June 3, 2010

etc.--Church Trends

A new series by longtime Adventist Review writer Monte Sahlin, Church Trends shares action-oriented information about the Adventist Church and the world in which it works.
Family Trends
Seventh-day Adventist families are doing quite well, according to a new study being released by the North American Division Family Ministries Department. Results show that (1) the percentage of Adventist families who have regular family worship has increased during the past 35 years; (2) today, 70 percent of parents support Adventist education for their children; and (3) a high level of agreement exists between family values and Adventist faith, which are cherished in almost all families where one or both adults attend church regularly.
The percentage of Adventists who have gone through a divorce has increased only marginally in the past 15 years, although it rose dramatically between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s. In a survey conducted in 1974-1975, fewer than 3 percent of Adventists reported having been divorced, while in a 1993-1994 survey, that had increased to 21 percent. The latest survey (conducted last year) has 24 percent indicating they have been divorced. The margin of error for this study is three percentage points (plus or minus), and it should be kept in mind that (1) more than a third of these respondents report that their divorce occurred before they joined the Adventist Church and (2) a majority say that their former spouse was never affiliated with the church.
2010 1516 page30Sexual abuse is a problem in the Adventist Church, but it has not increased significantly. One in five respondents says they have experienced sexual abuse by an adult. Only 3 percent indicate that it was a church member, and an even smaller number that it was a denominational employee. These rates remained the same throughout the past 15 years. The most disturbing finding is that the percentage who say they were sexually abused by a relative has increased from 8 percent in 1993-1994 to 12 percent today.
What Does This Mean for Your Church?
The percentage of members who report that their local church has some kind of family ministries activity has almost doubled in the past 15 years—from 16 to 29 percent. This is a tribute, I believe, to the farsightedness of church leaders who established the Family Ministries Department in 1995.
This means, however, that seven in 10 local churches still need to start something in this vital area of ministry. Nine out of 10 church members say that it is “absolutely essential” or “very important” for each local church to provide premarriage counseling, marriage-enrichment events, and parent education classes. More than four out of five church members expect their local church to maintain a list of Christian family counselors for referral purposes, and provide a grief-recovery support group and classes on how to deal with family conflict. Almost as many want their local church to have a singles ministry and to offer a divorce-recovery program, classes on interpersonal communication, an addiction-recovery group, sex education, and family counseling services.
How is your church doing in meeting these expectations?
Tools and Resources
The new study, entitled Adventist Families in North America, is available from the Center for Creative Ministry, which conducted the research for the Family Ministries Department. You can get a copy at www.creativeministry.org or 800-272-4664. Other resources include:
Planbook—published yearly and available from your local conference Family Ministries director or AdventSource (www.adventsource.org or 800-328-0525).
Quick Start Guide for Family Ministries—by Wilma Kirk-Lee and available from AdventSource (www.?adventsource.org or 800-328-0525).
Scores of discussion guides for small groups, seminar kits, evangelistic sermon series, DVD seminars, and how-to books in the area of family ministries published by the Adventist Church and available at your Adventist Book Center. 
Monte Sahlin is director of research and special projects for the Ohio Conference and a senior consultant at the Center for Creative Ministry. Questions and suggestions can be sent to him at [email protected]. This article was published June 10, 2010.