Project Documents

Date of Award

1996

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

James J. North, Jr.

Second Advisor

Walter Douglas

Third Advisor

Roger L. Dudley

Abstract

Problem. Meaningful church membership in the United States is diminished by current social trends including privatism, mobility, and theological pluralism. This loosening of the traditional "ties that bind," has created a belief-belonging gap in many Christian churches. While weekly attendance at services might increase, formal membership and institutional loyalty decreases.

Method and Results. This phenomena is examined from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective. Social research conducted in a Caucasian conference in the Southeast U.S. indicated that a sense of belonging is linked to the age of the member. While 90 percent of those above age sixty-five claimed a strong loyalty and attachment to the church, only 65 percent of those below the age of forty-five expressed a sense of belonging, The results are statistically significant within 4 percent.

Conclusion. Meaningful church membership can be understood as a three-dimensional model of beliefs, behaviors, and a sense of belonging. The Adventist Church has recognized the importance of beliefs and behaviors, but it has not fully appreciated the significance of belonging. To promote this neglected component, practical illustrations of belonging enhancement programs are presented ranging from an annual day of membership rededication to a covenant concept of renewable membership.

Subject Area

Church membership, Pastoral theology--Seventh-day Adventists

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