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Church Growth Goals
About half of Seventh-day Adventist pastors in the United States report that the goal for church growth in their congregation is 10% or less per year. Nearly a third (29%) say that their goal is more than 10% growth this year, while about one in four (23%) have no goal.

The actual growth rate in the North American Division has averaged about 2% per year for more than a decade. Only 4% of pastors indicate that this is their goal for growth. Three out of four pastors have set a higher goal in their congregation or district.

Clearly church growth continues to be a significant objective for most of the Adventist clergy in America. Some denominational leaders have expressed concern in recent years that many pastors have lost interest or given up hope for expanding Adventist membership, but these data indicate their fears are largely unfounded.

Other than immigrant congregations and new church plants (many of which are designed to reach immigrant communities), very few local churches in the North American Division actually achieve annual growth rates of 5% or higher. Those that do achieve these growth rates rarely sustain them for two or more years in a row. I would like to hear from you if you have.

Seventh-day Adventist expectations for growth are much higher than the current reality, in part, because a generation or two ago the denomination was achieving a higher growth rate. Older clergy who hold influential positions in the denomination and older lay leaders who are present at most local church board meetings still base their informal expectations on their memory of the post-World War II church boom of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Discusssion Questions:

1. In the most recent year, was our growth greater than the 2% average for the Adventist Church in North America?

2. What is our goal for church growth in the current year?

3. Have we set church growth goals in the past? If so, did this congregation achieve those goals or not?

4. Should we set a goal for next year and develop a strategy to achieve that goal?

The Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R contain insight into issues affecting how we share our faith. Learn more about the Faith Communities Today (FACT) research.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, September 27, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry