Book Review: Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them, by The Barna Group, George Barna & David Kinnaman, General Editors
Descriptive, but not prescriptive. Enlightening, but not equipping. Informative, but not inspiring. Explanation, but not application.
These are the words that describe my impression and evaluation of the latest offering from the Barna Group, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. I have decidedly mixed feelings about the book. It felt like it was heavy on understanding the unchurched but light on how to connect with them. In that sense, it didn’t meet my expectations because it didn’t live up to its subtitle.
The book is the result of several surveys done over a period of four years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) among 20,000 churched and unchurched adults. The authors provide demographic information and self-descriptions of churchless people. They include what the unchurched think and feel about religion, their religious behaviors, what they believe about faith, the paradox of trusting Christ but not the local church, the reasons why people choose to leave the church, their approach to family life, the goals & values of churchless adults, their lifestyle choices, why atheists and agnostics should be viewed differently, and what type of faith experience and/or spiritual journey unchurched adults are seeking. Lest the authors appear to be anti-church, they include one final chapter on why the church matters in a post-Christian culture.
The strength of the book is the descriptive material regarding the mindset and lifestyle of unchurched adults. One has a much better understanding of this group of people. However, the weakness of what the book is what to do with the information. The book is decidedly light in the aspect of, “So what?” The reader is left to his/her own devices to figure out what to do with the information. The authors include a few questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. But church leaders will need to form their own discussion groups to determine what to do next.
While the book provides some help and understanding, it doesn’t take the next step and go far enough. Perhaps my frustration and disappointment comes from having recently read, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, by James Emery White. I found White’s book to be much more balanced and helpful.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.