THE BEYOND BELIEFS STUDY
Much effort and study has been given to retaining youth within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, by administrators and decision makers of that religious faith. However, it is still unclear how much those, who remain within the denomination upon reaching young adulthood, actually know about the 28 Fundamentals of Adventist faith and their associated commentary as endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Teaching these Fundamentals as a General Education class at Adventist Universities has also been questioned by accrediting authorities. Are such classes warranted among students, the majority of which already identify as Seventh-day Adventists? Is it merely indoctrination or a valid class investigating a worldwide religion that emphasizes objective critical thought, and endorses competency based learning in the spirit of academic inquiry?
Are campus chapel programs and young adult religious services efficacious in teaching the official beliefs of their faith when the young adult audience is passive and is preached to by youth pastors/specialists? Is a highly interactive, university class taught by an Academic efficacious in teaching the official beliefs of a faith to young adults? How would such a class compare to a campus chapel program?
Religious organizations are often hesitant to ask young adults hard questions like why they wouldn't pay tithe, do they agree with the ordination of women, or are the willing to turn a blind eye to corruption and unethical behavior in church corporate leadership? The Beyond Beliefs study wishes to ask over 90 "hard" questions many of which have never been asked before in previous research and allow young adults to provide transparent answers that will help church leaders to identify not only what they should do to retain young adults, but actions and behaviors that should be specifically avoided or eliminated from church/organizational culture.
Many of these findings will have application outside of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
More than 150 young adults have already participated in Phase 1 and 2 of the Beyond Beliefs study where they provided a 150-200 word responses for every single one of the 28 Beliefs of Adventism. This generated approximately 5,000 pages of qualitative responses from Millennial young adults aged 18-33.
These 150+ young adults also selected one of the 28 Beliefs, researched it as a part of a General Education class investigating the 28 Beliefs of Adventism, and wrote a commentary for that belief that dealt with issues relevant to Millennial young adults.
Additionally, over 700 young adults participated in the 90 question Beyond Beliefs survey which was written to explore the scope of the issues identified in the qualitative study.
The Beyond Beliefs study was approved by the US Government registered Institutional Review Board at Andrews University and was carried out in keeping with the regulations of the US Government Office of Human Research Protections.
It is envisaged that the results of this project will:
◾ provide salient information relating to the knowledge young adults, who identify as Seventh-day Adventists (particularly those who live in a developed culture), have of their faith.
◾identify if young adult religious service programming models work and if youth pastors are influential people to Millennial young adults.
◾take a snapshot of how young adults respond to "hard" questions relating to their faith and how their religious denomination is governed by leadership.
◾articulate their responses and attitudes to these beliefs in their own words - what they feel are their faith’s strengths, weaknesses and its relevancy or irrelevancy to a young adult. This information would be of interest to Church decision makers and could be modified and expanded upon in the future to consider more factors quantitatively and qualitatively, with populations other than young adults.
The outcomes of this study are to:
◾produce a new commentary of the 28 Beliefs of Adventist faith specifically for young adults. It will be based on the findings of this research, be written by members of Generation X & Millennials and peer reviewed by the Faculty of the Religion and Biblical Languages Department of Andrews University.
◾provide salient information relating to the development of a curriculum and textbook for teaching a fundamentals class. It will provide transparent evidence of the assessment and processes of this class to allow both University decision makers and accrediting organizations reliable data to assess the content, processes and efficacy of this class.
◾given doctrines classes are taught regularly in Adventist universities and colleges, this study also lends itself to becoming a longitudinal project which measures, over time, the attitudes and responses of young adults as well as the efficacy of this General Education class.