Andrews Hosts Human Subjects Research Conference

In November 2012, Andrews University hosted the first Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Human-Subject Researchers, titled “Towards New Horizons in Adventist Research.” About 50 attendees from Andrews University and other Adventist universities gathered for two days on Andrews’ campus for a number of presentations in fields including psychology, sociology, Christian leadership and informatics.

The conference was sponsored by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists’ Office of Archives, Statistics & Research and organized with the help of Andrews University’s Office of Research & Creative Scholarship. The General Conference has commissioned several research projects in the past, but this conference marked the first GC-sponsored partnership with Adventist researchers around the world. Many of the projects presented focused on describing the behavior of Adventist youth populations, global church communities, or pastoral families. These projects can provide valuable data for the General Conference, and can help them institute new policies or modify existing ones to promote the wellbeing of their members.

The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists funded many of the researchers who presented, a “validation that what we’re doing is important,” says David Sedlacek, professor of family ministry and discipleship and director of masters’ programs in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Sedlacek presented the preliminary results of his own study, titled “Role Demands, Family Stressors, and Strategies for the Alleviation of Stressors in Pastors’ Families.” His research has immediate applications to how the church cares for its pastors—his study reported a high rate of depression, anxiety, addictive practices, loneliness and isolation in Seventh-day Adventist pastors and their families. With new interest in Adventist researchers’ work, trends like those Sedlacek has observed can be counteracted. “Our research provides a systematic way to make evidence-based changes, and to create best practices for the church,” says Sedlacek.

Alina Baltazar, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Education and Master of Social Work program director, also presented the preliminary results of her research, which investigates the reasons for participating— or not participating—in typical risk behaviors. [See “The Adventist Advantage: The Health Risk Study and Adventist Influence” on page 3.]

Conference attendees reported being inspired by the chance to connect with other Adventist colleagues and discover a network of Adventist researchers, and were “happy to know that their research is becoming a basis for church policy and decision-making,” says Galina Stele, research and program evaluation assistant in the Office of Archives, Statistics & Research.

A second conference has been planned for November 2013, to be held at the General Conference Headquarters in Silver Spring, Md. Its focus is “Discipling, Retaining & Reclaiming: Summit on Nurture and Retention,” and will include Adventist scholars, church leaders, and representatives from all 13 world divisions of the church.

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