Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Duane M. Covrig

Third Advisor

Isadore Newman

Abstract

Problem. Discussion over how to achieve church growth has been prominent over the first decade of this century and the last half of the 1900s as membership growth in mainline Christian denominations faltered to flat or negative growth. Membership growth in the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists over the past 10 years has also flattened. Church leaders have responded by putting increased resources and emphasis on evangelism. At the same time, some megachurches that have developed multiple connections with their communities have seen spectacular growth.

Method. This study was conducted to determine if there is a relationship between levels of connectedness in the community to the spiritual vitality, growth, and giving levels of the congregations in the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Previous research and literature is scarce on this topic, therefore a survey was developed, administered, and tested for content validity, external validity, and reliability. This ex-post-facto study encompassed 121 English-speaking churches. The sample consisted of 7,840 church members, of which 3,408 responded, representing 116 churches. Multiple regression and correlational analyses were conducted using the aggregate scores of individuals to form church scores. Of the 25 hypotheses tested, 11 were found to be significant and 6 approached significance.

Results. Results confirm that higher levels of community connectedness predict heightened church vibrancy through increased spiritual vitality. Higher levels of community connectedness also predicted increased church growth when controlled for commute time, congregational spiritual vitality, and volunteerism; and higher levels of community connectedness predicted higher giving levels when controlled for length of denominational membership and congregational spiritual vitality.

Conclusions. This study informs church administrators, pastors, and members that encouraging members to be more involved with their communities may result in higher levels of congregational spiritual vitality, some aspects of membership growth, and some aspects of giving levels. It is recommended that the church give more study to this concept; consider demographic impacts; educate members of all ages and leaders at all levels; adopt intentional church-growth strategies; and practice holistic evangelism. Practicing holistic evangelism is suggested particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where a substantial portion of the population claims to be spiritual but not religious.

Subject Area

Church growth, Communities--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists, Witness bearing (Christianity), Seventh-day Adventists--Oregon.

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