The party line has been, "It's just a few malcontents."
Let's assume that's right (it isn't, but let's just play along.)
The reality is that even a few departures are deadly news for the majority of TEC congregations. TEC's own stats show that most congregations are a) numerically small, with less than 70 folks on a good day and b) aging, on average older than other denomination and certainly than the general public.
Given those realities (again, from TEC's own reports and stats), the loss of just a person or two can have a major impact:
- + The loss of one major financial donor, by death or departure, can cripple the budget of a small church. It can be the difference between full- or part-time clergy, paid or volunteer secretary or music leader, hiring staff or keeping a building up to code for use.
- + The loss of one major "doer" in a small or aged congregation means that some ministry will not be done, or not done well. No usher greets the visitors. Nobody makes coffee for fellowship time. Nobody has a strong enough voice to lead the hymns and they are mumbled. Nobody tries to do programs for the few kids or teens who might be left.
- + The loss of one young person or family can devastate the morale of a small, aged congregation. There's no visible sign of a future for the church, and hope and any last bit of momentum evaporate.
- + The loss of one lay leader can send a small church into disarray. Smaller churches generally have "patriarch/matriarch" figures who exercise leadership and maintain the congregation's culture. When such a figure departs, there is a time of confusion as the new leader is recognized (not by a formal process, but by an unstated sorting of relationships and responsibilities). But this assumes a pool of people from whom to draw the new leader and a culture that is poised to continue. TEC congregations that are aged, without a new generation to receive their culture or without a pool of leaders, will try to keep their doors open but will increasingly close down.
These are examples of what can happen when just one key person leaves a typical TEC church. It does not take much to imagine the impact of two, three, five or ten individuals or families walking away.