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Number of People Served in the Community
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In general, it appears that local churches serve people on a one-to-one ratio with their community service programs. Two thirds of the Adventist congregations in the U.S. (68%) report that they have each helped about 50 people per month. That is roughly the same portion of the churches in North America that have a typical Sabbath attendance of about 50.

 

About one local church in twenty provides community services for 350 people or more each month. Again, this is about the portion of churches where the typical Sabbath attendance is 350 or more. There are relatively few local churches where the impact of its community service is significantly larger than the typical attendance.

It is important to understand that these two numbers represent very different groups of people. While there may be some overlap of a few individuals, in most cases none of the individuals served by the community service programs of a congregation actually attends on Sabbath.

The FACT study has also shown that there is a strong correlation between community involvement and church growth for Adventist congregations. (See chapter 2 of Adventist Congregations Today or the article in Ministry magazine published November 2004.) These two facts together mean that a key step for a congregation to place itself in a position to realistically anticipate growth is to expand its community service programs so that it touches significantly more people each month than approximately the typical Sabbath attendance figure. There is more to it than that, but this can serve as a useful guideline.

The research also shows that growth does not correlate with the traditional Adventist Community Services programs such as clothing distribution, food pantries and health education classes. The correlation is specifically with non-traditional programs such as job training, job finding, family counseling, help with addictions, homeless shelters, senior citizen services and housing projects. Part of the correlation is also the degree of visibility or public awareness of the services provided by the church.

Similar research reports can be found in the Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R or Faith Communities Today (FACT).

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, June 28, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry