Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Stanley E. Patterson
This research project has investigated, identified, and assessed member retention patterns of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Zimbabwe, an entity usually referred to as the Zimbabwe Union Conference (ZUC). What prompted the research are two quinquenial reports (1998-2002; 2003-2007) which, as will be seen, show high baptisms as well as high membership losses (see Appendix B). Findings were made through surveys and questionnaires to pastors, elders, members, and former members; the researcher then designed an intervention program which was tried in two churches which were fast growing and at the same time poor in retention. The program was deliberate, evaluated, and reported so that it can be replicated in other entities and communities in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID).
Reasons for the research were to identity existing member retention patterns at the local church level, to assess their effectiveness, and to suggest and try out further strategies for member retention. The researcher combined both the qualitative and quantitative methods in this research although the findings lean more on the qualitative. The vehicles used in this research were surveys and questionnaires (see Appendix C for copies), in which pastors, elders, established members, and former members of the church are respondents. Using the above as respondents was to ensure relevance of the study because the respondents are people at the local church level, where the initial problem of loss originates, and corrective measures can be taken. Most questions in this study are open ended, while some are closed/structured, depending on the outcome required.
The willingness on the part of pastors, elders, and established members of the church to participate as respondents made this research a success. Former members, on the other hand, were not easy to convince in responding to questionnaires; however, what is pleasing is that all the 35 former members who eventually agreed to participate made a meaningful contribution to the findings. They shared their experiences in the church, and what exactly caused them to leave. From all the four types of respondents, varied reasons for membership loss, factors that militate against retention, and factors that contribute to it were identified, and a special intervention program was designed for use in facilitating retention (see Appendix D). As will be seen later, findings from the research resulted in meaningful recommendations on what the church in Zimbabwe needs to do to improve on retention.
First, the pastor-member ratio of 1:3,500 poses a problem. This was revealed by interviews with conference leadership w'ho indicated that there are eight to fifteen congregations per pastor (see Appendix E), making the needed shepherding, training, and monitoring of work at the local church difficult to accomplish. Second, most of the elders have no training on church leadership and administration. It is the pastor’s role, therefore, to see to their training at the local church level, along with several other congregations to attend to. The findings in chapter 4 of this project, also reveal that love is lacking among members of the church and towards the newly baptized, and indecency of, or non-existent worship structures in some places.
Place of Survey and Population
The study was conducted among members and former members of the Seventh- day Adventist Church in Zimbabwe, a country with an estimated population of 13 million, and an Adventist membership of 642,840 and 3,488 congregations.
Seventh-day Adventists--Zimbabwe--Membership; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division. Zimbabwe Union Conference; Zimbabwe Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Sithole, Richard, "Assessing Retention Patterns and Implementing Strategies for Membership Retention in the Zimbabwe Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists" (2010). Dissertation Projects DMin. 548.
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