Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

College of Arts and Sciences

Program

Communication, MA

First Advisor

Desrene Vernon-Brebnor

Second Advisor

Judith B. Fisher

Third Advisor

Willie E. Hucks

Abstract

Problem

Over the past several years, there has been a marked decline in almost every area of the Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church life. Members have reported feeling overwhelmed with discouragement, and overall commitment has dwindled significantly. This poor morale is reflected by the low numbers at prayer meetings, Sabbath services and other church functions. Furthermore, there is difficulty in filling church offices and even when individuals volunteer to serve in specific offices they often later resign or lose their motivation to serve. Church members often appear to look for excuses to leave. There is a deep sense of discontentment.

Method

The Natural Church Development Survey (Schwarz, 2012) was administered to a convenience sample of 30 volunteers who were either members or regular visitors at Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church. Following data collection, a survey response committee was formulated to craft a plan for addressing the minimum factor revealed by the survey data. The survey response committee operated according to the principles of the functional group communication theory and developed a plan which was presented to the Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church board for acceptance and implementation.

Results

The Natural Church Development Survey identifies eight quality characteristics, as prevalent in every healthy church, with an average score of 50. These characteristics emerged in the Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church sample in the following descending order, based on each score. The highest scoring characteristic was passionate spirituality, with a score of 46. This was followed by gift-based ministry, with a score of 35, inspiring worship service with a score of 27, effective structures, with a score of 24, need-oriented evangelism, with a score of 21, empowering leadership, with a score of 20, holistic small groups, with a score of 16, and loving relationships was the minimum factor with a score of 15.

Overall the church has a lot of room for growth. The survey response committee developed recommendations to address this minimum factor. Already members are becoming hopeful and are encouraged to use their gifts to make our church a place where loving relationships can be experienced regularly.

Conclusions

The eight quality characteristics are scored highly in every growing church and score lowly in dying churches. Administering the Natural Church Development Survey was a good starting point. Momentum is being built in a positive direction and members are seeing that they are the church, therefore solutions must come from the church members. As members interact to improve the minimum factor of loving relationships, a common passion is being fostered and members are developing more faith in God, edifying each other in the process. Members are beginning to open up to each other because in this process they have discovered how much they have in common.

Subject Area

Pastoral theology; Church renewal; Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church (Niles, Mich.)

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