People are opting out of participating in formal church. Folks have been making this choice for quite some time now. After WWII, there was a huge surge in church attendance. Then beginning in the 1960's a drop in attendance continued to grow. Now, churches that have older folks in them are discovering that the younger generation is not rushing through the doors to take the older generation's place in the pew. Last year, a report was released that when forms for institutions like hospitals are filled out that when the question is asked "religious preference" more people than ever are checking "none." The nones are the fastest growing religious group in America right now.
For those who are concerned about the future of the church in America, the question "why" is inevitably asked. Why are people leaving church? And, why are people not interested in going to church? The two questions are related. Duin focuses primarily on the question of why people are leaving the church.
Duin has a theology degree and is a religion reporter who has written for a number of newspapers and periodicals. As of this book's publication, she is the religion editor of The Washington Times. According to her website she is now working elsewhere.
So, why are people leaving the church? As Duin addresses the problem, there clearly is no one reason. Her chapter titles show some of the major reasons. She addresses issues such as relevancy, community inclusion, congregations realistically addressing modern issues and concerns, how the church deals, or not, with singles over the age of 35, lack of depth and substance in teaching/preaching, Pastors and the church system, how women are addressed, and charismatics.
Duin's research involves her own and friends' personal experience, newspaper accounts, professional and academic resources. Her emphasis is on the Evangelical church although she does touch on the dynamics of sacramental communions as well. Duin does have a personal stake in this question. She is a single person, now a single mother, over the age of 35 who is a professional woman who expects respect and substance. She has quit church too. As of the writing of her book, she decided she wanted her child to be in Sunday School so attends an evangelical congregation. She finds the experience for herself to be unsatisfactory. She argues in her final chapter that the answer she finds most appealing is the home church movement. In the home church, personal interaction with others is a premium experience.
I read this book because I would like to know why people are leaving. I am a pastor of the church but even if I weren't, my family would be active in a congregation. So, I am genuinely puzzled when people choose to remove themselves from church life. I understand the need to switch congregations or even confessional alliances, but I do not understand walking away completely. I did not learn anything new here.
Duin is strong on describing the surface of problems people deal with, but weak in solid recommendations for bringing people back. She also does not go the extra step and explain why people are treating church as if it is a restaurant. Her analysis does not address the consumer mentality that she and others bring to the church. She also lacks the conviction that the church and Christ are inseparable. One must be a part of the body of Christ (aka: the church) in order to be a Christian.