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Community Service by Metropolitan Churches
Seventh-day Adventist local churches in the major metropolitan areas of the northeastern U.S. are significantly less likely than other denominations and Adventist churches across North America to provide community services for the general public. This fact correlates with the general lack of visibility and growth in these churches outside a few immigrant communities.

In only three out of the ten types of programs measured are Adventist churches in the major metropolitan areas more likely to be active than are other churches and the norm for Adventist churches across North America. These are immigrant assistance programs, prison ministries and health education.

Standard services for urban churches such as community food pantries, clothing programs, day care and cash assistance for the poor are less likely to be made available by Adventist churches in these cities than they are by other denominations and by Adventist churches throughout the country. Yet research shows that metropolitan residents in the Northeast generally expect churches to do these things and question the authenticity of religious groups that are not active in these visible ways of helping the poor.

Two types of community service that correlate strongly with church growth for Adventist churches are substance abuse recovery and after-school programs for underprivileged children. In both of these areas Adventist churches are less than half as likely as other denominations to be active. This is true for all Adventist congregations across the country, and metropolitan churches are no stronger.

Research has shown that visible involvement in the local community is strongly correlated with growing Adventist congregations. (See Ministry, November 2004.) Additional research has shown that this is particularly true for churches located in metropolitan areas. (See “Urban Church Growth,” Institute of Church Ministry, 1986.) The weak showing in community service by Adventist churches in the major metropolitan areas of America’s northeast provides some understanding as to why there is no growth in this region outside of a few immigrant communities fed largely by migration.

Discussion Questions:

1. How strong is our community service ministry?

2. Are we strongly visible in the local community serving the felt-needs of the poor?

3. Should we appoint a task force to explore how to expand and strengthen our community service?

More details about ministry issues in metropolitan areas can be found in Mission in Metropolis, the Center’s most recently published resource. 

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministy

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, October 23, 2007.