Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “In my book ‘ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church’ (Abingdon) one of the 8 signs is that Christians are rejecting the entertainment-emphasis of churches and instead preferring churches that create community through small groups, huddles, clusters and other sub-congregations. Test how you are doing, by asking yourself, ‘How much time this week have I spent preparing for the Sunday service and how much time have I spent creating community through small groups, clusters, huddles, etc?’ If you need ideas read this article and the book ‘Church Refugees.’ And then take a look at one of my three books that address this: ‘ORGANIX,’ ‘Cure for the Common Church,’ and especially the chapter on ‘small groups’ in ‘The Healthy Church’.”
An analysis of the book “Church Refugees” by John Hawthorne, Pathos, 6/15.
I was excited to receive this book by Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. It is a sociological report on The Dones: people who have been active in church life but have removed themselves from the institutional church.
I first became aware of this phenomenon two years ago thanks to some blog posts by Michelle Van Loon reporting on church decline among those over 40. I returned to the topic the beginning of this year when I became aware of some preliminary data from Josh.
Using a combination of sampling methods, Josh and Ashley were able to collect detailed qualitative data on over 100 individuals. He told me in an e-mail that sometimes all he had to do was say “hello” and the stories would pour out.
The Dones shared a number of characteristics. They had all been heavily involved in church life, some in official staff positions. They loved the church enough to be committed to seeing it become all it had the potential of being. But the costs of keeping up that energy against institutional structures eventually become too high.
There are several shared characteristics that cut across their stories.
High on the list is a desire for community. The Dones (which they also call the Dechurched) wanted their churches to be places where people connected in meaningful ways. This was more than just small group programs with defined curriculum but was the place where people actually connected. That community was important is evidenced by the ways they tried to reconstruct community in non-church settings after they were Done…