News Feature: Adventist Youth Magazine’s Amazing History and Bold Future
By Omar Miranda, December 29, 2015: For more than a century there has been a weekly publication for teens handed out each Sabbath at Adventist churches in North America and many other places around the world. Like lots of other things in the media, that is now subject to change.
It’s actually been 163 years since James White, the cofounder of the Adventist denomination, began a periodical for young people, what has become Insight magazine and, with the proliferation of new media, Insight Ministries. As the editor of Insight magazine and director of Insight Ministries, I feel strongly that the impetus for White’s editorial vision was, and still is, valid.
James White was extremely concerned about the issue of the increasing selfishness of Christian parents in his day. He felt that they lacked the proper relationship with Jesus and did not see it a priority to save their children from this sinful world by appropriate “instruction to the youth,” and thus would damn their children to an eternity without God.
As a result, shortly after starting the Review and Herald magazine in 1849, he began publishing The Youth’s Instructor (YI) as a monthly publication providing Sabbath school lessons to benefit Adventist children and teens. He cited Paul’s clear instruction in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 as a scriptural mandate and bedrock principle upon which to build his vision of instructing the youth of his day. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (NIV).
He wrote, “there are a portion of the children who have believing parents, or guardians, who are neglected, and do not have right instruction, consequently, they do not manifest much interest for their own salvation. We trust that such a paper as we design publishing would interest such children, and also be the means of waking up their parents, or guardians to a sense of their important duty. On them rests the awful responsibility of training souls for the kingdom of God. But it is a lamentable fact that many of their children are left without suitable instruction. . . May God wake up his people to a sense of their duty to those young minds, entrusted to their care, to guide in the channel of virtue and holiness.” (https://adventisthistory.wordpress.com/category/periodicals/youths-instructor-periodicals/)
On the first page of the first issue of the YI, as the first editor and founder, James White penned a description of the youth of the times which I could easily write today. “The young are receiving impressions, and forming characters for Eternal Life or for Death, in an unfortunate age of the world, when spiritual darkness, like the pall of death, is spread over the earth. Pride is fostered; self-will, anger and malice are not timely and faithfully rebuked. Many parents who profess religion have become so worldly and careless, that they do not instruct their children in the way to heaven. In fact, not living devoted and holy lives themselves, they do not set good examples before their children, therefore they are unprepared to instruct them.” He pleaded with parents and guardians, “We must have your help . . . you must take hold of this work in love and faith in your own families, and in your closets before God in prayer.” (You can read James White’s entire address here: https://docs.adventistarchives.org/docs/YI/YI18520801-V01-01__C.pdf#view=fit)
What started out in 1852 as a monthly publication became, in 1879, a weekly publication. Over the years, the YI magazine has morphed to continue meeting the ever-changing needs of its readers. In 1970, the mission statement proclaimed, “The Youth’s Instructor is a nonfiction weekly. It is published for young adults who are capable of asking sincere questions, and who seek to know the counsels of Scripture. Its contents are chosen to serve readers who want to reach maturity—spiritually, socially, intellectually, and physically. Its staff holds that God is man’s heavenly Father; that Jesus is man’s Saviour; that genuine Christians will strive to love God supremely and their neighbors as themselves. Its pages reflect an expanding objective from 1852 to 1969. First it was essentially a vehicle for providing youth Sabbath school lessons. Now it also provides many added services for a generation that should witness the literal return of Jesus and the restoration of a sinless world to the universe of God.” (YI, April 28, 1970; emphasis mine)
Ellen White also felt that this was a crucial ministry to the extent that she contributed an article to the very first issue of The Youth’s Instructor and continued being a regular contributor. During her lifetime she contributed nearly 500 articles to the publication. The vast majority of them were written especially for the younger audience. They were designed to make a significant contribution in the preparation of God’s youth for Christ’s soon return.
The YI sailed along, published continuously, for 118 years and on May 5, 1970, the Seventh-day Adventist Church changed its name, replacing it with something fresh; Insight. An ad, found in the March 31, 1970, issue, announced the name change.
“We announce the world premiere of Insight, a magazine for young Adventists who cannot tolerate the Seducer’s grasp on our world, who hate the fact that the soft skin of Primeval Innocence has been lacerated. We introduce a magazine that understands the human cry for healing and for liberation. It understands the cry and takes up the cry, beginning on May 5 . From the first issue onward, responsiveness to human need and faith in Christ-as-Solution will characterize the pages of Insight.”
The same guiding principles continue to apply to Insight magazine today and led to the formation, in June 2013, of Insight Ministries (IM) which will encompass a fuller, broader range of services to meet the growing needs of today’s youth and those who are called to work with them. Our mission statement is simple: “Know Jesus » Love Jesus » Live Jesus.” Our vision is to educate, equip, inspire, advocate for, and encourage youth and youth educators.
