The Median Age of Adventists Is …

Some folks say the median age of Adventists is 62 — but don’t cite a study. Others say it’s 58, and claim that Ron Lawson published a study on that recently. He tells me he didn’t.  So, does anyone have a reference to a credible source documenting either number?

Update: The Center for Creative Ministry has done a new study that shows it is actually 51. Long story behind this all; Monte Sahlin explained it all to me. You can get the report here. I’ll say more when I’ve digested it.

From the blurb:

If the median age of the general population in the United States is 36 and in Canada 35, then why is the median age of the million Adventists in North American 51? If the median age reported by the other world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist church is hovering in the mid 30s, why is the graying of Adventism so pronounced in the North American Division?

11 thoughts on “The Median Age of Adventists Is …

  1. Actually, “Paul Richardson of the Center for Creative Ministry, with headquarters in College Place, Washington, United States, reported that the median age for the Seventh-day Adventist community in North America, ‘including the un-baptized children in church families, is 58 . . . Among native-born White and Black members the median age is even higher.’ The frightening implications of this figure are seen when that median age, 58, is compared to the median ages of the United States and Canada respectively-which are 36 and 37!” (Martin, Allan A., “Reaching out: Making a difference with young adults,” Ministry [July 2008], Available from http://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2008/July/making-a-difference-with-young-adults. Accessed 7 January 2009).

    • Allan didn’t remember that when I asked him yesterday.🙂

      His source is Paul Richardson, and I found Paul’s reference here: http://www.churchsupportservices.org/article.php?id=112. But he doesn’t say where he’s getting the numbers from, either. But it gives me another person to ask. Thanks.

      I wonder about the methodology of the study and what it is really saying. Does this mean there are no babies and kids in Adventist congregations? It can’t, because I could barely be heard above the din this past Sabbath. Is it a reflection of the longer Adventist live span? I would think it must partially be. Is it a reflection of departing young adults? I think we really need more specific data. We need to be able to break down the data by age group, I think, to make the number meaningful.

  2. Well my question is, are they counting the unbaptized (kids and babies)? How are these individuals even counted, if not registered as members? The Catholic Church has younger registered “members” simply by way of infant baptism.

    • And that was at the root of my initial inquiry. I heard Mike Tucker make the comment that a study that said the median age was 62 only included the baptized–making it worthless to compare to the national median age for the reason you state. He claimed the figure of 58 included babies. But how did they come up with this number? How did they count those babies and kids? These are the reasons I’m skeptical of the figure.

  3. I got the figure from Allan Martin. I asked him to cite a source and got what Hugo cited above.

    There are plenty of questions about the number. But some of the conclusions people are making from it, in particular that young people are leaving and that many churches are starting to feel like rest homes, seem to me to be pretty safe bets. I’d love to see more data, though. Let me know if you find anything meaningful.

  4. Correction: Allan’s source was an article that cited Paul Richardson in:

    Center for Creative Ministry. (November 1, 2006). INNOVATIONewsletter, 12(19) [Electronic
    Newslettter].

    I don’t have access to this newsletter as far as I can tell, so I don’t know if Richardson cites a source there.

      • I’ve found the answer. Monte Sahlin informs me that the actual median age is 51, based on a study that he and Paul Richardson will soon be publishing. I’ll post the link when it is available.

  5. Everything is relative, of course. I’m wondering what the US median age is for mainstream evangelical churches, like Southern Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc… Why? Maybe Adventists are on a similar trajectory with these groups. If so it would suggest a cultural profile. If not, then an SDA-specific profile evokes another set of questions.

    • And that’s an important point.

      Here’s some data from Canada in 2001:

      The median age of individuals who identified themselves as Protestant in 2001 was 42 years, well above the median of 37 for the Canadian population as a whole. (Median age is the point where exactly one-half of the population is older, and the other half is younger.)

      Those who identified themselves as Anglican had a median age of 44, as did United Church members. Lutherans had a median age of 43, while Presbyterians were the oldest, with a median age of 46.

      Conversely, Protestant denominations recording growth were generally younger. The median age of those reporting Hutterite as their religion in 2001 was 22 years. For Mormons, the median was 29; Christian and Missionary Alliance, 34.5; and Adventists, 35.5. All were below the median for the total population.

  6. Either way, 51, or 58 – that’s still old. Could explain the recent study, but the same two guys, my friends Paul and Monte, that says the church is slow to adopt technology.

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