For data enthusiasts, the NAD Executive Secretary’s report is always anticipated. When his slides are released, we will have them available on our website.
One of the major themes of G. Alexander Bryant’s presentation was excessive bleeding taking place at the congregation level with members leaving for good, or taking a break from church attendance.
This presentation prompted a lengthy discussion about retention challenges, and a number of practical responses:
“We’ve been hearing these data for years, what are we doing about it?” a number of delegates asked the Division leaders.
“We’ve got to love them unconditionally, without expectation that they’ll come back until they are convicted by the Holy Spirit to reconnect with the church,” said other committee members.
“We need to be much more aware of the life events they are experiencing where they need support from church members, and then we must respond without judgment,” offered other commenter.
“We need to stop dropping the missing members just because we can’t find them. In today’s world, it’s difficult to hid, so do the data searches that are readily available and don’t give up until you find them,” implored one union administrator.
“Related to the previous comment, please, please don’t wipe inactive members off your membership records just because you want to reduce your insurance premiums, or subsidy to the local Adventist school, etc. That’s a deplorable reason to ‘clean up your books'”, said another conference officer.
“We have to really ask ourselves, ‘who sits around out table’ and if we’re surrounded by the faithful member, we’re living in a bubble and not connected to the real world of the inactive member or community members,” said a prominent pastor.
“Our academy and college alumni directors need to see every activity for alumni as a reconnecting opportunity; inactively attending members are less threatened coming back to the school than they do coming back to a church,” said a school administrator.
“We have got to stop judging our members because they are not at church. We must find out what is happening in their lives and offer to help in any way we can and let that friendship be enough,” implored another pastor.
Dan Jackson, NAD president, thanked the group for its candor and concern as well as the practical ideas and calls for further reconnecting action across the Division. “It was an inspiring morning,” said one delegate. “I have heard a lot of hand-wringing about the retention challenges through the years, but never this level of solution sharing at this committee.”
Paul Richardson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Adventist Today Foundation.