As our partners in this mission, we entreat you, in the words of James White, “ . . . you, who are in the habit of writing, to furnish matter for the INSTRUCTOR. . . And certainly, if you feel the perishing condition of the young, and your hearts are filled with love to God and a love for their souls, you can teach them the path of holiness, and the way to heaven. Do not neglect your duty in this respect. We think the paper should be mostly original matter, yet selected matter from good books and other papers, of a sweet, touching character would be very acceptable. Those who can obtain such matter, will please forward it. We also invite our young friends to write. Do not try to imitate any one; but write, in a simple style, your own views, experience and feelings.”
As Insight Ministries continues to change and adapt, meeting the growing needs of youth and educators in a rapidly shifting environment, we invite you to join us. Together we can introduce our youth to Jesus. We can build and strengthen their faith. When they know Jesus, truly know Him, their lives will reflect Him and in so doing attract a dying world.
The Future of Insight
Over the years, many people—whole churches in fact—have criticized Insight magazine because they felt that it covered issues that were “inappropriate,” or “too worldly,” or “topics parents should address.” As Insight’s editor, I disagree wholeheartedly with this criticism!
Our youth have been given the clear message that asking questions about themselves, their sexuality, truth, culture, the world, and spirituality, is unsafe at church. So they turn to Satan and the world, who are more than willing to discuss these issues, for their information and as a result are indoctrinated with a secular worldview. Rest assured that our teens will ask these crucial questions. They must ask them in order to develop into healthy, responsible, godly adults. But will the church rise to the occasion and provide answers?
As the editor of Insight magazine, I am a certified Christian counselor and a recovering addict who left the church for many years. Like the Prodigal Son, and many teens and young adults today, I went searching for something other than God’s home and love. In the end, God saved me and brought me back to a true, saving relationship with Jesus and a right understanding of the good news of the gospel!
I’ve had more than 20 years of experience ministry with teens, their families, in church and community settings. As a result of these years of experiences, four things have become apparent to me.
- Our teens are looking for Jesus, but don’t know that it’s Him they’re missing (the root of the problem) and that’s why we as a church are seeing an increase in negative behaviors (the fruit) such as pre-marital sex, drug and alcohol use, cutting, depression, anxiety, and suicide, just to name a few.
- The majority of our churches, parents, and even our youth workers either don’t know how to address the problem, or likely don’t want to admit that this is the issue, so they don’t address it.
- The minority who do attempt to devote themselves to the problem address it from the perspective of trying to stamp out the resultant “fruit” behaviors without contending with the core “root” issues which are infinitely more complex and comprehensive due to the fact that . . .
- Non-teens are trying to help teens while functioning from the perspective of an adult culture, which is not just different from adult culture, but separate and many times foreign as well.
Even if the church as a whole refuses to acknowledge it, understand it or even to address it, our youth have needs that must be met. Statistics tell the sad story of what happens when they aren’t. Seventh-day Adventist author, counselor, and seminary professor Roger L. Dudley, in his eye-opening book Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church, reports that 40 to 50 percent of Seventh-day Adventist teenagers who accept Christ during their teenage years will leave the church in their 20s. Christian researcher and author Dave Kinnaman, of the Barna Group, cites in his book You Lost Me that the number of what he calls Mosaics (generally identified as the Millenial Generation or Generation Y, born from 1979 through 1994) dropping out of church life following their teen years from all Christian denominations in the United States is a staggering 59 percent. This is an epidemic that must be stopped! We could lose the church in one generation.
I am gravely concerned that our students in churches and Adventist schools have volumes of knowledge about our doctrine but little to no godly wisdom or true experiential knowledge of a deep and abiding, joyous, peaceful, and powerful relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord that would give their lives real purpose. Instead, they often struggle with the same problems as secular and unchurched youth.
Because of this, they generally do not understand the issues related to practical Christianity. This presents a problem to them both now and later in life. Our teens have been taught that they need to first obey the teachings of Christ—and by extension the church—without first and foremost being properly introduced to Him. The result is a mentality focused only on outward compliance without an understanding, love, or even a relationship with Jesus.
Unfortunately, more and more youth—even those who attend our church and parochial schools—aren’t receiving sufficient instruction and Biblical guidance to answer the questions they have about life and living in this sin-sick world that is becoming increasingly evil. As a result, they are increasingly lost, angry, and confused about God’s “narrow road to salvation”.
It has been my desire and focus to take a more aggressive approach to discuss the importance, sufficiency, and relevance of the Spirit of Prophecy—and specifically Ellen White’s writings—to address the varied and serious needs of our youth and young adults today. Ellen White understood the necessity of answering the needs of youth, whatever they may be. “I advise and exhort that those who have charge of the youth shall learn how to adapt themselves to meet the youth where they are.” (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, p. 92)
Since 1970, Insight has given teens spiritual encouragement and inspiration. We are dedicated to helping teens meet Jesus, to build a relationship with Jesus, make it real, and then live Jesus out to a world that desperately needs Him. We highlight teens who are making a positive difference for God. We also feature stories to help teens grow close to God, answer their deepest questions, and outline Christian principles to guide and provide wise solutions to life’s greatest problems.
