What a great book! Really…The theory and concepts in this book are important for churches to understand.
Exit, Voice, and Loyalty by Albert Hirschman required some real focus for me to get through but it was worth it. The basic concepts reflect many of my consumerist habits and got me thinking about their implications in my personal life.
As an example, I am typing this post on my Macbook, I have some notes pulled up on my IPad, a few seconds ago I checked Twitter on my IPhone, and later tonight I’ll watch Netflix on my Apple TV. I’m an all-in Apple hipster (I’ve got a few more steps to be a full blown hipster but my commitment to Apple is a good start). It would take a lot for me to Exit the Apple brand. However, not too long ago after my Iphone started to do some unexplainable things, I used my Voice, reached out to Apple customer service and shared my complaint. I understand that mistakes happen and I don’t expect perfection, so I will be Loyal to Apple until they make a consistent string of mistakes or raise their prices unfairly.
The Exit, Voice, and Loyalty concept is just as important to think through in the church. I’m naturally drawn to use these concepts to think through church members coming and going but I’d like to take a look at it through the eyes of church staff and pastors. Unfortunately, recent research by Lifeway states the average stay for a pastor in their church is 3.6 years.
A Pastor’s Exit from their church happens far too quickly. A Pastor’s exit is sometimes the result of a “better option” and Hirschman might say that’s the result of competition, but my experience shows that a pastor usually Exits because there are unmet expectations, fighting/quarreling in the Church, poor compensation, or burnout. This could compare to the CIO-AFL union merger that Hirschman describes and the “unrest and disunity” that caused many to Exit. This kind of Exit Hirschman states can often be resolved with Voice.
Some Pastors and Staff feel like their Voice is well heard by their Elders/Leadership Team but often that is not the case. Many Pastors walk on eggshells, afraid to share their real thoughts, worried that if they do it might cost them their job or offend a church member. This is particularly the case in regards to compensation, burn out, or some important Vision changes in the church. Too many Pastors Exit their church without ever having an open/honest conversation with their Elder/Leadership. Sometimes the Pastor is to blame and sometimes Leadership doesn’t create the space for these kinds of conversations. Voice is important for church Staff and Pastors because as Hirschman states, “To resort to voice, rather than exit, is for customer or member to make an attempt at changing the practices…”
Loyalty in the church should be a given but unfortunately depends on the specific pastor or church body. Most people are fiercely loyal to their families and we like to say church is “family” but the short tenure of pastors shows us that our loyalty doesn’t run very deep in the church.
Ideally, the church should be a place where Elders/Leadership and Pastors/Staff commit to work things out and see Exit as a last resort. The Church should be an open place for Voice, carefully and prayerfully listening to one another’s concerns. As Hirschman states, “as a rule, then, loyalty holds exit at bay and activates voice.” Our churches would be a better place if our Staff/Pastors/Leadership understood these important concepts.
 Franklin Dumond, “How Long Do Pastors Stay in One Church?,”, accessed September 30, 2015,http://www.gbjournal.org/8-82/.
 Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 29.
 Ibid., 30
 Ibid., 78