Exit Interview: Leaving Christianity
- Thursday, July 18, 2013
Ever had one?
Exit interviews usually take place when an employee leaves a company, and the firm solicits feedback from the departing worker to get their no-holds-barred perspective of the workplace. Since the employee is already leaving, they can’t be fired for saying something their former employer might not want to hear.
Sometimes, when people leave a church, a friend of theirs, or maybe a leader in the church, will visit with them in an effort to address whatever issues of dissatisfaction they encountered. Churches can learn from mistakes the departing member encountered, so its ministry can be improved for the future.
If you have ever left a church, were you asked to do an exit interview? What if you had announced that this whole Christianity thing was making less and less sense to you, and you were thinking of walking away from your faith? Would you expect somebody would want to sit down and do an exit interview with you?
Years ago, after a messy divorce, “Karla” found herself in the distressing position of having to raise a young son on her own. She was told that in order to have peace and success in her life, despite her failed marriage, she needed to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So she started attending a popular megachurch, and had a conversion experience she was told would usher her into a wonderful new world of faith and community.
Today, however, she’s walked away from it all. Still single, with her son now in high school, and after struggling through singles ministries at two different churches, she’s relinquished whatever faith she had in God, and says she’s moving on. We’re hiding her real identity, not for her privacy, but the privacy of the churches – and their members – whom Karla says helped sour her on Christianity.
“I'm not sure what Christians would call the circumstances behind my conversion, or how they would describe it,” she allows.
“I can tell you what led to me deciding to leave the church, and how Christians made me feel about it afterwards. I can tell you that very few actually asked me anything about it. More often than not, they discussed it among themselves, and simply deleted me on Facebook.”
Of course, in an exit interview, we only hear one side of the story. But Karla’s side reminds us that our actions matter. Plus, if she holds any maliciousness against us, she does a good job of hiding it.
“While it may sound like I have a right to be bitter about people within the church, I'm actually not,” she explains. “I mistakenly thought that when I started going to church, I would be attending with people who had already reconciled their lives with the god they believed in, and would be living lives that matched that reconciliation.”
Karla now believes she was wrong. According to her experiences, “Christians weren't any less lost than me.”
Since the congregation at her megachurch was so large, and its programming so vast, leaders were being recruited and deployed with minimal spiritual training and even less supervision. Despite being new in her faith, Karla was put into a leadership position in the singles ministry simply because she enthusiastically volunteered.
She discovered she wasn’t the only unqualified leader when her first homegroup experience began to unravel. During a particularly contentious meeting, their leader “screeched” at her for endorsing a television sitcom featuring cohabitating couples. Soon afterward, however, Karla and her young son saw the same guy in his own home watching a far more objectionable show on cable.
When she and her son relocated to a different part of town, she hoped a smaller church closer to their new home would provide better accountability.
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