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Too Few Children

Darren and Latisha are young adults who are very involved in their careers during the week and on weekends love to go camping, or do volunteering. They also attend church from time to time but with no children of their own, they are very flexible to go and do whenever they’d like. For medical reasons they cannot have children and have chosen not to adopt. Although they are sympathetic to the pleas from the pulpit to support the local church school, this couple knows that they will never be supporting it with their children. And if the children and grandchildren of the 60-80 year-olds in their congregation have not been in church in decades, Darren & Latisha know that many local schools are destined to flounder for some time to come unless a miracle happens. 

Based on what they see in their church and those they visit, Darren & Latisha aren’t surprised to read in the study that just one household in four among Seventh-day Adventists in North America has minor children in the family. Small percentages have already completed their education or are of preschool age, which means that only about one Adventist family in five is currently in the market for school enrollment. 

Parents in their 30s and early 40s are most likely to be among those who have school-age children in their household. Members who identify their ethnicity as Hispanic are most likely among the ethnic groups to have school-age children. Only 43 percent of the Adventist households with children are white; 26 percent are black, 22 percent are Hispanic, five percent are Asian and six percent identify themselves as multiethnic. 

Since the last NAD Demographic Survey was conducted in 1990, the number of childless households among Adventists in North America has increased significantly. The proportion of families with children who either live at home or are away at boarding school or a similar situation has declined by a quarter. 

This is the source of a great deal of the enrollment difficulties facing Adventist education at all levels. The number of church-related families in the child-raising years is declining more rapidly than the overall growth of the denomination can make up for. The result is a constricting pool of potential students in the Adventist community. 

Compared to the general population in North America, the Adventist Church includes significantly greater percentages of married and widowed members. The church is not reaching young, single adults to the same degree that it is engaging married people and older people whose spouse has died. 

Darren & Latisha are saddened by this trend for they know it not only affects school enrollments but also children’s ministries at church, Pathfinders, VBS, etc. 

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 22, 2009