Project Documents

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Bertram Melbourne

Second Advisor

Michael F. Cauley

Third Advisor

Kelvin Onongha

Abstract

Problem

For the past three decades, pastors and lay leaders of the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church, situated in the city of Miami Gardens, Florida, USA, have fostered the longing for a comprehensive discipleship strategy that is geared toward new member retention. Although church leaders have attempted to address the problem of attrition, due to the lack of effective discipleship, by hiring full time Bible workers, forming new member classes, and creating ministry opportunities, a sustainable, competency-driven, and user-friendly curriculum did not emerge. Due to a combined growth rate of 29. 4% in membership, between the years 2002-2012, a comprehensive discipleship curriculum was considered to be of missional urgency.

Method

A discipleship curriculum, with emphasis on new member care and retention, was developed and implemented between 2012 and 2014. Its purpose was to educate, equip, and engage church leaders in a series of training seminars that would link theory to practice. This discipleship curriculum emphasized the learning components of mentoring connections, spiritual formation, and membership accountability. It was instructional in the competencies of spiritual disciplines, transformational relationships, personal stewardship, biblical discipleship, spiritual giftedness, and sensitivity to missing members. While the curriculum was based on the above-mentioned competencies, its effectiveness was measured in terms of participation level, overall commitment, changes in practice of church leaders toward their new converts, and the level of increase in membership enlightenment.

Results

Once a discipleship curriculum for training church leaders and members was developed, based on the six main competencies that emerged from the new member’s surveys, a series of training seminars was conducted. Although the training was first designed and promoted for church leaders, church leadership requested the participation of all church members. Consequently, 60% of active church members attended and completed the requirements of the program. This included 100% of pastoral staff, 80% of church officers, 30% of church youth and pathfinder leaders, and 65 regular church members. A further 180 new members responded to the new member surveys. Generally, seminar participants commenced with much curiosity and an eagerness to learn. However, over 90% of participants reported that they were enlightened and better equipped to engage in the discipleship process of the church. There were two curriculum weaknesses: namely, a shortage of new members to be placed in mentoring relationships with seasoned members and insufficient time for implementing the curriculum.

Conclusions

Three important learnings emerged from this study. First, church leaders are eager to become more efficient in member discipleship. Second, a well-developed, competency-based, and easy to-follow discipleship curriculum is crucial to membership retention in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Third, it will require more transformational relationships than curriculum theory to retain members in the church. This research revealed that a curriculum of this sort is of missional urgency. It is crucial in the struggle to retain and disciple the people that God brings (Acts 2:27, 28) to the church.

Subject Area

Discipling (Christianity); Seventh-day Adventists--Membership; Church membership; Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

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