This spring, more than 30 Adventist church members, leaders, and innovators from across the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church convened at Fuller Youth Institute in Pasadena, California, to complete the Growing Young certified speaker training and participate in the Growing Young Adventists (#GYA) cohort summit.
In their desire to support, cheer, and resource congregations who wish to better engage and embrace next generations, the NAD sent leaders from each of its nine unions to participate in the training, which follows meetings held this past October. During the next several years, these trained point persons will encourage and equip Adventist communities who want to “grow young.”
Not only were youth specialists involved in the recent training, NAD ministerial, seminar professors, and young adults themselves joined in the certification process. The Growing Young book, which was used in the training, endorses the value of intergenerational relationships, but for the Adventist trainees, the power of inter-ministry and inter-agency collaboration became a catalytic ideal to refresh the “movement-momentum” that has been characteristic of the denomination since its inception.
“Having several newly minted Growing Young certified speakers throughout the NAD should definitely impact the work among Millennials,” said Marquis Johns, lead pastor for the North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pennsylvania. “I am excited about the opportunity to use what I’ve learned at Fuller in my ministry area.”
The #GYA certified speakers will serve as point persons to support and encourage inclusive cultural change in local churches and Adventist entities, however, the real fuel for long-lasting, intentional embracing of young people will come from caring, local members who see the need for fostering Christ-centered relationships with teens and young adults. Churches are the primary agents to contextualize and implement a Growing Young Adventists plan that fits their local ministry vision and mission.
With certified speakers now strategically poised in each union across the NAD [CLICK HERE for list], the division is ready to launch #GYA out to cheer, support, and resource local churches, conferences, and organizations wanting to engage, empower, and embrace next generations in meaningful, relationship-rich ways.
For example, each union in the division with certified speakers for #GYA will have opportunities for these speakers to present and/or organize summits, cohorts and other gatherings. Several summits are already planned, starting with two in the Southwestern Union to be held late summer/early fall 2018. Pacific Union will hold a summit this fall; and the North Pacific Union is planning a Growing Young cohort for early 2019. All will be utilizing Growing Young materials and featuring certified speakers.
“The [speaker] training has been an amazing opportunity to network with other leaders from across the NAD who are passionate about loving our young people better, it is a reminder that I am not alone in this effort,” observed Timothy Floyd, Youth and Young Adult Ministries director for the Kansas-Nebraska Conference. “The insights gained throughout the training have inspired me to change the way I serve my youth and young adults and fueled a passion in me to constantly collaborate with my ministry peers. Growing Young has truly changed the way I approach ministry.”
Drawing on the rich research that underpins the Growing Young process, the training provided by the Fuller Youth Institute has been invaluable, purposeful and motivational,” added Allan Walshe, Discipleship and Religious Education department chair, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. “Because of their knowledge of and deeper appreciation for Adventism, there was always a sense of them understanding and working for our context.”
In Growing Young, the authors spell out the core commitments of churches that are being revitalized by an infusion of young people. The research-based book is packed with wisdom and ideas for action.
The next phase for #GrowingYoungAdventists is to have certified speakers collaborate with union, conference, and local church leadership to contextualize the findings of the book into action plans, training summits, and personal endeavors that will afford young people the rich relationships and meaningful discipleship to be found in our Adventist churches. And as previously mentioned, events have already been planned.
Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Mid-America Union, North Pacific Union, Pacific Union, Southeastern California Conference, Southern Union, Southwestern Union, and Texas Conference are among the territories that already have #GrowingYoungAdventists-specific summits planned exclusively giving focus to #GYA training. Additionally, dozens of workshop and seminar presentations will be shared across the division, introducing #GYA to ministry professionals, church leaders, and local members over the next several years.
The #GYA certified speakers will serve as point persons to support and encourage inclusive cultural change in local churches and Adventist entities, however the real fuel for long-lasting, intentional embracing of young people must come from caring, local members who see the need for fostering Christ-centered relationships with teens and young adults. Churches are the primary agents to contextualize and implement a #GrowingYoungAdventists plan that fits their local ministry vision and mission.
The training experience was a great way for me to intentionally internalize the Growing Young commitments, not just in a way that would work for my setting, but as a way that will benefit our denomination as a whole,” said Benji Ferguson, youth pastor for the Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I’m excited about positive culture change that will make the Adventist message available to the next generations.”
“Liberating!” said Jason Bulgin, pastor of the Emerald City Community Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, after the spring event. “The training has put words and action steps to the thoughts and feelings of a generation looking to connect with others. It continues to be an effective tool in guiding our church community to engagement on all levels.”
Meshach Soli, pastor of the South Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church in California, shared, “I truly feel that God is leading our church, locally and at large, to shift the way we engage the next generation so that we can grow together.”
“Growing Young certified speaker training equipped me first with a vision, and secondly with a plan,” said Guadalupe Montour, local young adult ministry leader for South Lancaster Village Seventh-day Adventist Church in Massachusetts. “With a vision to see beyond the status quo. . . It's empowered me to begin shifting the culture towards more intergenerational community, Jesus-centered worship, and others-focused service.”
– A. Allan Martin, Ph.D, teaching pastor at Younger Generation Church in Arlington, Texas, is the Growing Young Adventists point person, Young Adult Life, North American Division.