Image Credit: Heidi Baumgartner

Northwest Leaders See Uptick in Church Vitality

Elected representatives for North Pacific Union heard energizing reports about church vitality at the most recent executive committee meeting on March 6, 2024.

“NPUC is seeing an uptick in multiplying churches, and we celebrate this,” said Bill McClendon, NPUC vice president for administration. “Our growing churches are growing, our plateauing churches are decreasing in number and our declining churches are finding new life. These are good numbers. God is revitalizing our churches.”

McClendon also noted how it doesn’t take much to move from one category of church growth to the next. “For some churches, it only takes one baptism to move the congregation to its next growth level,” he said.

In all, NPUC is reporting 1,995 baptisms for 2023 representing a 20% growth over 2022. The baptism levels for 2022 also saw a 20% growth from 2021. This number of annual baptisms and professions of faith is approaching pre-pandemic levels, McClendon reported. Notably, small conferences are seeing large gains in membership through baptism growth.

The church vitality markers hold true across North America where there is a reduction in the number of declining churches and an increase in the number of growing churches after the pandemic.

Yet, there is still a concern within membership data — even when reporting churches are providing both in-person and online attendance numbers.

“We believe discipleship happens best in a local church,” McClendon said. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing across our union attendance numbers going down.”

Attendance level among reporting churches in the Pacific Northwest is now 34%. This is down a point from last year. Ten years ago, in 2013, Northwest churches had 43% attendance.


Initial Results from Baptism Study

McClendon reached out to the six Northwest conferences — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Upper Columbia, Oregon and Washington — to conduct what’s believed to be the first-of-its-kind baptism survey.

“This is the first time we are aware of who we are baptizing,” McClendon said. “Who are we reaching? How did they connect with the church? What led to the decision to be baptized?”

The survey was conducted at pastors’ meetings in or around January 2024 about the previous years’ baptisms. Five of the six conferences have submitted their surveys. Alaska Conference is still surveying pastors about their baptisms; as such, Alaska data is not yet included in the initial results.

The initial data highlights the baptism journey of 1,126 people in 2023.

  • 52% of baptisms came from Adventist families.
  • 48% of baptisms came from non-Adventist families.

There are four primary ways people connected with the church:

  • 46.3% were invited by a member.
  • 15.6% attended on their own.
  • 11.6% connected through an evangelistic seminar.
  • 6.4% connected through Bible study.

There are four leading encounters that resulted in decisions for baptism:

  • 32% — Bible studies with pastor or church member
  • 22.9% — Evangelistic seminar
  • 19.7% — Church service
  • 6.8% — Special event

“We’re excited by the data we are seeing,” McClendon said. “Our people continue to be our most evangelistic resource. These people are excited about their church!”

Nampa Multiplies

Chris Evenson, Nampa Adventist Church pastor, leads one of the growing and multiplying church examples. Nampa Church has also been a targeted focus for evangelism growth investments. As the newest member of the NPUC executive committee, he provided stories during worship about how his church in Idaho is experiencing significant growth.

Nampa leaders and prayer warriors participated in 40 days of prayer before an evangelistic series in 2021. Their sanctuary seats 180 people, and they were praying about hosting double sessions with a meal in between for 360 people.

“This was bigger than anything we had conceptualized before,” Evenson shared.

The church launched into a second 40 days of prayer for God to fill their church for both sessions.

“Opening night, we saw folks showing up 45 minutes early,” Evenson reported. “God heard and answered our prayer, and we can’t praise Him enough.”

With new family members, the church facility started maxing out. Church leaders started discussing the need for a new facility, adding a third service, starting a satellite site and/or planting a new church.

Evenson said the leadership team then recognized: “We’re going to continue to evangelize, host bridge events and build the kingdom of God, and let God take care of the space issues and challenges. We will continue to follow God’s lead.”

“It’s fun to hear stories about pastors and churches that believe in the power of prayer. It gives us great hope that God is alive and well in NPUC,” said John Freedman, NPUC president, as Evenson concluded his story.

More Reasons for Thankfulness

Finance Report

Each conference in NPUC had a tithe increase in 2023. NPUC received $116.4 million in tithe in 2023, representing an 8.85% increase from the previous year, according to Mark Remboldt, NPUC chief financial officer. Adventist Giving, an online giving portal, processes 62% of tithe and offering.

Walla Walla University Report

Walla Walla University is celebrating God’s faithfulness in providing new grants, nurturing spiritual growth and making academic strides.

The School of Nursing secured a $105,231 grant from Washington Student Achievement Council to upgrade nursing simulation labs on the Portland campus. This is the third significant grant awarded to the School of Nursing in the past year, continuing to support high-level nursing education at WWU.

Spiritual growth is thriving at WWU, exemplified by recent student engagement during Week of Worship. Student speakers explored the theme of blessings in disguise, highlighting the university's dedication to holistic student development.

Efforts to enhance programs at Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory are underway, including classroom and lab renovations, securing grant funding and organizing a Spring Tide environmental theology training.

The search for WWU's new president is progressing, with candidate nominations encouraged by March 15.

“The generations coming through are amazing,” said John McVay, WWU president, in his next-to-last report to the executive committee before his retirement. 


President’s Council recommended six names for ordination with five of the six candidates from Washington Conference: Daniel Bennett (All Nations and Highline Churches); Abner Campos (Volunteer Park); Vidal Mendoza (Enumclaw); Ruslan Spitsyn (Russian Center for Spiritual Enrichment); and Jordan Stephan (North Cascade). The sixth candidate, Alex Portillo (Hockinson Heights), represents Oregon Conference.