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Relational Focus
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Leaders of Adventist local churches are somewhat less likely than leaders in congregations of other faiths to report that their church activities strengthen personal relationships among the members. The difference is not large, but it is  statistically significant since it identifies an apparent area of weakness. This information comes from research done as part of the Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey.

 

Many people have observed in recent years that the relational aspect of the Adventist Church, at least in North America, is not one of its outstanding strengths. It is true that you will hear anecdotes about "finding Adventists wherever you go" and feeling connected despite differences in language, culture, and socioeconomic status. However, these tend to be told more often by those who have a long history with the denomination or grew up in Adventism and seemed to thrive on it. On the other hand, there are stories about disappointment, coldness, judgmental attitudes, lack of support in times of need, and injustice by the system.

There are congregations with a strong relational focus and a group of sensitive, caring leaders who work hard to make it a "safe place" for newcomers, minorities, the hurting and alienated. There are also congregations that seem to be dominated by a dysfunctional, conflict-ridden and manipulative dynamic that makes them hazardous to the spiritual life of those who attend.

Discussion questions:

1. To what extent do you think it is true that our congregation's programs and activities strengthen personal relationships among our members: Is it very true, quite true, somewhat true, slightly true, or not at all true?

2. Why do Adventist local churches rate somewhat weaker on the relational aspect than do congregations of other faiths? 

3. Is strengthening personal relationships among the members a part of the mission that God has assigned our local church? (John 13:34-35)

4. Brain-storming: What can we do to improve the relational focus of our congregation's programs and activities?

New FACT Information, Center for Creative Ministry