There is one Seventh-day Adventist for every 74 people in the South Pacific Division (SPD), according to the latest data presented at last week’s Division Executive Committee meetings.
Presenting the secretary’s report, associate officer Eva Ing revealed that the Trans Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) has an incredibly high number of Adventists in the population: one Adventist for every 18 people.
“That’s a really phenomenal ratio,” Mrs Ing said. “I believe it’s one of the highest in the world.”
In the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM) the ratio is 1:30, New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) 1:266 and the Australian Union Conference (AUC) 1:405.
According to the data, church membership in the South Pacific Division now sits at 622,985, reflecting steady growth over the past decade. In the PNGUM, membership has exceeded 400,000 for the first time.
“Most of the growth, as it has always been in the last 10 years, is in PNGUM,” Mrs Ing said. “And that is a real testimony to the effectiveness of evangelism in that territory, how God is really blessing in that Union Mission.
“No doubt when PNG for Christ is launched next year that membership will explode and that is a very, very exciting initiative for us in the South Pacific Division.”
However, as the numbers tell a compelling story of growth, concerns arise over the challenge of retaining new members. Indeed, in some years membership losses are more than half the number of baptisms.
“And that is a really concerning trend,” Mrs Ing said. “It [retention] is not a really emotive word but there’s a lot behind that. Are we a thriving disciple-making movement? is there a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose in our churches today? I think that’s the telling question. We need to really understand what it means by these losses.
“Statistics are more than just numbers; these numbers tell a story and it’s important for us to heed this data because it shows how the Church has grown. You can see where the issues are from the statistics and you’ll find that a lot of this data will inform our strategy that we are developing for the next quinquennium.”
Discussion also identified challenges within the SPD in collecting accurate basic statistics including the number of baptisms, membership, tithes and offerings. The SPD has committed extra resources to enable the collection and reliability of data to be significantly improved.