At Insight, we emphasize teens making positive, God-centered choices. We introduce them to other teens who are having a positive impact in their lives, families, churches, and communities. Our regular columns, including Everything Ellen, Just Jesus, True Love and On the Case, supply answers with a Spirit of Prophecy and Christian perspectives to teen’s questions about God, life, and relationships.
We encourage teens to get involved for the gospel. Not only do we talk about teens serving God, we provide a way. In 1990 we began sponsoring what would become the Ultimate Workout, an annual short-term mission trip. Since then more than 1,000 teens have sweated, bonded, troweled, mortar-mixed, and given their all for a closer walk with God.
Today, with God’s coming even closer, it is the continuing mandate and honor of this ministry to evolve, change, and continue Insight’s legacy and tradition of teaching and instructing youth to meet their ever-growing needs, as well as the needs of those who are called to work with them. To meet these goals Insight needs to be more than just a magazine—it has to be a full-fledged ministry. That’s why, in June 2013 Insight magazine officially became Insight Ministries (IM).
Our mission statement is simple: “Know Jesus » Love Jesus » Live Jesus.” Our vision is to educate, equip, inspire, advocate for, and encourage youth and youth educators in the following ways.
First, telling them about Jesus, introducing them to Him, teaching them how to love Him more and know Him better, encouraging and training them how to think and live like Christians so they can effectively share Him with others.
Also, moving those who love youth to honestly and consistently connect with them, IM will become a turn-key solution to meet all the youth and young adult needs for all stakeholders—parents, youth workers, and those who love youth. In the coming years, IM will expand greatly to include such things as: (1) A total Web platform of its magazine Insight allowing readers to access the entire magazine virtually. (2) A complete redesign of Insight magazine and its corresponding Web site featuring a more proactive focus to train and orient youth workers to better understand the culture of youth and meet their needs as well as rapid-response for emergent or crisis youth situations. (3) The magazine redesign will feature a stronger focus on the importance and relevance of the Spirit of Prophecy and the role of Ellen White in the early church movement through a regular column called Everything Ellen. (4) Training events, both live and online, for youth as well as educators. (5) Video projects including featurettes and feature-length movies. (6) Simulcast call-in radio show meeting the needs of youth and those interested in working with them. (7) Development of an increased number of resources for youth, young adults, and youth workers with an Insight (Good Housekeeping-type) stamp of approval. And much, much more.
At the end of 2015, I will no longer be the editor of Insight magazine. For the past several years, the Adventist denomination has been dealing with the changes in the publishing field and monumental, painful and historic decisions have been made. The decision has been made (wisely, I think) to put Insight under the microscope and make sure that this magazine is most effectively doing its job. The North American Division (NAD) Youth and Young Adult Ministries Department has vowed to provide a relevant resource for our youth. I know they will keep their promise, but I don’t know what shape it will take. Please pray for them as they continue to do research and plan for the future.
I still don’t know what I will be doing next, but I know that no matter what I do, I’ll still keep interacting with teens, writing and communicating online. It has taken me many months to be OK with this decision. Naturally, the decision to stop being Insight’s editor wasn’t mine, but God knows what He’s doing. I know that God’s still in charge.
Now, don’t get me wrong; there were days—even months—where I was angry, frustrated, and asked “why?” like anybody else going through the process of grieving a loss, but several months ago God brought to my mind the true story of a guy named Job. His story is chronicled in an entire book of the Old Testament. If you’ve never heard of the guy, suffice it to say that it’s not a tale of rainbows and butterflies. Basically this guy is a pawn in a cosmic battle between Satan and God, and God allows Satan to basically destroy Job and his entire life.
What stood out to me about the entire incident is Job’s initial response after learning he’d lost all his children, his property, his servants, and his possessions—basically, his entire life! Job simply responds: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV). That was his response. Of course, for most of the remainder of the book he gets angry, asks why . . . the whole shebang; the point is that even though Job processed his loss in a very real way, his great heart of faith in God’s inherent goodness and omnipotence never wavered.
Job lived his life with an open hand. He is an example of how I want to live. I hope he’s yours, too. I humbly ask that you pray for the changes that are happening, both in Adventist publishing as a whole and for the NAD youth department, as they boldly move forward to minister to our youth, young adults, and those who work with them.
It has been and continues to be my conviction that God has placed this organization, begun 163 years ago, in a crucial and strategic place in earth’s history to instruct, encourage, equip, and launch an army of youth around the world with the knowledge, power, and love of Jesus. I hope you’ll decide to work hand-in-hand with Insight Ministries and the NAD youth department and pray for the salvation of our youth, training and arming them to reach the world for Jesus.