When your church disappoints you

Have you ever been disappointed by your church?

Few churchgoers can say they’ve never been upset or disappointed with their church. Much has been written in recent years about the mass exodus of young people from the church, and I’d bet that for every departing church member who left over a theological disagreement, several more leave quietly in disappointment that church failed to engage them or acknowledge their needs.

So what do you do when the church disappoints you? Is leaving the only or the best option? A post by Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition challenges disappointed churchgoers to ask themselves a series of questions before they call it quits. The core question lurking behind each is this: have you done your part to help the church help you?

Here’s a few of his questions:

1. Did I ever ask for help? Pastors and elders are not omniscient. Even with the best shepherding strategies people will fall through the cracks. So if you really need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. I know everyone wants to be noticed. But it’s hard for a dozen guys to notice five hundred or two dozen to notice two thousand. Help your leaders help you.

2. Have I overlooked opportunities to fit in and get to know people? Before you complain that you’ve been at the church six months and still don’t know anyone, think about ways you could get known in the next six months. Is there a small group you could join? Could you attend the smaller, more informal evening service? What about volunteering for the nursery next time the sign up sheet goes around? Have you tried the potlucks and picnics and prayer meetings? Giving love and being loved is 90% just showing up.

7. In general have I found this church and these leaders to be unloving and unsupportive? If the answer is yes, and [you’re confident that you’re not at fault], then you may need a different church. But if the answer is no, consider giving your church and your leaders the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just botched this one. We all get it wrong sometimes. I know I have. Maybe they were too busy and dropped the ball. Or maybe you don’t know the whole story. In any event, don’t let one misstep color your whole impression of their ministry.

There are some very useful messages in these questions, but that last question is especially important: when you’re upset or angry at the church leadership for a failure, misstep, or act of neglect, simply giving people the benefit of the doubt can be the most powerful response at your disposal. It may be that the church has indeed made a conscious and unfixable error… but it could also be that they just messed up and need a bit of extra grace.

When is the last time the church disappointed you? Did you ask yourself questions like these—and might the situation have turned out differently if you had?

12 Responses to “When your church disappoints you”

  • Belinda Cinque says:

    I was more than hurt. I worked with love for over 20 years in the children’s ministry,.. and when my daughter tried to commit suicide (she is living and we are doing well without the church)
    I called my pastor,.. He never even came to see my daughter either at the hospital or at our home. He never came to my work and asked about her. He sent someone to pick up the curriculum so that they would not fall behind, when I tried to speak to the person that came to pick up the childrens work,. she told me that I would have to get over it and all things happen for a reason.
    I hate church I hate god.

    • Patty says:


      I was so saddened to read your post. I’m so very sorry that you and your daughter are suffering mightily. In my belief, God is weeping with you and your daughter. He feels your pain and wraps His arms around you tightly like the most loving parent and best friend. God doesn’t cause the horrible things. And we don’t know why they happen. And yeah, sometimes we get really really angry because we know it was in His power to intervene. We don’t know why He doesn’t – but we trust that there is a master plan. Churches are full of human people who make horrendous mistakes. And you have suffered those. Please don’t give up. Tell God your anger. Tell God your confusion. Rail at Him. And then let Him work to help you find peace.

      I’ll pray for you.

      In Christian love,

    • beni says:

      god, belinda that was just the devil working againt you.Dont lose faith in god.I believe god close that door for you! pls repent god loves you and there is something better,promotion that maybe waitng for you else where.Ask god to explain to you what has happen and who are your friends.He just maybe opening another door for you.You know sometimes we have to go thru some things!! testimony,he has never fail me yet? and yet sometimes i say`god where you at`? god bless you and your daugther

  • Andy says:

    Belinda, your experience sounds truly awful, and the church responded to your need in the worst imaginable way. I’m not surprised that the experience drove you away.

    I hope that you have found the counseling and support that you and your daughter need, if not at that church, then elsewhere. I won’t presume to offer advice, but I would encourage you to consider that it was human beings who failed you, not God–God is very clear that it is the job of His followers to help those in need of assistance. By not helping you they were disobeying God’s clear instructions. I hope that you find a local community of people who treat you and your daughter with compassion and respect.

  • Kurt says:

    Belinda’s situation is terrible and her church really messed that up. I have to agree with Andy’s response, too.

    Aside from situations like Belinda’s I think the issue is really that church members have become consumers and churches are even falling into seeing their members as consumers as well. We are the church. The church is not the staff. If you don’t feel involved, then get involved. If you don’t feel like you were welcomed well enough, then join (or create) a welcome group so you can be sure no one else isn’t welcomed well enough.

    We’ve lost focus on what church is. So many now look at what the church can offer them. Even in the 3 questions Andy asks they are all about whether the church is meeting your “needs”. But is the church really about meeting your “needs”?

