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Greying of Adventism

Heather is in her late 50s. She grew up Adventist in a small, northern town, but gravitated to the Southern Union Conference (the largest in the NAD) where she got her education and met her husband. She is married, but “spiritually single,” attending church alone. Among her peers, the women outnumber the men at church by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

She has a graduate degree, but has committed herself to teaching at an Adventist university which means her income level is much lower than her peers who teach at the public university across town. That secular campus is where her son attends because he believes the environmental sciences program there is more competitive in the work place than the offerings at the Adventist university. 

As Heather looks around her congregation on Sabbath, she sees ample evidence of “the graying of Adventism,”  one of the major findings in this study. The median age for Seventh-day Adventists in North America is 51. (All of the minor children of the households in this data set are included in the calculation.) This compares to a median age among the general public of 36 in the United States and 35 in Canada. (It is 41 in Bermuda.)  

Adventists are over-represented among those 55 years of age and older. With the exception of one segment, Adventists are under-represented among those under 45 years of age. That exception is the 15 to 19 age group.  

This “graying” trend is starkly apparent when the age data are displayed by generations. Adventists are over-represented among the older generations and under-represented in the new generations.

The percentages of Adventists employed in various occupations have changed over the past two decades primarily due to the doubling in the proportion of retired people among the membership. Half of the church members in North America are outside the workforce: 35 percent are retired, eight percent are full-time homemakers, five percent are full-time students, and two percent are on disability or unemployed. Members over 62 years of age are almost all among the retired. Women 32 to 44 years of age are more likely to be full-time homemakers and young adults are more likely to be full-time students. Hispanics are also more likely to be full-time homemakers or students. 

There has also been a significant decline in the percentage of Blue Collar workers and an increase in the number of members pursuing education as full-time students. This is likely driven by the changes in the economy that has significantly reduced the number of manufacturing jobs and expanded the number of knowledge workers.

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 - January 22, 2010