Some of the American church’s most faithful and active members are becoming the quickest to permanently walk out the doors, according to new research.

In a recent blog post, Thom Schultz, president of Colorado-based Group Publishing, examined a growing population he calls “the Dones,” a group of once-dedicated church members who have decided to stop going to church.

“For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger,” said Schultz. “The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support, are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.”

Schultz based his conclusions on a study conducted by Josh Packard, a sociologist from the University of Northern Colorado. Packard presented a portion of his findings at the recent Future of the Church Summit.

Packard’s research stems from a series of interviews conducted with former church members speaking about what caused them to leave. Complete findings are set to be released in the Packard’s book ‘Church Refugees’, coming in 2015.

Packard said research uncovered many of the people involved in the study have not abandoned their faith, but will likely never return to church. 

“The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play,” Schultz said. “They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.”

Schultz added, according to the research, church leaders have little chance of getting “the Dones” to return to church. Instead, Schultz suggests focusing on not losing these people in the first place.

To read Schultz’s full analysis of “the Dones” visit

For more information on the Future of the Church Summit or to register for the 2015 Summit visit