Does anyone have a list of questions for an exit interview for departing members?

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I am helping Second Byron CRC emerge from a period of controversy. The council believes it will profit from talking in depth to persons who are leaving the congregation for other churches, and would like to conduct exit interviews in order to find out more about areas of church life they need to improve on.  The council would like its district elder and deacon do this interview, but would like to offer guidelines, a set of questions that would allow for a deeper conversation.

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Richard, perhaps developing a detailed list of questions isn't the best approach.  I would suggest asking a couple of open ended questions and listening.  Such as:

What areas in the ministry of Second Church do you see as strengths we can build on?

Do you have any suggestions on things that Second Church should consider adding or doing differently?

And, perhaps, what are the primary considerations that led you to decide to leave Second Church?

Community Builder

I can see why a more or less standard list of questions could be helpful for comparing and consolidating results.   Building on Bill Vis' statement about the value of open ended questions, I'm wondering if you could borrow some "appreciative inquiry" type of open ended questions.

For example, Tell me a story (the more detail the better) about a time when you were especially excited to be part of this church, when you felt energized and vital.   What was going on?  What contributed to your excitement?  Who was contributing to that time and what were they doing?

    LIkewise, a question like this: Tell me a story about a time (the most specific the better) when you felt discouraged, and your energy was drained away.  What was going on in the life of the church, and in your own life?  What specifically happened and how did that affect you?   

     Questions like these can set the table for "story telling" and lots of opportunity to listen, and ask more questions, seeking to understand, and drawing out the messages in the stories that may lie hidden until a really caring listener comes along.

I wanted to add that I really like the idea of "exit interviews" even happening at all.  Too often dissatisfied members leave a church for another church and no one contacts them at all.  It appears then that the church could care less whether those people left.   I think people would appreciate the opportunity to share the positive and the discouraging moments of their church life.

 

Thanks for the input. I did plan on open-ended questions in my "list of questions," and these are very helpful suggestions for phrasing and approach.

Community Builder

This can be both a helpful process and a discouraging one.

While it will be helpful to create questions around where the church has fallen short of "expectations", it is also important to focuson where church members have failed the church. The church, after all, consists of people so the focus should be on where church members have failed each other.

It is therefore helpful to ask those who have left: "What could you have done differently to make the church more effective in ...."

The assumption generally is that the Church has failed to meet members' expectations. (Granted, there are often extenuating cercumstances) Those who leave should also take some responsibility ...for either their actions or their inactions.

In the world of business, departing employees or clients are often too timid or shy or appreciative or apathetic to give a critical analysis of their employer.  It may even be that they would love to have stayed on but other factors have forced them to leave.  The same can occur with departing congregation members.  If the reason for leaving is "within" the congregation itself, they may not wish to voice their concerns (and risk offending friends and family).  If they are departing for reasons other than something "within" the congregation, they may feel it unnecessary to criticize an institution they've felt comfortable with. 

I've found that the most effective question (as regards eliciting a response) is "I value your opinion so, if you HAD to change anything here, what would it be?"  The answer can definitely be more comfortably delivered and can definitely be more easily shared and accepted.  You may find out about flaws or misperceptions that the departee was aware of that had nothing to do with the departure... or that had everything to do with the departure.   It makes for a good "last question" on the questionnaire.

I think Ron has made a good point.  Exit interviews can be useful, but sometimes those who depart will not be willing to actively participate for various reasons.   They may be afraid that whatever constructive criticism they might give, could be taken in the wrong way, just because they are leaving, when the reasons for leaving are entirely different, ie. personal family, friends, business opportunities, lifestyle, etc.  and have nothing really to do with the church itself.  On the other hand, I think it is wise to provide the opportunity. 

Community Builder

Given the current circumstances I wonder if now is a good time to discuss this issue again?  As a denomination it might be a good idea to see if COVID changes the how people attend church going forward. Has the absence of meeting in a building in the last few months caused people to look for alternatives?  A suggestion might be that every CRC council  keeps a close eye on who (once COVID restrictions are lifted) is still attending and who might not be attending.  Once a congregation starts meeting on site again, 6 months should not pass before the attendance issue is addressed.

Another way to come at this, of course, is to see if regular members have had continued donating?

The key of course is to get a sense of what people who are leaving/stopped contributing, would tell why that is happening. But that requires asking the right questions in a very kind and positive way. Getting those questions right will not be a simple matter.

 

 

Community Builder

You raise a valid question, Harry, and I think it merits a much broader discussion.

What is the impact of COVID on church attendance, church shopping and Sunday worship attendance?

In my day job, I regularly connect with hundreds of Christian business and professional leaders across Canada. They come from a wide range of Christian denominations. I hear a recurring refrain: "COVID has been a spiritual blessing for me. Since I have been forced to work from home, I have had much more time for personal devotions and prayer."

But it has also given thousands of the usual Sunday pew-sitters to sit home and 'attend' worship services in other denominations and cities. It has given my wife and I to regularly worship with our Florida kids and grandkids by attending their livestream services. It's a blessing to see sons-in-law on guitar or grandkids on the stage for the children's message.

CRC folk -- and obviously others -- are discovering, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that there is some great preaching out there. And that really is the bottom line, isn't it? Powerful biblical preaching attracts a following.

If CRC pastors continue to proclaim God's word powerfully and effectively, the post-COVID crowd will return.

Admin

These are great questions Harry and Keith and I would love for you to post them as new ministry questions on the site. I would love to see what others have to say.