Former No More- Five Tips to Reach Former Members

imprrh@gmail.com —  April 5, 2014
According to the latest stats, Adventist churches lose 43 out of every 100 people they baptize[1]. If a local Hospital had 43 deaths for every 100 live births, we would consider it a national tragedy. If a car maker produced lemons on 43 out of every 100 cars, we would not hesitate to get that situation turned around. If a mechanic messed up on 43 of every 100 cars, we would call the BBB. If a restaurant had 43 plates out of 100 that gave your diarrhea you would call in the CDC.

Why then, are we not doing more to reclaim the 43 out of 100 that leave? Here are 5 practical tips.

1. Use technology.

My friend Jim Davidson, spoke last week about an experiment he did. He searched on www.peoplefinders.com for people that he knew were disconnected from the church. It took him 10 minutes to find several. With the average church only having an average of 50% of its regular members in regular attendance, how are we letting the former/inactive/disconnected know that we care?

b. Write

Handwritten notes say “I care”. But so does a postcard, a letter, a text or an email. Here is a sample one you can use or adapt. http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/sample-letter-for-reclaiming-members

c. Use right approach.

None of these strategies work very well:

Threats- “if you don’t come back, we will have to erase you from our books.”

Warnings- “Jesus is coming, and you are at risk of losing your salvation if you don’t come back.”

Pat phrases- “I know just how you feel.” (no you don’t)

Defensive posture- “let me explain.” No need to defend the church for previous decisions. Just listen.

“The church has changed”- unless this is true, don’t use it just to get them back.

The best approach is one of loving intentionality that tells the person: We love you. We miss you. We want you back. So does God.

d. Prepare your church.

How many people have left the church in not so good terms, returned, to find the same drama that made them leave in the first place? Explain to your greeters and ushers (and for that case ALL members) that when they see a face they have not seen in a while the way to go is to act normally. Don’t ignore. Don’t smother.

e. Use special days to your advantage.

Christmas. New Years. Valentine’s Day. Easter. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Fourth of July. Back to School. Thanksgiving. All times of the year where you may be having something special. It’s good to invite them back when they know they won’t be the center of attention.

What has worked for you? What resources have you used? Share them in the comment section.


[1] http://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2013-11-19/at-first-retention-summit-leaders-look-at-reality-of-church-exodus/

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22 responses to Former No More- Five Tips to Reach Former Members

  1. one of the things churches do? invite old members back (not looking for a prize for this idea..lol)…what i think is great? inviting old members to share…just entering their subjective world WITHOUT trying to proselytize or get anything from them in any way (e.g., resuming attendance)…just reaching out for the purpose of meeting them where they are, meeting a need, loving them and allowing Love to change them however that needs to happen. i love praying with ppl n will never stop praying for them, but some don’t need us to pray with them, they need us to be present with them. goes a long way, imo.

  2. Our churches often lose people because they are not healthy. What we need are “sticky” churches. Churches that are functioning in healthy ways. The Natural Church Development survey will give your church a picture of your current health (or lack). Knowing where your low areas are can help you identify some tangible steps to improve health. For many years I’ve observed healthy churches keep people. You can order the survey through nadei.org.

  3. The Adventist church needs the new covenant gospel; people leave because:

    Perfection doctrine makes people hopeless, cold hearted, insaine, or atheist… And some find the gospel in or outside the church.

    The lack of love is the result… Why would people trade the emptiness of the world for the emptiness of the church?

  4. I find it really interesting what Roger said that sometimes we tell former members that our church has changed that it will be different and when they walk inside they realize that it is the same nothing has changed ! let’s work in making our churches more healthy , more loving . help us , Jesus !

    • It’s just another marketing strategy for belt notches in the crown. I have a quote about an adulterous church along this line that I am hesitant to share, but think I may as it really is a heart cry from the spirutal abuse.

  5. These aren’t tips to regain “Formers.” They’re tips to get Current Adventists who have stopped attending to attend again. Actual Former Adventists have left behind Adventist doctrines–they haven’t simply stopped attending because someone hurt their feelings. For those Formers, like myself, who left because they are now in the Body of Christ, this list won’t work at all. We have Jesus now. We’re no longer interested in false doctrines and a prophetess that teach us how to be insecure in our salvation, that Jesus would one day stop interceding for us, and that the New Covenant is really just the Old Covenant dressed in new clothes. No thank you.

    • imprrh@gmail.com April 14, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Thanks for replying and commenting. We are a welcoming blog, where you can feel free to express your opinion, even when we disagree.
      God bless you!

