When you consider what brought you into the church you currently attend, what comes to mind? Were you drawn in by the pastor’s meaningful sermons? Perhaps it was the familial atmosphere in the church community? Was it an active children’s ministry? For each of us, there is likely something very specific that first drew us to the church we attend.
In 2013, the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research supervised a survey of church members around the world. The study was designed to assess church members’ experiences and attitudes regarding different aspects of their spiritual lives and their participation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Survey respondents were also asked to share what factors initially drew them into their current congregations.
Globally, church members reported strong church doctrine as the biggest factor (49%) that drew them into their current congregation; in this case, the phrase “strong church doctrine” refers to incorporating the fundamental Adventist beliefs not only into sermons and Sabbath school lessons, but teaching congregates to apply these beliefs to their personal relationship with Jesus, as well as their lifestyle. When pastors and church members emphasize and practice ideals that the Church—as a whole—values new church attendees take notice. Thus, church doctrines are instrumental to bringing new faces into the local churches.
Church members around the world also ranked worship style (32%) and evangelism (24%), as well as children’s and youth programs (21%) and friends (20%) as factors that strongly influenced their decision to begin attending their current church.
In regards to how different divisions responded when asked what originally attracted them to their current congregation:
- One in five (20%) members in the South Pacific Division and nearly half (48%) of members in the Trans-European Division indicated that proximity to the church was a big pull.
- A strong music program ranked highly in several divisions, including East-Central Africa Division (28%), Southern Africa-Indian Division (28%), and South American Division (26%).
- Nearly one in four (24%) of respondents in the North American Division indicated that the minister was an important factor in bringing them to their current church.
- In the West-Central Africa Division, one in five (20%) of survey respondents shared that the church’s reputation initially brought them in.
As you can see, it the practices that makes our congregations distinctly “Adventist” that attract new people into our church. Biblical teachings, worship style, evangelism, friendship, and tending to the next generation are things that the Adventist church truly values at a leadership level, but as you can see, on a personal level, as well. Data suggest that congregations that focus on these aspects will win new people.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” [emphasis added]. If we want to distinguish our church clearly, we must continue to invest in Biblical preaching and in the practices that make us stand out and draw new people into our churches. And we must not forget the vital roles that church worship, children and youth programs, and friends play for newcomers when they choose a church.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry
Published by ASTR