Faith Communities Today
New Fact Information
Discussion groups that focus on books or current issues are rare in most congregations across America. They are just as rare in Adventist churches as in other religious groups. Three out of four congregations of all faiths never have such discussion groups and the same is true for Adventist churches.
Only a handful of churches (7% of Adventist congregations and 10% of all groups) have discussion groups throughout the year, while 15% (in both cases) have them either during a season of the church year or only occasionally. These data leave the impression that local churches are not incubators of intellectual activity.
At least two trends are slowly diminishing discussion groups in congregations despite the fact that 100 years ago, they were a major activity in most churches of almost all faiths. First, electronic media and the time pressures of contemporary life have pushed people toward learning from a computer instead of dialoguing in more time-consuming semiformal conversation. Second, there are the pervasive tendencies toward postmodern faith in which the subjective is valued over the rational in religious experience.
One marker of these trends in the Adventist Church is the decline in Adventist Forum groups. In the 1970s and early 1980s there were active Forums in about 30 to 40 churches, many of them campus churches or near large, secular universities. Today, less than a dozen remain active. Overall attendance has declined significantly, yet the journal of the Association of Adventist Forums has considerably greater circulation than in ever did.
1. Does our church have a group that meets regularly to discuss books or contemporary issues?
2. Are there people within our membership or in our local community that would appreciate such a discussion group?3. Should we ask someone or a small team to explore starting a discussion group or forum of some kind that might meet on a monthly basis?
New FACT Information, Center for Creative Ministry