    Consider groups like the American Cancer Society. When we decide if we want to donate or help out with a group like the ACS, do we ask whether they are meeting our “needs” or do we join with them because we want to help find a cure for cancer. The idea is that this is a group of people coming together to reach a common goal. Granted it isn’t a perfect analogy, but in many ways the church is just people coming together to reach the common goal of sharing the love of Christ with others and proclaiming the Gospel. Do we go to church because of what the church can do for us or do we go to church to hear the Word, receive the sacraments, and join with others in serving Christ.

  • jo says:

    I am an administrative assistant at a church and I would hate to think that we are failing people. The truth is we are human, but we often use that as an excuse when we drop the ball or let people fall through the cracks. I believe if our heart is in the right place and we treat each individual with the utmost importance and our hearts are for doing God’s will, God is faithful and will not let those people get lost. My prayers are with you and your daughter Belinda, and my heart breaks for the fact that you were ignored in your time of need.

    In Christ,


  • audrey says:

    Dear Belinda do not be sadened because they are mere humain, please follow God instead and I am sure He is in the getting well of your daughter.You have to be strong in the word of God to understand that..Look at Job and many other in the Bible who went trough even worst things, but it is all about Hope… God will restore you..Please, please I beg you do not let this break your faith be strong ask God to reveal to you what is the message He want you to know about this. This happened for a reason

  • Terry says:

    You’re right. The church failed you, as churches have failed me. The only thing that keeps me in church is that Jesus did everything that he said he would do. The religious leaders of His day also failed Him. I have to ignore what people do and keep my focus on what Jesus did.

  • alan says:

    Dearest Belinda I cried when i read your story. Huge Hugs and buckets of love to your Yourself and your Dearest Precious Daughter. Jesus weeps with you, I promise. Ask him to show you where you need to be.
    I have such compassion for you but that is nothing in comparison with the compassion of Jesus. He loves you. At this moment my whole family is sick and no one cared. And i have suffered rejection and so has jesus from his friends and followers. The people who he ministered to demanded he be crucified. . He hurts deeply with you and he longs to hear from you and your priceless daughter. Hugs and Love, alan

  • Belinda says:

    thank you alan,. I hope you and your family are doing better. I guess I believe in god,. because I want to go to heaven when I die. I want my kiddo’s to go to heaven. But, since my daughters pain,. my son has lost his job because he was helping take care of his sister. I feel it’s my fault too. He now lives with me and is trying to go to college again.
    It just seems like god is never there when we really need him. I dont know what I have done so wrong. desperate times. my heart is so empty.
    we are barely existing. how can he get into college without money.
    where used to say,. god will provide.. there’s nothing to say.
    what do you have to do to feel gods presence again or for him to help.
    I really dont mean to whine,. I have been a very strong single mother for 33 years, I guess Im just tired.

    • Susan C says:


      I feel your pain. I have asked the same questions at times in my life. I have been a single mother for 30 years and raised 2 sons without the help of a soul, only me and God. I gave up and got mad at God a lot of times and rebeled against him. My sons are grown now and both Christian men. We too got done really, really bad by our last church where we had been members for 12 years. We had really been very involved (bus ministry, outreach, etc). My younger son had grown up in that church and actually attended our Christian school from 5th grade until 12th. But no one there really had anything to do with me (I’m divorced) and my sons except for the outreach minister, which she was our only friend. We left that church after the way they treated us and started going to another one. I did not want to go to church again after this last one, but the only thing I kept thinking was that I was going to serve the God that so loved me and my sons and kept us safe for all those years I was raising them and I owed him big time! The new church we go to is so different than the other, but not in the way it is better. It is very lonely for us there too. The pastor only has service on Sunday mornings. There is no Wednesday night service or Sunday night service like at our other church. There is no fellowship dinners or people calling me to help out, which was what I loved. Now, I just am waiting for God to come. I have a 2 sons that I adore and we just comfort one another. People at churches no longer reach out anymore and want to be the sisters and brothers in Christ that they are ordered by God to be.

      So, just letting you know that I know your pain. I pray that you will just hang in there and remember its all about Him and He does love you. I sit here this morning with tears streaming down my face as I know how you feel.


  • Anthony says:


    When I read you first post it felt like a bullet went through my heart. I am so sorry to hear of this terrible situation.

    I can not wait to hear your testimony when God gets you through all that is happening and has happened with you and your family!!!!

    You will be able to help so many people who have been hurt by Church Folk.

    It is a shame that we have built a culture of Dead Beat Church Folk who refuse to help Leadership make disciples. I hope that you will be able share with the right people at the church so that others that come behind you will not have to experience the same kind of hurt unnecessarily. I also hope the pastor did do something to support you in your situation. Maybe the person he sent to check on you failed to do their job. If in fact that is the case, which you will never know until you confront the issue head on in love, then the pastor needs to know. He can not address issues unless things are brought to his attention. On the other hand, there are so many other possibilities that could have transpired that you will never know until you begin to seek out truth to help fix what is broken.

    In His Love,