The “Dones” Emerge as Latest American Group to Abandon the Church


The ‘dones’ are those Christians who consider themselves faithful to God but are turned off by the institutional aspects of church — and they just quit going.

Just as churches, seminaries and congregational consultants were wrapping their heads around the concept of “the nones” in religious life, yet another term emerges for yet another category of Americans abandoning the church: “the dones.”

The first group denotes the growing number of Americans with no religion affiliation. “Nones,” which may represent as much as 38 percent of the U.S. population, also are known for generally having had no or very little in the way of religious upbringing.

But sociologists, church historians and congregational coaches have realized for a while that another subset of Americans are answering “none” on surveys about religious affiliations: Those who have grown up in the church and remained active in adulthood — at least until getting tired of church life.

They’ve been included in other names created by researchers, including the “unchurched” and the “de-churched.”

They’ve been the target of evangelistic efforts now and then, but the newer term, “dones,” captures a fact about them that other monikers didn’t: they’re finished — and most likely for good.

“There’s not a whole lot of hope of them coming back,” said Thom Schultz, a Colorado-based blogger and co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.

Schultz posted a blog recently that introduced the term “dones” for those Christians turned off by their church experiences. He told Baptist News Global that it doesn’t mean they are done with God.

“They will tell you they are very faithful, they are strong Christians and are looking for ways to act out on their faith even more so than they did when they were involved” in a congregation, Schultz said.

The term “dones” was inspired by October’s “Future of the Church” conference in Loveland, Colo., where sociologist Josh Packard presented research about the growing group of Americans who are abandoning organized Christianity.

“We coined that term here,” Schultz told Baptist News Global.

‘The Mental Concepts Stick’
While the term is new, the trend it represents is not, Baptist and church leadership consultant Mark Tidsworth said.

“I have been hearing and observing this in churches … for seven or eight years,” said Tidsworth, president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates in Chapin, S.C.

It’s why Tidsworth said he was one of many to post Schultz’s Nov. 12 blog, “The Rise of the Dones,” on Facebook late last week. He shared it because there is, finally, a term to designate a movement that is impacting the church in America.

Having new vocabulary for a shift already underway will help him and others trying to coach churches through difficult times, Tidsworth said.

“The word ‘Dones’ is language that describes something we have been observing,” he said. “When you get language for something, it makes the mental concepts stick.”

It’s an especially disturbing trend because it involves people who were previously dedicated to and active in congregational life, he said.

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Jeff Brumley

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