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Attrition, Losses, and Growth Rates in the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The link below is a video presentation by David Trim, director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR), during Annual Council 2020, as part of the Secretariat report to members of the General Conference Executive Committee on October 8, 2020. Below the link, the presentation’s transcribed text appears for reference, discussion, or eventual translation. Subtitles have been added to the video for clarity.—Editors

This short report focuses on two mission challenges [SLIDE 1], highlighting two trends that need to be overcome for this church to complete the proclamation of the three angels’ messages.

[SLIDE 2] The first is one that I have highlighted at Annual Council every year since I came to this position. It relates to attrition and loss. The second is an issue I touched on briefly last year but will explore more in this report: it is the leveling-off of growth rates, a trend which, if it were to continue, could have very troubling implications. So, the first mission challenge relates to reductions in membership — the second to what seems to be a diminishing success in adding members.

Our First Challenge

This first chart [SLIDE 3] shows accessions per annum in the 2010s. It is a crucial metric, and we will come back to it, but of course, it’s not the only metric affecting church growth. Compare these figures to those for losses in this chart [SLIDE 4], which shows losses for the same period and on the same scale. These are members who were dropped from membership, were identified as missing, or simply could not be accounted for in audits.

You will note the high numbers in the preceding quinquennium, as comprehensive membership reviews took place in many parts of the world, yet in mid-decade, that faltered. Thank you to church leaders who, in the last two to three years, have taken up membership review with renewed vigor. I want to pay particular tribute to our leaders in the Southern Asia Division [based in India], who are undertaking the first major, division-wide audit of membership.

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