Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Douglas R. Kilcher
James J. North, Jr.
The failure of many of our small Seventh-day Adventist congregations to fully welcome new members into their midst has been of pastoral concern for many years. This project is an attempt to build awareness among established church members of the need to assimilate and sacrifice for new members.
The first part of the project involved research into the assimilation of new members in ten small Adventist congregations in central Pennsylvania. New members who had joined the church during a six-year interval were studied to see if they had maintained active membership status during that time. Interviews were also conducted with three pastors, four active SDA members, and four inactive members to explore their views about assimilating new members. A seminar was conducted in three churches to alert their membership to the needs of new members, and their own roles in assimilating them into their congregations. An attempt was made to ascertain the effectiveness of that approach in changing attitudes with respect to new members by comparing results from a pre-seminar questionnaire (given to the entire church about one month prior to the seminar) and a very similar questionnaire administered at the close of the seminar.
The findings of the questionnaires regarding the effectiveness of the seminar in changing attitudes with respect to new members were inconclusive. The hope that church members would attend the seminar in large numbers was usually not realized. Therefore, the pool of those taking the follow-up questionnaire was more selective than the pool of those taking the pre-seminar questionnaire, making any conclusions reached by direct comparisons of the answers unreliable. However, subjective analysis of the behaviors of the churches involved and their assimilation percentages was revealing.
There is a definite comparison between the personal effort the church membership is willing to extend in support of new member assimilation and the likelihood that new members will become active in its fellowship. Churches with higher assimilation rates showed greater interest in the seminar than those with lower assimilation rates. An exception was noted in the smallest church surveyed. It had a large seminar attendance but a very poor record of assimilation. This suggests that factors other than the church's willingness to personally welcome newcomers might be involved. Real change in attitude among the membership in small church settings is not likely to result from one or two seminars alone, but will require ongoing vision-casting by the leadership through sermons, lessons, and personal example.
Small churches--Pennsylvania; Seventh-day Adventists--Membership; Church work with new church members--Seventh-day Adventists
Williams, Robert C., "Improving the Assimilation of New Members in Small Adventist Churches in Central Pennsylvania" (1996). Dissertation Projects DMin. 665.
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