Latest membership data for the Seventh-day Adventist Church shows the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on church growth.
In 2020, there were 57,947 baptisms and professions of faith in the South Pacific Division (SPD), but this fell by more than half to 23,499 in 2021.
The data was presented during the Secretary’s Report at last week’s Division Executive Committee meetings.
“As of 2021, the kingdom growth rate was 0.77 per cent compared to 7.85 per cent in 2020—that’s a significant drop,” said SPD senior accountant Praveen Saggurthi.
“Why is this? The only thing I can say is there were post-COVID issues. I guess we all have experienced that. We have all seen very little that we could do around the time of COVID—there was hardly any possibility of even ministering to our own people.”
In the 2012-2021 period, SPD membership grew from 401,000 to 612,590. Currently, there is one Adventist for every 70 persons. By far the largest number of members comes from the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (64 per cent), followed by the Trans Pacific Union Mission (22 per cent), Australian Union Conference (10 per cent) and New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (4 per cent).
Looking to the future, the SPD is projecting a membership of 924,000 in 2031. However, member retention continues to be an issue. The net loss rate is 28 per cent—for every 10 people who join the Church, three leave. “Three is three too many,” said Division secretary Pastor Mike Sikuri.
Another significant challenge is keeping up with the rapid growth of the Church in Papua New Guinea, where there’s one pastor for approximately every 500 members. This compares with one pastor for every 150 members in Australia.