Good News for Endangered Adventists

Good News for Endangered Adventists

The Adventist Review recently published  Endangered Adventism, painting a very bleak outlook for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.

According to research by Dr. David Trim and the office of Archives, Statistics & Research (ASTR) at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the median age of an Adventist around the world is 32. In the U.S and Canada, that number is 51.

18.46%. That’s the percentage of Adventist members in North America that are under the age of 40. The percentage under the age of 25—4.55%.

There is no doubt that there is serious competition for the hearts and minds of young people in North America, but are they truly that close to disappearing from our churches?

Exactly where did these numbers come from?

GC Survey

In 2013, the General Conference conducted an online survey of the North American Division. Email invitations were sent to a selection of churches and 300 of them signed up to participate. 12% of the members in these churches actually filled out the survey – 1,495 people. The report indicates that this is a fairly typical response for online surveys. Of these 1,495 people, 4.55% were 25 or younger and 18.46% were 40 or younger.

It’s clear that this survey was carefully prepared by a meticulous team. The question is, are these 1,495 members a representative sample of 1 million+ members in North America? Is this the best data we have?

eAdventist

eAdventist is North America’s membership records and currently contains over 1.15 million members. More than 780,000 of these members have provided their birth dates.

sample_sizes

1,495 vs 780,00

members_by_10s

2016 members by 10-year groups (eAdventist)

Query those 780,000 people like it’s 2013 and a very different picture emerges.

Median age of members = 46
Members 25 and under = 16.8%
Members 40 and under = 40.0%

If you exclude people under 10, the median age of the United States (2010 Census) is 42 and Canada (2011 Census) is about 44. Even more encouraging, the median age of members joining by baptism or profession of faith in the last 8 years is 32.

baptisms_since_2008

Baptisms by age (eAdventist)

Most young adults are making major life changes – launching careers, deciding on relationships or marriage and evaluating their commitment to God and church. Let’s encourage and welcome them whether they attend regularly or occasionally. Thankfully, it appears that the reports of their extinction “have been greatly exaggerated“.

Metropolitan Adventists

Metropolitan Adventists

Jesus told his followers that they were “the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13). With over 80% of the population of the United States and Canada now living in “urban” areas, how much salt do Seventh-day Adventists contribute to North America’s largest metropolitan areas today?

The US Census Bureau uses “metropolitan statistical areas” (MSA) and Stats Can uses “census metropolitan areas” (CMA) so we compared the populations (2015 US Census, 2011 Canada Census) to current membership of churches (eAdventist) in each of these areas. The 5 largest metro areas looked like this:

largestmetroareas

 Total Population (blue), Members (green)

Clearly, a little salt is having to go a long way in these large cities. To get a better comparison, we magnified the members by a factor of 100 and used stacked bars. Note that the population totals are still correct but the “population” (blue) is reduced by magnifying the “members” (green).

largestmetroareas_x_100

Members x 100 (green)

It’s safe to say that there is no shortage of opportunity for the “salt” in these areas. The metro areas with the highest ratio of members have Adventist hospitals, headquarters offices or both.

mostpresence_x_100

Members x 100 (green)

Predictably, the metro areas with the lowest ratio of members do not have hospitals, schools or headquarters offices in them. This provides them with a fantastic opportunity and challenge.

mostopportunity_x_100

Members x 100 (green)

Here is an Excel spreadsheet (nad-metro-areas) of the 38 largest areas in North America, including population and members. Contact us at help@eadventist.net if you would need more of this kind of information for church planting or metro outreach.