Reynolds Symposium Examines Adventist Retention Study
Though the Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to expand globally, every year more and more young adult members in the United States leave the denomination. A recent study sought answers for the growing problem. At Southern Adventist University’s Reynolds Symposium on September 21, a variety of presenters will share their interpretations on the qualitative data and discuss suggestions for bridging the age gap.
The two goals of the 21st Century Adventist Retention Study were to understand why connection or disconnection takes place among recent university graduates, and to develop effective ways for the church to retain or reclaim its younger demographic. Research was conducted in two phases. The first phase involved organizing focus groups using 2001-2011 Southern and Oakwood University graduates who had different levels of involvement in the church. The second phase consisted of online surveys sent out to 2001-2012 graduates of Southern, Oakwood, and other Adventist colleges and universities. More than 1,150 graduates were surveyed by the study's completion.
Researchers discovered that there is actually a large group of connected and active young adults in the church today. But while prayer is practiced often among younger Adventists, little Bible study is taking place. Additionally, researchers learned that a significant amount of young Adventists do not attend a single church regularly, but rather move between several each week, month, or year.
"While some of the results of the study were encouraging, much of what has been uncovered is troubling," said Doug Jacobs, primary researcher for the study and professor of religion at Southern. "The Adventist church is graying. If we don’t do something soon, the future of the church is in trouble."
A discussion of the qualitative data collected from the study will be given at the Reynolds Symposium. A variety of university professors, pastors, and recent graduates will present on an assortment of topics ranging from the current changes and trends that make the millennial generation different from its predecessors, to the Adventist doctrines most supported by today's youth.
The conference’s target audiences are educational and spiritual leaders, but the event is also open to the public. The symposium is free and being held in the Hulsey Wellness Center. For those who pre-register, a complimentary breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided during the all-day conference lasting from 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.