By AT News Team, March 13, 2015:   The South Central Conference has appointed Pastor Lola Moore as director of young adult ministries, a precedent-setting step “in response to meeting the needs of young adults,” according to a report in the North American edition of Adventist World. Moore is a young adult who has served as pastor of a two-church district in the Panhandle area of Floria.

“Moore is a very gifted pastor,” stated Pastor Dana Edmond, conference president. She is a lifelong Adventist with “a heart for ministry” and is well known as an excellent preacher and leader. The goal for the new department “is not just to understand the needs of young adults but to challenge them to assume their responsibility in building up the cause of Christ; to engage them so they don’t simply leave when they encounter something they dislike.”

South Central Conference is located in the United States and is part of the Southern Union Conference. It includes 158 congregations across five states; Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and the western portion of Florida known as “the Panhandle.” It has about 33,000 church members and is one of the Regional Conferences formed by historically African American churches in 1946 but with congregations of several other ethnicities today.

The decision to create an office of young adult ministries in the conference staff came after a study that began months ago. Two young adults among the conference employees were assigned to do some research with two key questions: “Why are young adults no longer attending or being involved with the church? … Why does the church seem more concerned with guarding tradition instead of authenticity?”

A key tool in the research was a study commissioned by the denomination’s North American Division and conducted by the Barna Research Group. It include both a survey and focus groups across North America among young adults who attend Adventist churches and those who have dropped out.

“The Barna study revealed that young adults do not feel the same burden of church tradition as does the older, more established church,” reported Adventist World. “Young adults often disengage from local churches because of the way they do ministry [and] often don’t see … the global perspective [of the denomination], but see the church primarily from a local perspective.”

The South Central Conference study found that each age group had a department except for young adults, so the executive committee voted to create the office and transfer a minister to direct the department. To keep the department focused on local ministry, the plan includes the concept that once Pastor Moore moves to Nashville (Tennessee) where the conference office is located, she will select one of the Adventist congregations in the area and spend part of her time developing a young adult ministry there.

“Young adults are the lifeblood of the church,” stated Edmund. “They are the ones who must lead within the next few years. If young adults are not engaged in the church, something is empirically wrong with the church or with the relevancy of the church ministry.”

Several other conferences have expressed an interest in the concept and are involved in assessments of the needs in their own territory. A few of the largest conferences, such as the Southern California Conference, have had a young adult department for a number of years.