    • Melissa, I love how you said this: “We’re no longer interested in false doctrines and a prophetess that teach us how to be insecure in our salvation…”

      • imprrh@gmail.com April 14, 2014 at 10:15 am

        we don’t agree on this one but thanks for writing anyway you’re welcome to coment anytime

        • I decided to read DM Canright to “renounce” his ideas, and found myself agreeing. (Though the creation sabbath reasoning is, I believe, isogesis; even by FAF).

          But the new covenant is an area that we as Adventists are incorrect. We were largely correct in 1888. But it is not called righteousness by faith, it is in truth, the new covenant. And considering that the new covenenant is eatablished by the Blood of the cup, this is NO side issue.

          Moses was very clear that the 10 commandments themselves were the contract:

          Deuteronomy 9:9
          “When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.”

          (One of many texts)

          Kept of course in the ark “of the covenant”! How much more obvious this point could be, and how a church dedicated to scripture could have so little understanding of the basis of the whole New Testament and especially our perpetual ignorance re Paul.

          It is shameful to claim to be the remnant and not een have a doctrine based in the very cup of the last supper??? So we are wrong.

          Now, the question is then, does sabbath, clean and unclean, state of the dead and the eschatology exist out side of the old covenant. answer this and then you have a reason for those formers that remained Christian to consider our church.

          1. The new covenant must be integrated and accepted.
          2. LGT Perfection doctrine has to die as Ishmael flesh.
          3. Sabbath has to be established from creation and from the new earth
          4. Clean and unclean/vegitarianism must be from Noah and Adam and the new earth.
          5. The state of the dead remains and has been a historical issue
          6. All eschatology must be reinterpreted from the point of view of Jesus and even the new covenant.

          If people didn’t have to be perfect, they would be a lot nicer to live around.

    • Amen!

      • My “Amen ” was for Melissa’s response. I hit the reply under her comment but it posted as a new post.

  6. Sadly it’s not emotional or not feeling loved that make formers leave but doctrinal reasons. Sadly these ideas will unfortunately not work. I would suggest formers and sda’s not attending church are two separate groups.

  7. My integrated study for my Masters reveals that none of your approaches will reach former SDA’s who left for doctrinal reasons.

    • imprrh@gmail.com April 14, 2014 at 10:13 am

      I would be interested in learning more about this if you can share your work with me

      • My 20 case studies were done through a semistructured interview. The
        semistructured interview has specific objectives, but the interviewer is permitted some
        freedom in meeting them. The interview questions were open-ended by nature and gave the respondent the freedom to answer in their own words.

        To the question: “What were the major theological benchmarks that made you decide to leave the church?”, each respondent gave Biblical reasons as to their departure.

        None of them were “bitter” or “angry”. They left because of false doctrine. They left through prayer, Bible study and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

        • There are many ways people exit the church:

          1. Agnosticism
          2. Atheism
          3. Disillusionment
          4. The new covenant truth
          5. Suicide
          6. Off shoots
          7. Apathy

          Most all of these find thier source in last generation theology: ie perfection doctrine, pre-advent victory over sin (preparation for the time of trouble).

          This doctrine on its surface is sound and quite biblical. But when judged by its fruit, it is poison to the heart. It not only does not ever produce what it claims, it also destroy the innocent souls it touches.

  8. So, tell us Roger, what amount of reduction in the bleed from Adventism will be acceptable in your comparison to deaths per hundred in a hospital or food poisoning at a restaurant?

    As a former who found the gospel after leaving Adventism, your number correlations are backwards. It is ones who are still in Adventism that have the food poisoning and are dying from an infection of a false gospel.

    Not enough of those who are swept up in the SDA hysteria find the peace of resting in Jesus instead of trying to keep from wading over their ankles on Saturday or avoiding the cheese dishes at potluck dinner after church.

    Yes, we are told all the time that the church has changed…. The church doesn’t teach that anymore…… but when we examine the 28 fundamental beliefs, we find that they have never been changed except to make them more obscure to those who are Biblically deficient.

    Now we find that the current SDA president has claimed that even the church policies are divinely ordained, as stated in a recent address to the SDA faithful.

    NO!! your appeal, as stated in this blog is targeted at those who are still Adventist at heart but no longer attend regularly. The points in your blog are nothing new but are recycled from numerous random articles produced by intermittent panic coming from conferences and committees who’s main concern is the level of tithe and offering support that is diminished by the bleed in membership.