Depending on your source, the Adventist Church is either thriving or in crisis.
Why is it important to consider your sources of data?
This month the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research published a blog in which 82% of members say they're sticking with the SDA Church for life. According to the research, in their words, "These numbers indicate that the Adventist Church has a strong future ahead of it."
Great! Let's pat ourselves on the back and call it a day! Mission accomplished...right?...
Not so fast. Two years ago Dr. George Barna (as in the doctor who founded the Barna Research Group that performed the most-quoted study on Adventist Millennials) told a conference of 400 Seventh-day Adventist delegates from 60+ countries that "we are in a crisis!" Only 4% of 18-30 year-olds in the US have a Biblical worldview. According to the Barna study on SDA Young Adults (YA), about 1 out of every 4 engaged SDA YA's experiences a period where they disconnect from the church (among disengaged YA's that stat becomes about 1 out of every 2 YA's). The study reported statements of YA's like "God is more at work outside the church than in it," "I used to be involved, but don’t fit in anymore," and "Church is a difficult place to live out my faith."
Did we magically fix the problem in 2 years?
No. We just polled from different data groups (and had different researchers). If I were to take a poll at the gym and ask everyone at the gym if they were committed to exercising this year, guess what...my data would show that 100% of people stuck to their New Year's resolutions!
Take a look at this retention study from 2013 by The Center for Creative Ministry for the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research.
When you hear "young people" complaining about there being too many "old people" and not enough young people, it's because statistically that's true. There's an overwhelming over-representation of Pre-Boomer generations when compared with the U.S. Census's national average; and a significant under-representation of Millennials. At the time of this report, the median age for Adventists in North America was 51. The median age of Americans? 36.
So, we all recognize there's a crisis with Adventist sustainability, right?
Once again, according to another 2013 study (we really need some new studies here folks) by the Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church Member Research North American Division...we're happy with the way things are.
What does all this conflicting data mean?
In one simple phrase? Ignorance is bliss. The stats show us that we have a mostly aging church that is satisfied with the way their experience is, while a large amount of younger generations walk out the door. It makes you wonder, who are our older generations giving towards if the future is leaving? Shouldn't their legacy last more than 20...30 years?
Is there any hope?
Here's the good news: there is hope! The Barna study pointed out that 63% of disengaged SDA Millennials were open to returning to church. In addition, both engaged and disengaged YA's agreed "I want to help the church change to be more like what Jesus wanted." (For more engaging ideas see Southern Adventist University's Adventist Connection Study)
Young adults do care about the Adventist Church and its future.
That's why we (along with other generations) got together and created The Scratch. We want to engage and connect with each other. We want to be informed and have a voice, because ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is death. So, if you agree with this, please support us by sharing, subscribing, and donating. Let's engage in informed conversation, building a sustainable future for the Church - together!
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