Young (Ex)Adventists and Their Stories

In a 2011 survey of former Seventh-day Adventist Church members, 62.5 percent of respondents reported that they were young adults when they left the Adventist church. The issue has been the subject of countless debates, articles, sermons, and initiatives. For this story, Spectrum interviewed 16 young adults who left the church and 5 who are still in the church. In an attempt to listen beyond the statistics, some of their stories are recounted here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

it’s so interesting that the kids of today think just like the kids from 40yrs ago…they’re going through just what so many of us went through…

of course everyone likes to think they represent change…but i think when it comes to Church issues, there truly isn’t anything new under the sun…

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I had a similar response. It would be interesting to interview some of us over 70 years old to see why we’ve stayed in spite of living through multiple issues, in no particular order: Brimsmead, Waco, women’s ordination issues (Mohaven), LGT, Glacier View, critiques of Ellen White’s writing and ministry, diversity concerns of several types, etc. Many in my academy and college graduating classes left the church over some of these issues, but others of us stayed and served the church in multiple ways. Some stayed in their local church and served there, some ignored the controversies and continued to serve, others changed their views on multiple issues, but still stayed, and still served in many ways at many levels.

I was 4 years old when I sat in on the Bible studies my parents received before joining the church, believing everything we were told with all my heart. I was baptized when I was 8 years old after three years of convincing my mother, who thought I should be able to read the Bible first, and the pastor.

Over the years I’ve changed my views on many things I learned back then. Now I believe in a God bigger and much more complex than the sum of all the small boxes I’ve seen people try to squeeze Him/Her/Them into. I discuss my views with some people and am careful what I say with others. I believe the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, leads and guides each of us in a path that recognizes our frailties and brings us closer to the Godhead as long as we are willing. Thus, some conversations are productive, and others are not.

In the meantime, it’s still my church, too.


Yes, growth involves change. :slightly_smiling_face:

As far as I am aware, the few of us who chose to remain in the SDA church in my cohort made an active choice - despite the flaws in the church.

Really??! It’s bad when a Youth Director is so tone deaf. I would say the opposite - sometimes engagement with the local church can give reasons to stay - despite the larger institution.

It’s a bit like the Rabbi who debates a prospective convert against joining Judaism. Our church puts up so many false barriers: women’s ministry, LGBTIQ bigotry, young earth creationism, canonisation of Ellen White, 1844, worship wars, etc. The church makes it easy to leave, or not take it seriously in the first place. It’s frustrating to see these barriers not only remain over the decades, but built higher and reinforced.

Many of us continue to fight against these in order to stay. Some would argue that once you remove these, nothing is left of the Adventist church. And, I agree, there’s not much - except a community built around the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Yes, I totally agree. Congregational pastors and lay leaders are key to people staying more than they realize.
From the GC Office of Archives, Statistics and Research (ASTR)

Yes, congregations that refuse to change are less likely to grow or not at all

–Faith Communities Today, 2013

Sometimes. But other times a person doesn’t want to be part of an organization that they significantly disagree with. One that, for example, is 100% into science denialism, or one committed to male headship, into denying women 100% participation in the church.


That is called a Trifecta


What a great scene! Loved it then, love it now.

Not related to that scene of course, but I think some SDA’s have Stockholm Syndrome.


The statistics are illuminating. However, I have some thoughts about the number of members the worldwide Adventist Church really has. I believe the numbers on the books do not picture the reality and that our leaders do not look further with the figures: Let me explain. I visited a church on a Friday when the deaconesses were preparing communion bread. I began a conversation because the smell was mouth-watering. I asked how much bread is prepared for communion. The answer was: about 450 pieces. Knowing that the church was the biggest in town and had around 750 on the books, I asked a second question: What do you do with the leftovers? without hesitating one deaconess replied: well, we have to dispose of them by burning. Leaving aside the tradition about the leftovers, I found out that on average, only 55 to 60 per cent of members on the books actually participated in church life. So the question remains: how many active members do we really have? I may over-generalize, but 40 million Adventists on the books, may indicate only 28 to 30 million active ones. We now can still calculate the number of young people who are there only because of what conservative parents enforce and speculate how many of these will be in church tomorrow. Since so many young people leave, and our church is ageing so rapidly, the question of real church membership in the future remains a serious one to consider. And the symptoms are very telling.


Thank you Samuel for this wonderful article :slightly_smiling_face:

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This story is nothing new I am sorry to say. I am 80 years old and I have been on the fringe for years. I agree with Jeremy there isn’t anything new under the sun.
I certainly would like to see a change in the hierarchy leadership.


The difference is we have more information now. It’s easier to look up all sorts of information than it was 40 years ago. Also thanks to online communities, it’s easier to compare notes.


i think online communication has broadened the sense of comradery among the disillusioned…but the substance of the disillusionment is the same…today’s young people aren’t articulating anything new…

I think it takes a very special type of intellect to live in a world where change seems to be the only constant and insist that there’s nothing new going on.



It’s not just the online communities, but the online resources as well. In my teens or early twenties, it would have taken me countless hours in the history section of the university library to examine the sources and the veracity of the SDA silly teachings on the 538-1798 period. As a teen I believed these spurious claims and didn’t realise that nothing of significance happened on those dates. Thirty years ago I would have had to spend hours in the university library verifying the false SDA claims about the Lisbon earthquake.

Without access to online research, as a non-United-Statesian, I likely would not have known about the unique political and demographic circumstances in 19th century New England and upstate New York which gave rise to the new American religions of Mormonism, SDAism, JWism and Christian science, and I possibly wouldn’t have realised that there was nothing “divine” about the movement.

As it was, I still spent countless hours in libraries, but the online tools helped the search.


The General Conference Archives and Statistics department continues to encourage all levels of the organization to conduct “membership reviews.” But some entities are reluctant (or unwilling) to participate because it would lower their numbers–which affects their representation on committees, constituency meetings, and General Conference sessions. And then there are those who simply send a letter as referenced by a poster on another article–rather than making the attempt to make contact in person to discover why that person isn’t attending. Extremes abound in how the reviews are carried out.


After reading the several letters I see potentials for Jesus to remove the bandage and let the air heal the wounds. GYC I believe is a great place to start.
I know this is an old cliché often referred too, “take your eyes off self and focus on Jesus.” Easily done with difficulties but to several the letters writers, “Young Adventist and their Stories” you are all made of the “Right Stuff.” Work for the night comes.

with great compassion I have read the testimonies . Well, just here in my little church on the southwestern edge of Vienna - full of toddlers and their parents - these problems are not mine neither the ones of - those prents. But I imagine other problems in the near future, differnt to those depicted. - - – differnt to thos i had to deal with for at least about 75 years . Anyway, accept my interest - and the respect and feeling with all of you !