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3 Ways to Keep People Coming to Church (Part 3 of 6)

Once a person has gone through a faith crisis, what can church leaders do to help?  David Ostler offers 3 suggestions to help leaders create a more comfortable atmosphere at church.

David:  In the second part of the book, I talk about three major principles that I think are important for people to feel, for them to remain affiliated with the church, after they have a faith crisis. I think if leaders understand these three issues, they can find ways to be able to reach out to people and to accommodate them, to help them, to love them, to accept them, all of these kinds of ministerial words that we want to have there. Those three principles are first trust. Individuals need to trust the community that they’re in. They need to trust the leaders.  They need to trust that the engagement with the community will help them and that that community can guide and give them a confident path towards their spiritual goals. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of different ways trust can break down. You can lose trust that the Prophet speaks for God. You can lose trust that the church will authentically represent its history, you can lose trust that the church will be transparent about the way in which it administers its affairs. You can lose trust in someone who’s broken a confidence. You can lose trust that if you say something, there won’t be a penalty for what you say. So trust becomes a big issue. And as I surveyed members that are in a faith crisis, many of them have lost trust in all of those aspects. I can share some of that data with you if you felt like…

GT:  Absolutely! We love data.

David:  Yeah, you and I kind of eat data for a living, don’t we?  So I asked these faith crisis members about trust. This is 320 people who responded that are in a faith crisis. I asked them questions, and one question I asked is, whether they agreed with this statement, “My local leaders can help me with the important decisions in my life.”  Zero percent strongly agreed with that; 9% agreed with that, which 91% have disagreed in one form or another. So, if they’re going to church, and they’re feeling like their local leader cannot help them with the spiritual issues in their lives, then we as a church have failed.  These are largely people that are earnest and wanting to connect to God, and to resolve their spiritual concerns. They’re not enemies of the church. They’re people that just have concerns, and they’re trying to sort them out and understand what they believe.

GT:  Even I would put myself in the 91%, and I go to church.

David: So, here’s another one, “I am comfortable disclosing my current beliefs to my local leaders.” And 3% strongly agreed with that; 22% agreed with that, which means 75% disagreed with that in one way or another. Then it goes even further, “From the outside do you appear as a traditionally believing member of the church?”  Of this faith crisis group that has no trust in their local leaders, 78% said that from the outside they look like a traditionally believing member. So, on the outside, they’re shiny and bright, and they’re wearing all the right clothes, and probably even in serving in the right callings. But underneath, they can’t express the concerns that they have, and that they’re really struggling with. When they call it a faith crisis, that means they’re evaluating whether they remain affiliated with the church. So, those are the kinds of concerns that you get with trust.

Check out our conversation….

David Ostler tells 3 ways to keep people with a faith crisis engaged in church.

Don’t miss out on our other conversations with David!

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

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Lessons for Mormon Leaders (Part 6 of 6)

What are the biggest takeaways leaders of the Mormon Church can take away from the largest public survey of Mormon attitudes?  Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll will give their answers.

GT:  Let’s just pretend that the brethren are here, and you can tell them anything. What would you tell them?

Jana:  You have to have equal representation of women.  You cannot continue having meetings in which decisions are made that affect women’s lives directly without a woman in the room, at least one woman in the room. And not just a little token woman who like, in the leaked video that I was talking about, at the very end, like in the last two-minute Hail Mary pass of the meeting, someone asks for Sister Beck’s opinion.  She gives it. The meeting breaks up, no one even responds to what she said. I mean, it’s entire tokenism to have her there, to ask her opinion and then totally disregard it. So yes, that’s hugely important. It’s important to women.

There are a couple of different narratives that I think we need to keep in mind. The narrative that the church wants us to believe, is what Gordon B Hinckley said, which is “Mormon women are happy, and they’re happy with their role.” Statistically, he’s right. Because most Mormon women who are still in the church don’t seem to have a problem. Younger women are a bit different. But the majority of Mormon women are fairly satisfied, apparently, with their roles in the church. The other part of the story, though, the other narrative that needs to also be told is that women’s roles ranked as the third most common reason for leaving for all women. So, for some women, this was an important enough issue that it was a catalyst to their departure, and we need to keep that in mind as well. We can’t just say that Mormon women are happy with the way things are, because if you weren’t happy, you’re gone.  What would you say?

