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The Missing
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How would you like to lose part of your body? Not an exciting prospect. Yet it happens in churches all the time.

The average number of missing members in many churches is 30 percent. Individual churches will obviously vary, but it means that in a church with 100 members on the books, approximately 30 people live within driving distance of the church but don’t attend.

While conducting a seminar recently on how to reach former members, I discovered an auditor in the group. I said to her, “What would you say if I told you that 30 percent of our church funds are missing. We just don’t know where they went!” Her response indicated that this would be a serious problem. So I went on to ask the group, “Why would we be significantly more concerned about money than people?”

A deacon in our church was chairing a committee one evening. When several members started talking at once, he raised his hand to bring a little control back to our group. That’s when someone said, “What happened to your pinky?” Everyone suddenly noticed he was missing one of half of his small finger on his right hand.

“I caught it on some tracking equipment machinery last week at work. I wasn’t being as careful as I should have. Fortunately it was only my pinky!” he explained. We all felt bad for him. But it made me think, “Some churches, which are represented as a human body, are missing more than little fingers. There are feet and arms and ears and eyes missing. Do we feel bad about the loss?”


In a recent report given at one denomination’s annual council, the challenge of missing members was presented. It included the statistic that the majority of people who quit attending church are never contacted by anyone. They simply slip away unnoticed. The active members, by in large, are unaware and don’t take steps to make contact with most of them.

What’s even more important to keep in mind is not how we at the church may feel, but to seek to understand what people who quit church might be experiencing. Repeated surveys show that those who take a break from church don’t anticipate that it will be more than a few weeks. But often it turns into a few months and then a few years. And when they initially step away, they assume others will notice. Often these members who stop attending are going through a crisis or transition that is difficult. When nobody contacts them, it reinforces in their minds that the church doesn’t really care.

If you lost a finger in an accident, you’d really notice it. But when we lose a member in our local church, do we feel any loss? Let’s stop and look around each Sabbath and ask ourselves, is anyone missing? And if so, let’s contact them and let them know we value every part of the body.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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