own spiritual health. Read this powerful book to help you know if your church is helping or hindering your childn's faith, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it.
2. Our child is faithful to attend church but there really is nothing for them to do at church but sit and listen. If our church offers nothing at all for young people, even though they are faithfully there, then something is wrong with the church as a whole. While some churches offer more or less in the way of programming, every church ought to offer something. If there is a faithful group of young people coming to church and the church simply ignores then, it is definitely time to find a new church! Read Barna's great book,Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church's #1 Priority.
3. Our child would like to serve the Lord in some way, but the church has no avenue for them to do so. While very young children may be limited in what they can do for the Lord, as children approach adulthood, they will want to do something to serve. Perhaps it might be to help take the offering, or offer a prayer, or sing a song, or help in a class for younger children or pass out bulletins, etc. A church should be using their young people and training them to take over when the adults are gone. If a church is not willing to use the young people that God has already given them, those churches should not be surprised when the young people find a new place where they can serve the Lord. Youth are not the “church of tomorrow,” they are the church of today. Consider another of Barna's books, Revolutionary Parenting: Raising Your Kids to Become Spiritual Champions.
If we find that our family is considering changing churches, we should proceed slowly. We must pray through the situation thoroughly. We should think through the comments above objectively. We should discuss the subject with the entire family openly. If our family does decide to change churches, we owe it to our current pastor to sit down and have an open, honest, and loving discussion of why we are going elsewhere. If we have made commitments to help lead a program, we should remain in that position until our current term ends so that we don’t leave our current church hanging. If we are part of the leadership team, we need to be very careful about how our actions will affect the team. Books such as Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, especially the final chapter, can help us think through that issue. If we do have to leave, it should always be on good terms, who knows, we may find ourselves back one day!