5 September 2018  |  Sometimes it is called the dropout problem with young adults who grew up in Adventist families. Sometimes it is called “the graying of Adventism.” The reality can be seen in almost any congregation in North America, Europe or Australia: There are few people in their 20s and 30s, and almost every adult present is middle-aged or older.

This is often a topic of worried conversation, but are there local churches anywhere who are successfully doing anything about it? Does anyone really understand why this is happening and how to turn things around?

Growing Young Adventists is a network of successful projects that are helping congregations grow by attracting young adults. It is reality based and the network provides people with real experience who are willing to walk with local leaders in implementing a proven approach. It provides mentoring, materials and ministry training that help Adventists love next generations better,” explains Dr. Allan Martin, pastor of the Younger Generation congregation for the Arlington Adventist Church in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas.

You can see what is happening in many places at the Growing Young Adventists page on Facebook. The Village Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, and the Conroe Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas are examples of where this approach is being successfully implemented, as well as the University Church in Loma Linda, California.

The denomination’s North Pacific Union Conference is collaborating with 10 congregations in the northwest United States. In Australia a “summit” in June brought together the presidents of the local conferences with the president of the Australia Union Conference and key young adult leaders to discuss “youth and young adult engagement.” Research shared with the group showed that about 62 percent of young people who attend church leave before they are 30. It “voted to implement the Growing Young strategy across the country,” reported the Adventist Record.

In the United States, the Southwestern Union Conference has two summits coming up: September 14-15 in Greater San Antonio and October 5-6 in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Speakers include Pastor Guadalupe Montour from the College View Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Pastor Benjamin Lundquist from the denomination’s Oregon Conference.

More information here:  http://www.txyouth.org/growingtogether

The Pacific Union Conference will host the first union-wide Growing Young Adventist Summit on November 3-4 at the Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grand Terrace, California. Information and registration is here: http://www.growingyoungadventists.eventbrite.com

How it Works

The practical implementation of Growing Young involves a journey for a local congregation, not an event. It begins with four steps:

First, an honest assessment is necessary to define the local reality. Is your congregation aging and shrinking or is it growing young and vibrant? There are assessment tools and material available to help with this step. (See resource Web site below.)

Second, it is necessary to accept the facts revealed by the assessment; you cannot afford to deny it or ignore it or declare that other things are more important. Take out the membership list for your church and try to see where all of the members 18 to 35 years of age are. Pray for the individuals and for your leaders to focus on how to connect with these young adults.

Third, make the time to start meeting the people you need to meet. Over meals, begin to listen with a heart full of empathy. These conversations will launch an inter-generational journey that will transform your local church culture.

Fourth, begin to develop and empower the next generation leadership. It is important to understand that this does not mean dumping responsibilities on young adults to see if they can do it. It means bringing young leaders into the core group of the congregation, walking alongside them, mentoring, empowering and encouraging them. They will have different, non-traditional ideas and if those new ideas are blocked, the initiative will fail.

It most be remembered that the founding leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination were young adults. Ellen Harmon (later White) was 17 when she first shared a message that God had shown her in vision. The infusion of young blood and new ideas is central to the Adventist heritage, while Adventists have always been against tradition.

More information and resources are available at http://www.growingyoungadventists.com.

Adventist Today wants to hear from readers who see this approach implemented in local churches near them. Please send your observations and questions by email to atoday@atoday.org and put “Growing Young” in the subjection line.

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