Benjamin:  So I suppose in addition to that which I agree with, would be that all humans are subject to our cognitive biases and the way we see the world. We tend to take our experience as the norm and project it on to everyone else’s experience. Good faith people who are in leadership positions, of course, don’t intend to do that, but often times do it. And I’m just as guilty like everyone, that’s what we do, right? That’s what human beings do. One thing that this research offers is an opportunity to hear about what the experience is like from people who don’t match your own experience. And that’s really hard, and I like that some church leaders, like Patrick Mason wrote in his book Planted, he’s like, “I get it.” Right? From a leadership position, this worked for you your whole life. You’ve always felt happy here. Why could anyone possibly be upset? Or why would they not want to be here?

There’s just a lack of awareness on their part, not through anyone’s fault, but just simply because we all have different lived experiences. Could we take things from here and incorporate those kinds of messages, and carefully consider them non-defensively and think, “Okay, my experience might not be this, but this is experience that maybe not a majority, but that a critical mass of membership are experiencing. What could we do to create spaces where they feel like they’re fitting in better, even if that means that we perhaps need to change what we emphasize, or give greater room for those kinds of voices to be represented in both decision making, as well as scriptural interpretation? Or how we’re applying the stories about what it means to be a Mormon in today’s world or Latter-day Saints, etc.”  Things like that, that would be one of the pieces of advice I could humbly and constructively offer.

Find out what else they had to say, and find out who our next interview is with!  Check out our conversation….

Dr Jana Riess & Dr. Ben Knoll discuss their beliefs opinions about things Mormon leaders can do to improve.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Jana and Ben!

300: Why Mormons Leave

299: Out of the Box Mormons

298: Comparing Mormons by Generations

297: Surprising Mormon Responses

296: How to Randomly Sample Mormons

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Why Mormons Leave (Part 5 of 6)

Why do Mormons leave the LDS Church?  Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll have put together the largest random sample of ex-Mormons and tell us why Mormons leave.  What did they learn?

GT:  That’s pretty awesome I’d say. I know John Dehlin did a survey awhile back.  Were your results similar to his?

Jana: Not at all, and I want to point out that this is part of the difference between a nationally representative survey and a sample that is of a targeted population. Their study, which is really helpful and interesting and well done, they would be the first to tell you, I think, that it’s not a nationally representative sample of all former Mormons. If you look in the really helpful breakdown of who was in that study, they have a very affluent population and a very well-educated population. So, the fact that what they’re finding is that these people are very interested in history, and they’re very interested in some of these more controversial issues about Mormon theology. Well, in part that is because this is a very affluent and well-educated population, and in part, it’s because this is a population that has been fielded through social media affinity groups that are interested in those questions, right?  So, it’s a self-selecting sample, and I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. That does not mean that it’s not valuable for understanding that important population, but it’s not generalizable to everyone.

GT:  What are some of the reasons that people choose to disaffiliate?

Benjamin:  I suppose the first thing to clarify is, we’ve got information amongst those who chose to disaffiliate for specific reasons that aren’t necessarily just simply lifecycle, adolescent disaffiliation, which is the biggest one right there.

GT:  The biggest one is just, “Well, I’m a teenager, I don’t want to go to church.”

Benjamin:  This is what people in America and Europe do. When they’re teenagers, they tend to just [quit going.]

Jana:  Right, or younger.

Benjamin:  Right, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So, a lot of former Mormons are in that same category. They are people who just for one reason or another, just weren’t that interested anymore.

GT:  Church is boring.

Benjamin:  Yeah, they went on to do other things. Some of them rejoined the church later. Some didn’t. We’ve got some information in the survey about like, what are the lives of former Mormons like? The ones who leave for these historical doctrinal issues tend to have a former Mormon life that’s a little bit different than those who just leave because they just went inactive when they were teenagers, got married to someone who’s not a member, that never really went anymore, because their family’s diverse. So, it’s important that we say, just like within the Mormon community, there are different groups of people and diversity and how it’s expressed, it’s the same thing with former members as well.

Are you surprised?  On the internet we often hear people publicly claim they lost their testimony due to church history.  We don’t hear about these people that quietly leave.  Find out what else they said (like politics.)  Check out our conversation….

Why do Mormons leave the church? Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll tell the results of the largest random sample of ex-Mormons.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Riess and Dr. Knoll.

299: Out of the Box Mormons

298: Comparing Mormons by Generations

297: Surprising Mormon Responses

296: How to Randomly Sample Mormons