The Nearly Dones In Your Congregation

Last week, Pinnacle Affiliate Patrick Vaughan provided a helpful article describing the Dones; previously highly involved disciples who walk away from church. Not only do we have a word to describe those who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious” (Nones), we also have a word describing this increasing flow of disciples leaving church (Dones). Obviously, this raises questions for churches. Among them, who among us may walk away, joining the Dones? In other words, who in our congregation is vulnerable to becoming a Done? The following descriptions are not exhaustive, yet they provide clues to follow for strengthening those in your congregation who may be losing heart.

Those rotating off or out of high-involvement administrative and/or leadership positions are vulnerable to becoming Dones. Even during the Modern Era (pre-2000) it was common for the chair of the lay leadership team (Deacons, Session, Council, Vestry, Board) to rotate off and disappear for a while. When they function well, these disciples are highly involved in the administrative and leadership tasks of the church in a way which resembles a part time job. Having completed this very intense three year term, one can understand how a brief break from church might be refreshing. But, unlike the Modern Era (pre-2000), more of these disciples never return after their sabbatical period. This same dynamic plays out for those serving on committees, teams, task forces whose work is very intense and often unnoticed. We haven’t even mentioned those who are involved in resolving conflicts…an activity which is so necessary yet simultaneously so draining. So just look around at those involved in heavy administrative work. Help them find rest and food for their souls before they reach the spiritual red line.

Those disappointed in their church regarding the presidential election are vulnerable to becoming Dones. This campaign season ripped the cover off the illusion that the USA is a unified country. People all over the political spectrum experienced hurt, pain, and relational stress during the campaign. Many disciples in congregations expected their church to do more; or at least something. Regardless of where one might be on the conservative to liberal continuum, many expected their church to speak or lead rather than remaining passive. Others found themselves at odds with how their church did respond, perceiving the church response as politically different than their own perspective. These disciples are vulnerable to walking away from church, seeing their church as:
-colluding with a certain political party
-enmeshed with a broken political system
-unwilling to speak prophetically
-impotent in the face of unhealthy cultural norms
Interventions with these disciples may help them regain their respect for their church, avoiding becoming a Done.

Those looking for, but not finding, a compelling vision for world transformation are vulnerable to becoming Dones. How much does your church believe God’s will includes bringing the kingdom of God to earth, as it is in heaven? What kind of vision does your church pursue for its community? In other words, what is compelling about the vision your church is pursuing? Energized congregations focused on bringing real change, hope, and transformation to their part of the planet symbiotically energize their disciples. Those disciples who see how their church is participating with God’s movement toward making all things new remain highly invested in their church’s mission. Conversely, those disciples who can’t find others in their congregation who believe their church has a vital role in their community are vulnerable to becoming Dones.

Those who are new to your congregation are vulnerable to becoming Dones. How much intentional, regular, consistent effort does it actually take to break into the relational groups in your congregation? ….More than we insiders tend to think. Most of us know it’s the people who become part of a small group of some kind who tend to stick with church. Worshipping only doesn’t afford enough opportunity to form relational connections. On the other hand, those small groups which have been in existence for over one year, unconsciously communicate to newcomers that they already have an intact group culture which may not have room for new people. At the very least new people have to learn the group norms, exert tremendous interest and energy, and consistently push on the unconscious group barriers to become insiders. Churches consistently start new small groups move around this barrier. So if your church does not start several or many new small groups each year, it’s unconsciously communicating there is not room for newcomers. Those who are not able to establish a small group connection in the first year are vulnerable to giving up on church, becoming Dones.

We could go on. If space in this article allowed, we would describe those looking for exceptional community, those who are passive participants, and those on a serious spiritual quest. These disciples too are vulnerable to becoming Dones, often for very different reasons. Our hope is that churches will assess each of these groups of disciples, considering their next steps toward connecting these disciples with the energetic and captivating good news of the gospel. Next week we will describe the journey of one person who was nearly done, yet was drawn into the Christian Movement with new vigor.

Mark Tidsworth
President, PLA