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Not Nones, Not De-Churched, Just Dones


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 book Church 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.

This is an extract from an important and fascinating blog post called ‘The Rise of the ‘Done With Church’ Population’ by Thom Schultz on You can read the whole post here.

Thom Schultz’s post is of interest in connection with the thoughts published on Lay Anglicana by me, but more particularly in the comments on Fuzzy Church, Anyone?

6 comments on this post:

Joyce Hackney said...

I’m getting to be a bit of a Done myself. Life has changed a lot since fine Sundays involved lunch after Church or Sunday school, a drive into the country with parents,godparents, grandparents, and various other related children, a picnic tea and then a drive home for Church in the evening.
I hardly ever attend church services now. Home is much more convenient.To me there seems to be little point in getting a lift, hanging about afterwards until the lift is ready or rushing off afterwards because the lift wants to get home to attend to the roast, pfaffing about with the wheelchair, only to hear exactly what I have already read online.
Fellowship with other Christians is important but there’s that online too. Besides here there’s i-church and the Second Life Anglican Cathedral where I go regularly, plus a growing number of other sensible sites I go to occasionally.
At home I can choose how high to have the heat, there is always soap, toilet paper and a dry towel, and the coffee or tea is exactly as I like it. And there’s no worry about the weather.

I don’t know about the USA, but Sunday in urban England hasn’t been a special day for over a generation. Time for millions is in shorter supply than it used to be and weekends are crammed with what didn’t get done during the week. Church services still seem to be held on the same days and times as they were when churches were almost the only places apart from pubs open on Sundays or after 6pm during the week..
There are I don’t know how many thousands of split families for whom Sunday is the day the non-custodial parent sees the children. If he takes them out it’s not to Church. Students have weekend jobs. Some parents divide working hours so that one works only at weekends while the other is at home. Other families use one day of the weekend to go shopping and the other to take part in activities that don’t include finding out where among half-a-dozen parishes the Church service is taking place that week.
In addition to young families there are those who want to enjoy unfettered weekends once they are child-free. Then there are the retired who’ve given up the expense of a car but whose parish has joined forces with others so that services are two buses away or take place before the buses run on Sundays anyway.
What with greater choice, competing demands and difficulties, Church is high up on the list for fewer of the population. Many don’t even give it a thought or even consider it as an alternative. This is bound to cause stress and strain for clergy and laity trying to keep it going for the public who do choose it. It’s little wonder that some give up after years of same old same old once it clicks with them that there are other things to do and that you don’t need to lose your faith to go to the garden centre.

12 December 2014 23:43
Wendy Dackson said...

About a month ago, a friend asked me about this on Facebook. Here is my reply:

Church leaving needs a boatload more attention than it gets. It needs to be taken far more seriously than it is. It’s time for the churches to take some responsibility for their own role in people deciding the church is no longer a good place, rather than blaming/ridiculing people for journeying alone (or in unofficial groups). Or blaming Sunday sports, shopping, or other “competition”. Will that happen? Probably not in my lifetime.

I’m not sure the questions the author asks are the right ones, or that they will help understand the phenomenon of believers who can no longer face the demands of belonging. The author’s questions might be useful in helping hold on to the membership of a congregation, or as part of the assessment of a pastor’s job performance. But they aren’t going to stop people leaving. And as they assume current congregational participation, they can’t say much about those who have walked out–why they have left or what might have prevented the departure, or how/whether that relationship can be healed.
I hope people will share stories of leaving through my blog. I’m an “open de-churched” lay person with a PhD in theology. I love the church, but it fails to return that love. I’m a “young” 53, but I’m too old not to have my expenditures of affection and respect go without being reciprocated.

Cliff said...

Dear Wendy
I’d be very interested in reading your blog. How do I do that?

Wendy Dackson said...
13 December 2014 20:29
13 December 2014 20:24
13 December 2014 20:00
Cliff said...

Thanks Wendy. I’ll certainly visit

13 December 2014 20:46

[…] friend shared this blog post on my page, and asked my opinion.  A few days ago, the same post was reblogged on Lay Anglicana; I copied and pasted my Facebook response in the comments. Today, yet another friend shared the […]

16 December 2014 19:08

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