10 Easy Questions to Ask Someone Who Quit Going to Church

Please Share With Your Friends!

Last Updated on February 1, 2022 by Sarah McCubbin

When we quit going to church, I felt like I was in freefall for awhile…probably a year or two at least. As conservative Christians, my husband and I were leading our young family to do the unthinkable. And plenty of people let us know we were making a huge mistake. Suddenly it felt like people didn’t know how to talk to us…or us to them really.

I remember a family member having their own crisis of faith summing it up perfectly when they said, “I feel like I’ve been lied to my entire life.” They weren’t talking about Jesus…but they were reacting to a realization that something we had been taught either wasn’t Biblical or was a tradition that was being taught as TRUTH. I can’t even remember what it was….just their words, “I feel like I’ve been lied to.” I had the same thought and said it often. Like a game of Jenga, my faith became more and more precarious as different “teachings” were pulled, analyzed and often discarded. Which one would cause the whole thing to come tumbling down? I wasn’t sure, but the anxiety was definitely there.

I didn’t know it at the time, but when we stopped going to church, we were beginning a process of Deconstruction. It’s a pretty popular term these days, but it wasn’t at the time. I was probably 8 years into deconstructing before I ever heard the term at all. In case you are wondering what Deconstruction is, I found a great definition on Sophia’s Society, where they say, “For our purposes—that is, regarding religious faith—we’ll define it (deconstruction) as the taking apart of an idea, practice, tradition, belief, or system into smaller components in order to examine their foundation, truthfulness, usefulness, and impact.”

quit going to church

And now, more than 11 years into this faith journey, I know that the Lord brought people into my life every step of the way who extended Grace when it looked like we might have lost our Conservation Christian minds. I can recall conversations with my parents when we said we stopped going to church. I think the first thing my dad said was something like, “That’s interesting. What are you seeing that made you want to stop going?” No judgment…no Bible verses…just a question. I remember breathing a sigh of relief that this was how this conversation was going to go.

As I have continued to reflect on this faith journey, I wanted to share good questions that people asked us…or that I wish they would have asked as we were beginning the deconstruction process. The friends and family who came alongside us listened without giving easy answers. They let the conversation carry on over years. They were patient when we were frustrated. They stuck with us through all the emotions that come when your faith falls apart. They had faith in the kindness of Jesus, the Good Shephard, in our lives.

My hope is that by sharing our journey and these questions, someone else may be helped as they talk to their friends and family who are also walking away from church. Most of the conversations I’ve had with Christians on this topic have not been met with grace but have been shut down with a quick Bible verse that slams the door on the conversation. I don’t think we do it intentionally…shut each other down…but we do it all the time (on this topic and many others.) It’s hard to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Listen…Don’t Have a Quick Answer

I plan to do future writing on the deconstruction process that leads you to Jesus, but for now, I wanted to share some questions that have helped us in our journey. I recommend that if you do ask someone these questions, you plan to mostly listen and not contradict the processing you are hearing. Your “person” will love you for this and will come back for more conversations with you later. It’s just so rare to have someone who will really think out loud with you on this topic, and being a good listener is the first step.

Questions You Can Ask When Someone Has Quit Going to Church

1. Why did you quit going to church? Did you stop suddenly or was it gradual?

This question is really asking a person to stop and think about what happened that led them quit church. The next question is similar. It is to draw out whether something is one time event (an offense, a wrong teaching etc) or more of a general awakening related a lot of issues that they may not have even processed yet.

2. What were you seeing, hearing or feeling in church that led you to feel like you needed to leave?

3. Do you think the things you are seeing say something about God or was it people problems?

This question is really asking whether their issues are with the Bible or people. And if they are with the Bible, know that they really may not be. Because many of us have not actually studied the Bible for ourselves, when a pastor or teacher teaches “The Bible says…XYZ”…we often just believe them. A good follow-up question is always, “Where does the Bible say that?” Our tendency is often to just parrot what a teacher said…without actually seeking it out in the Word. If we look it up…we may indeed find that it is not there…or that is has been twisted or cherry-picked out of context.

