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Community Service Center
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Most Adventist churches sponsor a community service center—twice as many as congregations of other faiths. However, what Adventist pastors mean by "a community service center" is quite different than the definition followed by most clergy in other denominations.

A total of 56% of Adventist local churches report that they have a community service center, while only 27% of all faiths do so. Semantics is a real problem with these data. Most Adventist pastors understand "community service center" in terms of the traditional Dorcas Society program that Adventists conducted for more than 100 years. This program primarily distributed donations of used clothing and perhaps offered a food pantry with emergency groceries for families in crisis. That is not how most Americans understand the terminology "community service center.

Most Americans define a "community service center" as an organization that is open to the public during normal business hours like any retail facility, has a phone number listed in the Yellow Pages and provides a range of services, starting with an intake interview by a trained caseworker. Other studies have shown that only a small percentage of the Adventist community service centers meet this definition.

Does this difference in terms indicate a blind spot for Adventists? On the one hand, Adventist churches are widely involved in what we define as community service, but does the community see it as an actual service to the community?

Discussion Questions:

1. Does the community service program we provide as a church meet the definition community leaders have of a community service center?

2. Do we have regular hours during which we are open to the public?

3. Are we listed with the United Way and other directories of community service organizations?

4. Does our Adventist Community Services organization have its own telephone listing in the Yellow Pages?

5. Are we satisfied with the way we are serving the community, or should we invite a consultant to do an assessment of how we might improve our community service?

The Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R contain research on a number of topics. Learn more about the Faith Communities Today (FACT) research.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, November 16, 2005, Center for Creative Ministry