Dissertation Projects

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Jeffrey O. Brown

Second Advisor

Claudio Consuegra

Third Advisor

Beverly Sedlacek

Abstract

Problem

The number of cohabiting couples has dramatically risen over the last several decades. Even a significant amount of Seventh-day Adventist Church members, both young and old, have chosen to live together apart from a committed marriage. Living together without the covenant of marriage comes with many risks and many negative effects on both adults and children. With the prevalence of cohabitation increasing, the church is faced with a new ministry challenge and opportunity. Churches need to be educated about the biblical theology of sexual intimacy and the dangers and damage that come with cohabitation. Furthermore, churches need biblical strategies to minister faithfully to cohabiting couples.

Method

A three-part seminar and accompanying workbook were developed to train churches to minister to cohabiting couples. Two churches in the Iowa-Missouri Conference of Seventh-day Adventists were selected and agreed to individually participate in the seminar on two separate Sabbaths in August of 2017, respectively. In addition to sharing the biblical and scholarly research, three biblical and practical ministry suggestions were given so that ministry could be implemented. The effectiveness of the training seminar to educate and equip churches was measured by a pre-seminar and post-seminar survey. A combined total of 41 pre-seminar and 31 postseminar surveys were completed. This cross-sectional quantitative quasi experimental research provided valuable data from both churches which was carefully analyzed and evaluated.

Results

The study revealed participants’ improvement in three key areas that were measured: (a) knowledge of cohabitation, (b) comfort in ministering to cohabiting couples, and (c) willingness to minister to cohabiting couples. Additionally, 1/3 of participants in Iowa, and nearly 2/3 from Missouri, reported a change in view about cohabitation as a result of the seminar. Furthermore, a large majority of participants indicated the seminar helped them understand more clearly that sexual immorality and cohabitation are prohibited by the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White.

Conclusions

Based upon the participants’ survey data, the training seminar did appear to have success in improving knowledge of cohabitation, as well as improving participants’ comfort level and willingness to minister to cohabiting couples. The biblical ideal for sexual intimacy to occur only within a committed marriage, which is supported by much current research regarding the negative effects of cohabitation on adults and children, led many participants to more strongly disapprove of cohabitation. At the same time, the post-seminar survey revealed an increased number of participants believed that the church should intentionally minister to cohabiting couples. The apparent benefit of this seminar indicates the need for further research and continued training of churches.

Subject Area

Church work with unmarried couples--Seventh-day Adventists; Unmarried couples--Religious aspects; Iowa-Missouri Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

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