A deconstruction journey that leads to Jesus will always be based on the Word of God and coming to know who God is through the Bible…and not other people’s teachings or our own emotions.

4. What needs to be done to fix the problems you are seeing?

This question asks us to step into the position of problem-solving. Sometimes when we try to solve the problem ourselves, we better understand the challenges churches face. Problems aren’t easy to solve sometimes. Developing understanding is an important deconstruction key.

5. Has anyone called from the church since you left? Did you call people when they left in the past? Do you think they should call? What would that look like for a church to do this?

One of the BIG things people realize when they leave church is that usually no one calls to say, “We’ve missed you? Where have you been? etc” I noticed this for us. But, I’m not pointing fingers here. It would be nice if someone called. But its also important to think about the logistics behind making that happen in a whole church. What is practical on a friend level is much harder for an institution to implement.

6. Who did you talk to about your church concerns?

Sometimes people have tried to have a conversation with someone in leadership and when they were rebuffed, it really hurts. Sometimes they don’t know who they could talk to. Sometimes they have never tried. But talking this piece through will often reveal other issues they are seeing.

7. What are your thoughts on faith right now?

The answer to this will give you an idea of where they want their faith to go. Do they want it to lead them to Jesus…or have they discarded faith altogether. Maybe they don’t know and that is an ok answer too.

8. What is God saying to you now?

Many Christians don’t realize that the Holy Spirit lives in them and can guide them through confusion and difficulty. When people don’t know how to hear the voice of God, they aren’t sure whether a thought is their own…or the Holy Spirit. But if someone can know and listen to the voice of God, they will realize they are not alone and that God is on this journey with them.

9. What will you do instead of church?

People may have all kinds of answers here but it gives you an idea of what they might be gaining more value from.

10. Who do you want to become outside the building?

If church has been a place where people feel a lot of negative emotions, this question is really asking what kind of person do you want to be where you don’t regularly experience those emotions. Again…more thinking.

At the beginning of our journey, I could not have answered all of these right away, but I think I would have tried. They would have made me pause and think. The reality is that a deconstruction journey can look a lot like a person wavering between all kinds of emotions…anger, sadness, hurt, self-pity, rejection, confusion, and pride as well as relief, excitement, curiosity and freedom…to name a few. It takes time to separate truth from fiction. It’s hard to separate institutional responsibility and personal responsibility. It’s really just a hot mess at the beginning.

These are also not the only questions that could be asked. I could talk for days on this topic. If you are genuinely wanting to help someone as they are walking out a faith journey, your conversation can go an endless number of directions.

Just Don’t Say This….

When we quit going to church, and I would open up and tell someone that we had stopped going to church, people would respond one of two ways. They would either ask questions or they would say something like this:

“I hear what you are saying, but in Hebrews it says, ‘forsake not the fellowshipping of yourselves,’ so you should really find a good church to go to.”

I love my Bible, so what I’m about to say is not dismissive of this verse at all. But friends, when someone would quote that verse, it was almost always a way of shutting the conversation down. It was VERY rare that someone would quote that verse and actually engage in a conversation beyond that. And I’m noting this here because I promise you that if your friend or family member have stopped going, it’s not because they don’t know this verse. It’s been quoted to me hundreds of times. Know, that whatever they are struggling with feels so big that they are willing to feel the loneliness that comes from being out of the group while they try to sort things out. That loneliness feels better than being at church.

While not as common, others would say something like,

  • “You just need to find a good church.”
  • “Have you tried X church.”
  • “My church is great. You should come visit.”
  • “You just need to find a church that can help you figure out what you believe.”

While there is nothing wrong with any of these, what I found (and others may have a different experience) was that going to churches…while sorted out what I believed…just added to the confusion and noise in my head. The most helpful people were those who just came alongside and asked good questions.

What other questions would you like to ask someone who has left church? I may try to answer them for myself. I’m curious what you would ask.

My hope in sharing my story is that it helps promote conversation. I love people and know how important it is that we not walk alone. Jesus has been so kind to me and I know He wants others to find freedom and healing when their struggle with religion has made that seem impossible.