Dissertation Projects DMin

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

College

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Del Dunavant

Second Advisor

Michael Cafferky

Third Advisor

Skip Bell

Abstract

Problem

The problem addressed in this project was the lack of missional focus at the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church. Four symptoms were correlated to this problem. First, from 2010 to 2013 the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church witnessed a slight decline in tithe and a drop in mission offerings. Second, conference archive data from 2003 to 2013 showed that the membership had remained steady while attendance had gradually been in decline. Third, though no formal surveys were available at the initiation of this project, anecdotal evidence from the conference to the local level showed varying opinions concerning the focus of the church. Such opinions ranged from the church lacks “missional focus” or “the church is dead!” to the opposite, where there was a sense of optimism from members involved in ministries. Some of the elders also expressed a desire for a unified goal or mission. Last, prior to this project the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church had no documents stating its mission or vision—no emphasis in its bulletins, in its building (plaque or banner), or on its website. These four symptoms pointed to a need to develop a process to help the church reconsider its current and future course. Such a process would have as its main outcome the development of a mission/vision document and five-year goals. Such a document would be formulated after receiving input from as many members as possible.

Methodology

The task of this project was to develop, implement, and evaluate a biblically-based collaborative strategy to help the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church draft a mission/vision document and five-year goals. Besides this overarching goal was the evaluation of other areas commonly associated with Church health: increases in giving, accessions, etc.

This strategy combined biblical concepts, leadership literature, with some emphasis on collaboration, and a corporate collaborative process to generate the mission/vision document and five-year goals. Some elements included: seasons of prayer, Sabbath afternoon sessions with study guides and presentations along with various other components that were utilized to create the collaborative environment that was experienced. The Church’s self-perception, though not a major outcome, was evaluated twice using an assessment tool produced by the Northern California Conference at the beginning and the end of this process. Specifically, this process began with an assessment in August of 2014 and ended with the second assessment in April of 2016. Also, financial data for tithe, church budget and mission giving were evaluated before and after the project. Coupled with these financial factors were the evaluation of membership, attendance, and ascension trends.

Results

After the 21-month process, the following was observed: The Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church developed a mission/vision document and five-year goals. The Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church saw an increase in its score for missional focus on its second self-assessment survey even though the total number of respondents was less than the first survey. Specifically, the average for each of the four questions relating to missional focus increased by one to two points. This improvement, moved the Church on a scale of 1 to 5 closer to the score of 4 for each of the four questions relating to missional focus. Financial giving improved in the areas of tithe (up to $225,973.51 in 2014 and $234,442.11 in 2015 from $187,722.65 in 2013). This effectively reversed a downward trend that began in 2011. Other contributing factors to an increase in tithe besides the implementation of this project could be: the arrival of a new pastor, members returning to Anderson after the departure of the previous pastor, and the addition of new members as a result of public evangelism. Missions giving increased from $1,867.10 in 2013 to $6,525.14 in 2014 and $5,172.62 by the end of 2015. The downward trend was ended that began in 2011 in this area though it did not restore it to the over $8,000 per year levels that were experienced pre-2011.

The local Church Budget went from an unclear status, where for the previous two years, a loss was presented to the congregation and reports to the Church Board were not always clear, to an increase of over $5,000 in 2014 and a moderate surplus in 2015, with clearer reporting. Membership increased from 287 in 2014 to 306 in 2015 which was a level that had not been experienced prior to 2011. Also, the trend of no baptisms for the previous three years was effectively reversed during the time of this project. Community outreach ministries in the areas of health, youth, felt needs, fellowship meals, community service and public evangelism saw the number of their events increase. However, as the activity level increased adjustments needed to be made in order that these ministries could be sustainable: realistic ministry calendars, budgets and intentional breaks were developed and implemented.

Conclusion

A strategy to help a church revise or regain its missional focus that endeavors to include the whole church in an environment of collaboration can be a contributing factor in reversing downward trends and guiding a church towards a goal of revitalization. Though the process followed in this project is subject to revision and improvement, the overarching principles learned can be utilized in endeavors to engage in Church revitalization; members must be mobilized to take ownership for the future direction of their church and clergy must equip them to do so. Such concepts are clearly outlined in the Bible and have been utilized in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Subject Area

Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church (Anderson, Calif.); Mission of the church; Church work--Seventh-day Adventists; Church management

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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