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What You Have Observed--Part One
Seventh-day Adventist local churches in major metropolitan areas find a somewhat different set of outreach methods to be effective than do churches outside the metropolitan areas. They are more likely to get results from community service, small group ministries and public evangelism than are congregations located in small towns and rural areas.


Two large, random samples of active church members was asked, "What have you observed to be the most effective method for bringing new members into your local church?" In each case they were asked to select two items from a long list of approaches and programs or to write in other responses. One sample was among Adventist churches in major metropolitan areas of the Northeast. The other sample represents congregations of all sizes and types across North America, most of them in small towns and rural locations outside the metropolitan areas.

Members of metropolitan churches were somewhat less likely to select informal sharing by friends, relatives, neighbors and work associates, sometimes called "Friendship Evangelism." At the same time this method is the one pointed out by the largest number of church members in both samples and continues to be responsible for nearly half of the converts coming into the Adventist Church each year.

Public evangelism was more likely to be mentioned by members of metropolitan churches than those in small towns and rural areas. More surprising, members of metropolitan churches were twice as likely to mention small group ministries as an effective method of bringing in new members and six times as likely to mention community service, compared to the second sample.

Bible studies and Revelation Seminars are less likely to be reported as effective in bringing in new members. They are also no more likely to be reported in metropolitan areas as in churches in small towns and rural areas.

These findings reflect the urbanized nature of life in the metropolitan areas, including most suburbs. People live in a more impersonal environment where they have less opportunity to talk
privately with acquaintances about religion and related topics. Many congregations have more resources to spend on public evangelism which does produce new members, especially in the many immigrant churches in low-income neighborhoods. Urban and suburban congregations also find that new approaches to outreach, such as community service and small group ministries, are more likely to be effective in the cities.

Discussion Questions:

1. What methods are most effective in our congregation in bringing in new members?

2. What methods should we use more? And, what methods should we plan to use less?

3. Are there methods that have proved effective for other churches that we have not used? Should we experiment with these new methods?

More details about ministry issues in metropolitan areas can be found in Mission in Metropolis book.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, December 13, 2007, Center for Creative Ministry