There’s a large and growing number of people who say they’re done with church.
These aren’t the Nones – those who who are increasingly checking the box marked “none” on religious affiliation surveys – these are people who often self-identify as Christians, but have intentionally stopped attending church.
According to several recent writings, including The Rise of the “Dones”, by Tom Schultz, the Dones are a growing percentage of society. Many of them have come from the clergy.
Yes, I know what many of you are thinking. This is just more evidence of our entitlement culture that doesn’t want to make commitments or be held accountable. I have to admit that thought occurred to me, too.
Certainly there are people leaving the church who fit that description. But there are regular church attenders and leaders who fit that description, too.
The Dones aren’t like that. They’re not lazy, apathetic or self-serving. Often they’re just the opposite. As Shultz says in his post, “To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.”
Many of them may be like the kid in class who’s acting up and getting bad grades, not because they’re not interested in learning, but because their learning style doesn’t fit in a classroom setting. They want to leave, not because they don’t care, but because they hate having their time wasted.
Almost everything I’ve read from within the church about the Dones (and it’s a lot), has been written from one of two standpoints: 1) What can we do to win them back?, or 2) An attitude of “good riddance”, with an underlying, sometimes directly stated attitude of “they’re just lazy people who want everything done their way.”
I think that second attitude is inaccurate, dangerous and arrogant. But the first attitude may be missing the point too, since it feels a little like a salesman trying to woo customers back with a semi-annual sale. Either way, we don’t get it.
But everything I’ve read by the Dones (including conversations I’ve had with them) tells a different story. They’re not lazy or self-serving. And they’re not looking to be won back. They’re tired, frustrated and hurt. And they truly are done.
So this post isn’t written to church leaders to offer ideas about what we can do to entice the Dones to come back. Today I’m talking to the Dones or almost-dones, maybe even to fellow ministers in one of those groups, with a simple message.
If you’re done with the way we do church, don’t leave it, help us change it.