The local church is killing Adventist Education, but don’t get excited hard liners. It’s not because of a lack of support for Adventist Ed (we like to use this one). It’s not because a lack of willingness by parents to sacrifice (we like to use this one a lot). It’s not because so many parents are sending their Adventist Kids to non-Adventist schools (we like to use this one also). No the way in which the local church is killing Adventist Education centers around two numbers: 40 & 25.
Let me explain!
According to statistics coming out of the North American Division presented to the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee by Educational Director Berit von Pohle the numbers 40 & 25 are painting a bleak picture for Adventist Education.
40 = the percentage of Adventist churches with NO school age children!
25 = the percentage of Adventist homes with children, in other words 75% of all Adventist homes have NO kids in them!
These numbers are frightening and even more frightening in light of the fact that the median age of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is almost 60 years old.
Unless we have Abraham’s and Sarah’s out there our schools are in trouble!
You see local churches are not killing Adventist schools becuase they want to or because they don’t support them, they are killing Adventist Education simply because they have NO kids to send.
As I think about these numbers I believe the best way to save Adventist Ed is not by investing in the infrastructure, though this is good. It is not by asking churches to invest more money to bail the schools out (though at times this is needed). No the best way to save Adventist Ed is to invest in evangelising young families and working to keep every single young person that is currently in our churches, in our churches! Investment into the growth of the local church is an investment into Adventist Education!
Let me use the church I pastor as an example.
3 years ago we had roughly 35 individuals attending 3 different elementary or secondary Adventist schools (Sierra View Junior Academy, Armona Union Academy, & Monterey Bay Academy). We now have 52 individuals attending those same 3 schools. Normally that would seem like a very drastic jump, but when we look at the precentages it is not that drastic. 3 years ago we had around 60-70 school aged children in our church, that means roughly 50-58% of Adventist children attending our church were also attending an Adventist school.
Currently we sit at almost those exact same precentages. Almost 50% more students are in our schools from our church, but it is not because precentage wise more parents are supporting Adventist Ed, we’ve just increased the size of the pie.
Now while our church looks to be a great benefactor to our Sierra View Junior Academy and Armona Union Academy for many years to come, (we have 10 families off the top of my head with kids not yet of school age that will definitely send their children to Adventist schools in the years ahead) our larger schools were not built on the financial model of JUST ONE church supporting one school (the term supporting is not indicating financial, prayer, or physical assistance at the school which many churches with no kids continue to do. I am using the term here in reference to BOTTOMS IN SEATS). In other words we need to not just increase the size of the pie in one church, we must increase the size of the pie in all our churches!
Again another illustration from our current context. Over the last three years our local schools attendance has dropped from 110 to 96 students. The number of students from our church to that school has increased in that same time from 23 to 30.
40% of churches with no kids is not a sustainable growth model.
60 being the median age of the SDA church in North America is not a sustainable growth model.
75% of Adventist homes having NO children in them, is not a sustainable growth model.
What must change?
We must invest in evangelizing more young adults and young families, we must invest in retaining the children we do currently have in our churches, and we must stop thinking that this thing is going to turn around simply with more money and more current SDA parents sending their kids.
If we fail to get more NEW young families into our churches, then we will fail to be able to sustain MOST if not ALL our multi constituent schools.