In 2019, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists hosted the Nurture and Retention Summit, a gathering of more than 100 church leaders from around the world to discuss issues surrounding the nurture and retention of Adventist church members. The aim of this conference was to highlight the importance of building relationships with people with the goal of retaining more church members.
Now, the Nurture and Retention book has been officially released by the Adventist Church and presented by Gerson Santos, Associate Secretary for the global Adventist Church, during Thursday's presentation to the Annual Council. This book aims to preserve the meaningful lessons that were taught during the summit and to be used as a guide by local churches.
The church recognizes that discipleship is not only about teaching the Bible, but also developing relationships with people inside and outside the church. For church leaders and members, it is easy to simply educate others on the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church but in order to lead people to Jesus, it is just as important to build a relationship with them. The Seventh-day Adventist Church released a statement after the Nurture and Retention Summit affirming:
- The purpose of the Church as the body of Christ is to intentionally disciple members, so that they continue in an active and fruitful relationship with Christ and His Church.
- Discipleship is based on an ongoing, lifelong relationship with Jesus - the believer commits to “abiding in Christ” (John 15:8) and to being fruitful and sharing Him with others.
- Responsibility for ensuring that every church member remains part of the body of Christ, and for reconnecting and reconciling with those who do not, is mutually shared by the Church as large, each congregation, and every church member.
Building relationships within the church is an important aspect of discipleship and is essential in order to fulfill God’s mission for His people.
During his presentation to the Council, Santos, shared some interesting statistics about church membership retention and engagement. Since the mid-1960s, 63.5% of people who have left the church were aged below 30 and less than 12% were engaged in leadership roles. These statistics demonstrate that low church member retention, especially with youth and young adults, is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. Santos explains, “those who are involved in the church are more likely to remain faithful because they are engaged.” Last year’s summit was dedicated to improving the disciple making process and finding ways to keep members engaged in church roles. With faulty discipleship at the heart of many of the issues addressed at the summit, Santos emphasized, “Disciple making is our goal, and evangelism is our priority.”
The Nurture and Retention book is a byproduct of this conscious effort to increase disciple making and evangelism. Authors from different fields including church administrators, Adventist theologians and researchers, and Church practitioners have all come together to provide content that is insightful, useful and practical. The book contains all of the presentations from the Nurture and Retention Global Summit as well as 30 topics on Discipling, Nurturing and Reclaiming. The purpose of this book is to preserve the content from the seminars and workshops offered during the summit and to keep the conversation running, to continue to encourage people to share and develop best practices so that they can be more effective in fulfilling God's mission. Santos explains, “Local churches may find here a practical instrument” to be used to assess their activities.
The Nurture and Retention book also provides a list of recommendations taken from the 2013 and 2019 Summits on how churches can improve their strategy for making and retaining disciples. References and links to resource materials on discipleship from different departments and a link to the Summit presentations are also included in the Appendices of the book.
The Nurture and Retention book is now available for distribution throughout the divisions and for sale.