Growing Young Adventists [#GYA] is a learning journey for local churches and leaders helping to build faith communities that will not only survive, but thrive in the years ahead. It is an inter-generational movement nurturing relationship building and cultural transformation that embraces young people and benefits all generations in the Adventist church.
Sparked by the North American Division, but taking root in the unions and conferences across our territory, #GYA endeavors to cheer, support, and resource congregations who desire the vitality of our young people and the great relationships they bring. #GrowingYoungAdventists is here to:
CHEER:We celebrate great Adventist people in warm churches who are building wholesome, authentic relationships with young people. GYA loves to tell growing young stories.
SUPPORT: We nurture Adventist churches and organizations who desire to grow young with the collective experience and shared wisdom of ministry leaders, point people, and passionate volunteers. GYA is here to help.
RESOURCE: We equip growing young communities by supplying mentoring, materials, and ministry training that help Adventists love next generations better. GYA has stuff to share.
Growing Young Adventists is based on groundbreaking research by Fuller Youth Institute in their book, Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. The book profiles over 250 innovative churches that are engaging 15- to 29-year-olds. These churches—reflecting the denominational spectrum, varying in size, and located all over the country—are growing spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically.
Authors Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin show that reaching young people doesn’t boil down to hyper-entertaining programs, trendy locations, or other attractions. What matter most are relationships, empathy, community, and Jesus.
ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR GROWING YOUNG
The authors outline six strategies essential to engaging young people:
• UNLOCK KEYCHAIN LEADERSHIP
Keychain leaders entrust others with access and authority, and empower all generations including teens and emerging adults with their own metaphorical “set of keys” to help influence and shape the direction of the church.
• EMPATHIZE WITH TODAY’S YOUNG PEOPLE
This means “feeling withyoung people” as they grapple with existential questions of identity, belonging, and purpose; as they experience “systemic abandonment” due to divorce and the self-absorbed adults around them; and as they act out a desire for connection through social media.
• TAKE JESUS’ MESSAGE SERIOUSLY
The authors were struck by how, in the churches studied, “Jesus reigns over poor theology and his words ring true for young sojourners hungry for life-giving direction.” One young interviewee said, “The goal for our church is not really effectiveness with young people, but serving and following Jesus. And young people like me are attracted to churches that want to do that.”
• FUEL A WARM COMMUNITY
“Warm is the new cool” in these congregations, where authenticity triumphs over worship style or a multitude of programs. Young people who participated in the research praised their churches for “warm” attributes, such as welcoming, belonging, accepting, hospitable, and caring.
• PRIORITIZE YOUNG PEOPLE (AND FAMILIES) EVERYWHERE
Churches in the study revealed a disproportionate prioritization of young people—an impulse that, rather than excluding older generations, breathed life into the entire congregation. As one pastor put it, “Everyone rises when you focus on young people.” Involving young people in every ministry has allowed these churches to thrive with authenticity and intergenerational relationships.
• BE THE BEST NEIGHBORS
The authors found that in churches growing young, the community accepts the difficult task of offering young people a thoughtful path to neighboring well. They provide opportunities for teens and emerging adults to serve others, pursue social justice, find their calling, interact with popular culture, and respond to heated cultural issues.
The authors debunk myths about the changes churches need to make to grow young, offer guidance on creating a plan for change, and include helpful sidebars, case studies and other tools.
Across the NAD, each union has a certified speaker offering support to local congregations, and many of our unions this past year have held training summits and events to help local churches become the best place for young people to grow. Discover more about #GYA at GrowingYoungAdventists.com
A.Allan Martin, PhD, is the teaching pastor of Younger Generation Church [ygchurch.com], the vibrant young adult ministry of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas [USA]. Dr. Martin serves the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists [NAD] as point for the Growing Young Adventists initiative in collaboration with Young Adult LIFE and the Fuller Youth Institute.