Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The need for Relationships and the church of refuge

Last week the Adventist Review had a pretty good article on dealing with young people in the church. The article entitled “Like Water Between Our Fingers” Here are a couple of quotes:

Reality says that one in every five Adventist churches in North America doesn’t have a single child or teenager—much less anyone my age. In fact, the median age in these churches is nearly 60—20 years older than the average American.2

Reality says that as a baptized Adventist since my midteens, there’s a 50 percent chance that I’ll drop out of the church completely by the time I’m 25.3

The fifth key—tied unequivocally to the other four—is quite simple, yet remains the single most important factor in retaining young adults and reclaiming those who have drifted away: whether with a middle-aged couple or spirited pastor, energetic peer or elderly grandma, if they are going to stay, young adults must have genuine relationships inside their church family.

It’s all about relationships.

In his analysis of reasons why young Adventists drop out of church, Roger Dudley found that one “major theme shared by dropouts was that they felt unaccepted.”6 Further-more, a study by Rainer and Rainer of 1,000 young adults who left the church yielded the second highest motivation for leaving: “church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.”7

I point this out because I have battled and lost on this issue in my local church. I addressed the issue with the young people’s ministry people as well as the head elder and received nothing from them. The answer it seems in the traditional Adventist world is to ignore these things and they will go away. Indeed they do go away our young people leave the church.

Since most of our local churches are like mine and they think that traditional doctrines are more important than relationships the above article introduced an idea called Church of Refuge. Here is another quote from the article:

The mission of COR is to “help churches provide meaningful and relevant young adult ministry with the goal of keeping Adventist young adults in the church while also reaching out to those who are not currently participating in an Adventist congregation.”11 This support ministry is dedicated to helping Adventist churches better meet the all-around needs of young adults.

“Churches of Refuge care about the spiritual needs of young adults,” said Ron Whitehead, executive director for the Center for Youth Evangelism. “But they also care about their physical and social well-being.”

Are there Adventist churches ready to open themselves to relationships? We can hope. However checking out the Church of Refuge Website I don’t see any churches listed yet. Hopefully that is because it is a new program. Possibly the call of a church wide organization can cause some churches to do what all churches should be doing. My experience says it won’t but then sometimes I am too cynical. If my cynicism had not be proven correct so many times maybe I could outgrow it.


perpetualstudent said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It looks like this COR concept aligns with what my church is attempting. I will be forwarding the links to my pastor. That being said, I am also very cynical about the future. Adventism is so much a religion of the mind, that it will take a lot to break us out of that and transition to a religion of relationships. Our survival is dependant on that transition, yet we, as a church, are so obsessed with "our truth".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. I agree with your analysis. In our area most SDA churches are only open on Sabbath for a few hours and a couple of hours for prayer meeting. In essence, they are "theological clubs" with "club officers". The majority of the membership are older, usually retired, and the only young are grandchildren. The children of these members have nothing to do with church. Could it be that being a Christian is a lifestyle, not simply showing up once a week at a building or holding a church position?