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No Ethnic Majority

David works for a company where the majority of the people are Caucasian. So are most of his neighbors around the condo he just purchased in an upscale planned community. David is divorced and recently started attending an Adventist church again after many years away. When he first walked in, he realizes it is not like the church he grew up in. While he may be in the ethnic majority during the week, he is in the minority on Sabbath morning. People in their 20s in those churches seem to have no problem with this new reality and make friends quickly with Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and others from India, Eastern Europe or Africa, but he isn’t as adept at doing so in his late 40s, but he wants to.  

David is quite surprised to discover that the Adventist membership in North America is significantly more diverse than the general population. In fact, the ethnic profile of the Adventist membership is very close to what the U.S. Census projects for the American profile in 2030. Adventists are ahead of the curve. 

He learns that this diversity is due in part to the success of the Regional Conferences. The Adventist presence in the black population in the United States is two or three times greater than in other ethnic groups. It is not by accident that the most visible Seventh-day Adventists in American society are blacks. 

Over the last eight years the Adventist membership in North American has increased among the lower middle and middle class, while declining among households above the national median income. This is very likely related to the increasing share of North American Adventists who are immigrants. In general, immigrant families typically have lower incomes in both the U.S. and Canada. 

Clearly, if the economic profile of the membership declines, then this will place some additional stress on church finances. The greatest difficulty may be experienced in the Adventist school system for there is a growing number of families who would find it more difficult to meet the cost of tuition, etc. 

The percentage of Adventist Church members living in central cities has also increased significantly over the past two decades, while the percentage living in the suburbs has declined. This is most likely linked to the growth of immigrant congregations. Nothing has changed outside the metropolitan areas.  

David is pleased with the ethnic diversity because it’s what he anticipates heaven will be like. 

These are just some of the fascinating findings found in the NAD Demographic Study. I'd encourage you to get a copy of the complete report. Not only is it insightful reading, but it's an excellent discussion starter. What is your church doing to recognize these trends and do something constructive about them locally? 

INNOVATIONewsletter - December 10, 2009