A lot of focus and attention has been given to that rising demographic of millennials known as the nones. Young people who have no religious affiliation whatsoever.
But there is another demographic that is growing in the Christian community that I believe will ultimately create a seismic shift in the way that the church expresses itself.
It’s the Dones!
Long time faithful church attendees who are simply done with attending church.
In a recent article on the subject author Thom Schultz describes an all to common, and growing, example of a “done”:
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.”
Thom Schultz: The Rise of the Dones
Previously, people who stopped going to church often did so as the result of a bad experience;
* sexual misconduct
* leadership abuse
* church split
* financial mismanagement
But it’s a different story with the dones.
They’re just tired.
After 20 or 30 years of:
* Sunday meetings
* Prayer meetings
* Men’s / Woman’s meetings
* Home Group meetings
* Leadership meetings
…they are just…done!
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.
Thom Schultz: The Rise of the Dones
Many church leaders respond to these challenges by trying to spruce things up in their churches with new activities and a fresh direction. But this is really just rearranging the deck chairs on a ship taking on water. Most Dones have been involved with so many new church activities, visions, and directions that they are all but immune to yet another incarnation.
“So Steve, as someone who loves the church what do you see happening?”
At this point I don’t have a great answer to what the future holds. What I do know is that the church will survive, and grow...
…but it’s going to look a little different. Let me suggest one direction I see us going…
“Network” Church Becomes “Cable” Church
Before there was cable TV we all watched the same television shows. There were 3 network channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) and despite any personal preferences, if you wanted to watch TV, you pretty much were forced to watch it in the same way as every other person. A certain show came on one time a week, and if you missed it, well, you tried to catch up next week.
Not unlike church today.
Everyone wishing to participate in church today is made to do so in pretty much the same expression as everyone else.
* Sunday morning
* Praise / worship
* Teaching / Sermon
The church in many ways is a lot like network TV. You might pick up something a little different by changing the channel (or church) but by and large, you are all watching the same show. ( “watching” being the operative word)
But now there is cable TV, on demand TV, Netflix etc. There are TV shows, heck, there are whole channels that are geared to reaching a certain interest, demographic, hobby. People can still watch Two and a Half Men or the latest incarnation of CSI on network TV if they like but if they are into history, there is the History Channel. If they enjoy cooking, there are cooking channels. If they enjoy travel, there is The Travel Channel or Discovery Channel filled with the adventures of people exploring the world, its food, and its cultures.
There are game show channels, movie channels, news channels, exercise channels; you get the picture!
…and if you miss your favorite program? Well, you can stream or download it at your leisure.
And here’s the thing. Network TV hasn’t gone away. In fact, these new cable channels have made those traditional network channels better than ever as they have seen there are new and better ways of telling stories.
I am part of a small group that meets twice a month called Bread & Wine. We gather together as friends over food and wine to discuss our faith, struggles, questions, and doubts. In many ways its a lot like a cable station. Some people will find it interesting, others will “channel surf” right past it. Just this week I had someone who visited it admit to me it “just wasn’t their kind of thing” while another person told me how much they needed the gathering as part of their Christian faith.
And that is where the expressions of church are heading. From a traditional Sunday morning based gathering to a much more diverse and custom fitted expression that incorporates ingredients that will help grow our faith in ways much more specifically.
It’s not that “Sunday morning” is going away any time soon. Much like “network TV” has survived in the community at large, the “regular” church will continue to be a mainstay of the Christian community. And the growth of alternative Christian expressions will likely help the Sunday morning service become more impactful and meaningful in the future.
But the church IS changing …