This is an interesting article. I would love some feed back. What do you think about the “Done’s?”
The Rise of the ‘Done With Church’ Population by Thom Schultz
John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously and leads others passionately.
But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.
John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”
John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation—often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones.
At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.
For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.
Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming bookChurch Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”
The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.
Will the Dones return? Not likely, according to the research. They’re done. Packard says it would be more fruitful if churches would focus on not losing these people in the first place. Preventing an exodus is far easier than attempting to convince refugees to return.
Pastors and other ministry leaders would benefit from asking and listening to these long-time members before they flee. This will require a change of habit. When it comes to listening, church leaders are too often in the habit of fawning over celebrity pastors for answers. It would be far more fruitful to take that time and spend it with real people nearby—existing members. Ask them some good questions, such as:
1. Why are you a part of this church?
2. What keeps you here?
3. Have you ever contemplated stepping away from church? Why or why not?
4. How would you describe your relationship with God right now?
5. How has your relationship with God changed over the past few years?
6. What effect, if any, has our church had on your relationship with God?
7. What would need to change here to help you grow more toward Jesus’ call to love God and love others?
It’s time to listen. Even as I’m writing this today, another high-capacity lay leader emailed me with his decision to leave his church. He’s done. Like many others I know, he’s also a nationally known Christian leader. But he’s done.
Your church, even if it’s one of the rare growing ones, is sitting on a ticking time bomb. The exodus of the Dones, the rise of the Nones and the disappearance of the Millennials do not look good for a church afraid to listen.
It’s not too late to start.
10 thoughts on “The Watchmen Gazette…”
This is a very interesting article. The plop, pray and pay makes since to me. We as the church get into a rut. We focus on Sundays and Wednesday evenings only. But it also hard to get more people involved past the advisory/complaint stage to be able to do more in the church.
Les, I think you are spot on. Our church seems to be more concerned about everything but getting out the Gospel and inviting people to come and worship. Trying to change (most think this word is from the Devil) to get the none’s in and keep the done’s is going to be the real challenge. Thanks for the feedback….Dave…
If I could understand this problem I could resolve it. I think we’re seeing many leave that saw church as a mental exercise. We learn and memorize and all will be well. No practical participation required. Faith alone. While faith alone is true, it must be exercised.
And there is is way too much infighting between denominations. I’ll lose my SBC ID badge for this, but all denominations are wrong and all are right and they all condemn the Indies. When we begin to truly love the rest of the Church we will be able to love thevworld. We spend more time fishing in the other ponds when there is an ocean out there.
The infallible pastor doesn’t exist except Christ. When folks quit getting all butt hurt about something the human pastor did or said, is when they become real believers. I’m proud of the people who stuck out my retirement and are still there supporting the work in SJ.
We’ve thrown out the evening services. I think we need to throw out the morning service. The dedicated come to the evening.
Matt 18:15-17 needs to be applied. We should hold each other up before the cross daily. We’d have fewer church leaders falling in sin if all were drug to the cross all the time.
If you love me keep my commandments is a command not a suggestion.
Get rid of the candycoated lessons and preach the whole WORD. not just the passages that don’t zap our souls to the core.
I could go on but I won’t here.
Bottom line is:
1. Love God which many only when do on Sunday or when they’ve buried themselves in a manure pile and need to get out.
2. Only when we truly love God will/can we love EVERYBODY else. And loving someone means holding their feet to the fire and sometimes allowing their fire to consume them.
Sorry for the rant, BUT …..Doug…
Thanks Doug. Well said and I agree…
Well I would agree and felt the same attending FBC but since beginning to attend at LifeChurch, I feel completely different on the subject. You can see people enjoying the anonymity of a church like LifeChurch, you can be super involved or just attend how and when you want and still prosper from Pastor Craig.
Additionally, I believe it is human nature to get irritated with giving and doing so much and seeing no one else reciprocate nor appreciate your hard work, irregardless of the work being in a church, charity or just around your families home. Paul
Thanks Buddy, love your young thoughts on the issue…Dad…
Many years ago my employer sent me to supervisor training, The first thing the instructor said was “If you guys want to be good leaders the first thing you need to learn is how to listen”. This is where many Pastors and Church leaders fail. And is one of the big reasons for the done people.
That was great advice and I agree. I have seen it first hand with many leaders in the church…
Great article Dave. I am close to numbering myself among the “Dones.” I am totally fed up with much of what I see and have experienced in the T4G/Gospel Coalition/9Marks model of churches. It is a good old boys network of celebrity preachers glad handing one another as they build their little kingdoms. They seem to be mainly concerned with money. Church is a business. There is little concern for the “sheep.” The love of Christ cannot be found.
“The beloved disciple sends a message both to the sinner covered with shame and to the local church tentative and slow to forgive for fear of appearing lax or liberal. The number of people who have fled the church because it is too patient or compassionate is negligible; the number who have fled because they find it too unforgiving is tragic.”
-Brennan Manning, “Abba’s Child”, page 112-113
“The word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.
There is a simpler, better way.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” -Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT
Todd, Thanks for the reply. I would guess that you are pretty limited to church options in that part of the world. You and your family are always on my prayer sheet…