Adventists Must Gain Visibility
in South Pacific, Poll Says
About half in Australia, New Zealand, know little of
church, despite long history there.
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in the South Pacific say that research should be integral in shaping the church’s message after a recent poll indicated about 50 percent of Australians and New Zealanders know nothing about the church beyond its name.
The numbers climb to a “distressing” 70 percent for poll respondents aged 18 to 34, said Mirella Gordon, church marketing director for Wahroonga-based Adventist Media Network (AMN). She speculates the statistic likely represents a general lack of knowledge about religion among many young people.
Respondents did, however, consistently link the Adventist Church to healthful living.
Learning how the public perceives Adventism is key to tailoring the church’s message, making the A$16,000 that AMN invested in the poll money well spent, Gordon said.
TELL THEIR WORLD: People in Sydney, Australia (above), and other parts of the South Pacific region need to know about the Seventh-day Adventist Church and what it believes, a survey has found.The Adventist Church has traditionally “underused” outside surveys, she said. “We do some internal research, but when it comes to understanding the external community, we rarely ask ourselves the questions.”
Newspoll, an Australian public opinion polling company, telephoned 1,720 respondents aged 18 and older from February to April for the Awareness Survey. Each was selected randomly to best reflect the region’s various demographics, including age, gender, and education level.
Results indicated that most respondents knew the Adventist Church is a worldwide Christian denomination, which church leaders find heartening, Gordon said. Considerably fewer knew that Adventists worship on the seventh-day Sabbath or were familiar with the church’s extensive network of schools and hospitals. Regardless of demographics, most respondents strongly associated the church with healthful lifestyle choices.
The findings are somewhat ironic given the long presence of Adventism in Australia and New Zealand. Ellen G. White, a pioneering cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spent nearly nine years in Australia, helping believers launch several key operations. And in both countries, Adventist-owned Sanitarium Health Food Company has been one of the dominant food producers for decades, leading the market with its renowned Weet-Bix cereal.
When asked a series of questions about their own perceptions toward the church, nearly one third said Adventists are “too private and inward looking.” When asked if the church presents its beliefs positively, 70 percent said they weren’t sure, reflecting their general lack of specific knowledge about the church, Gordon said.
Rajmund Dabrowski, communication director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, called the poll “commendable” and urged church leaders in other regions to follow suit: “Church awareness could be drastically improved in many parts of the world as we build public relations around the results of such polls,” he said.
Church leaders in the South Pacific anticipate conducting similar polls every two years as a reference point for a larger effort called The Interactive Church, which is meant to help local churches better connect with their communities. The region also plans to use additional polls to inform major church decisions. “We want to test key messages and have a better understanding of how … what we do or plan to do resonates with people,” Gordon said.
The South Pacific Division reports a baptized membership of 398,126 people, worshipping weekly in 5,018 congregations throughout the region.
—Reported by Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network, and AR Staff.