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When Congregations Were Founded
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The majority of Adventist churches in the U.S. were started in the post-WWII era. Only one in ten (11%) of the congregations that still function today date their founding back to the 19th century.

In the Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey of Adventist churches, local leaders were asked what year the congregation began. Of course, this is only a relative measure of the denomination's history of church planting, because some of the new congregations organized each year have since gone out of business and are not included in these numbers. Yet, it also gives some insight into the ebb and flow of the denomination's emphasis on church planting.

The 1940s represent a spike in church plants. During the second half of that decade, many veterans came home from the war with maturity beyond their years and new enthusiasm for mission. An emphasis on "dark county evangelism" began, especially in southern states where there were many rural counties with little Adventist presence.

The largest spike in church plants is in the 1970s and 1980s when a new wave of immigration came to the U.S., with large numbers of newcomers  from Latin America and the Caribbean. The low point in the number of church starts is the decade from 1910 to 1919 which corresponds with what Howard Weeks describes as the most difficult time in Adventist outreach in his doctoral dissertation on the history of Adventist evangelism.

There is another way to look at the sharp drop in the percentage of today's churches that were started in the 1960s and 1950s. Research has shown that congregations have life cycles just as human beings do; and when a local church has existed for 40 to 50 years, it is often plunged into a crisis that results in its failure, dissolution or merger. (See "Is Your Church in a Mid-Life Crisis?" Bulletin of the American Institute of Church Growth, Number 7.)

Discussion Questions:

1. What year was our church founded? What was going on in the world at that time?

2. How has our church changed over the years? What were the periods of growth and decline?

3. What stage of the life cycle are we in right now: infancy, adolescence, prime, maturity, decline or near death?

4. What do we need to be doing as we face the future?

New FACT Information, Center for Creative Ministry