Young Disciple Ministries
Striving to Connect Youth with Christ
The group of teenagers sat in a circle on the beach, enjoying the strikingly bright stars of the tropics. One young man played the guitar as the rest sang along.
No, they weren’t at a beach party, and they weren’t crooning the latest pop tune. The words of their song expressed the desire of their hearts: “Here I am, Lord.... I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if You lead me....”*
As the last notes faded into the gently lapping waves, a young man began to speak. “I’m a different person than I was a month ago.”
The others nodded with understanding as Josh continued. “When I signed up for this mission trip, I thought it would be a great way to see the world. As for the rules, I figured I could stand anything for a few weeks.” He shook his head almost in bewilderment. “But I’ve changed. I’m not going to go back to my old music, my old habits, my old friends, my old life.”
Josh followed through on his commitment. Two years later, he was the dynamic leader of a group of young Bible workers on a mission trip to the Philippines. Now, still on fire for God, he is a Bible worker in Tennessee.
Josh’s story is the essence of why Young Disciple Ministries exists: to connect youth with Christ. Not just superficially. Not with simply a knowledge of truth, but with a real heart-connection to the source of all power.
Let’s face it: It’s never been harder to grow up. Distractions of all sorts assail young people on every side. More than ever, they need encouragement, support and direction.
Yet today’s youth are also wise beyond their years. When it comes to spiritual things, they don’t need to be pampered and patronized. As Karen Jorgensen, 17, puts it, “We don’t want dumbed-down talk and games. We want to get deep and have a real walk with God.”
Yes! Youth want to be challenged. They want a religion that is genuine. And they long to make a difference in the world.
Since its beginning in 1992, the vision of Young Disciple Ministries has been to help young people achieve these goals. For many Sabbath Schools and individuals, this begins with a subscription to Young Disciple magazine, a weekly publication that includes a daily Bible study guide.
Melissa Allen, 17, speaks for many when she says, “The stories in the magazine are not just stories. They teach important truths that have shown me how to walk with God, how to live my life for Him and how to get along with all members of my family."
Another facet of the ministry brings young people together to study and grow in the Lord. Young people have been flocking to Young Disciple’s summer camp program, now located in Inchelium, Washington, since 1993.
Why do they come? “Young Disciple’s Youth Bible Camp is the highlight of my year," Tyler Marlow, 16, explains. "Camp recharges my spiritual batteries!”
Besides the usual summer camp fare, YD camp emphasizes personal Bible study, outreach training and classes in life skills that equip young people for service. Ted Evert, camp director, reports that one of the most sought-after program choices is DVD evangelism, where campers learn how to use programs like New Beginnings to preach the Gospel around the world.
Even more important, of course, is what happens in the hearts of the campers—and how it is demonstrated in their lives. “When I came home from camp,” Aerial Hamilton, 14, reports, “my family and friends saw that I had a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Many young people return year after year. Haley Martz, now 23, first attended YD camp at the age of 12. Later, Haley served as a counselor. “Besides the influence of my godly parents,” Haley says, “YD has been one of the biggest spiritual blessings in my life. At camp I have been challenged to get to know God personally and to serve my fellow men with the talents God has given me.”
Now a graduate of Southern Adventist University, Haley is doing just that. In February, she co-led the child evangelism team of a Young Disciple mission to the Philippines and led other young people in presenting a full evangelistic series to hundreds of eager children.
Their tool: YD’s Truth 4 Youth program. This counterpart to adult evangelism packages such as New Beginnings and Truth for Today provides a complete program for children in DVD or PowerPoint format. “It makes things easy and provides everything we need, from songs and stories to activities and crafts," Haley explains. "The kids love it too!”
On a YD Mission Experience, young people are responsible for every aspect of evangelism, including Bible work, health evangelism and even preaching an evangelistic series.
Many participants, such as Josh Fine, go on to choose full-time service for God, either at home or abroad. “The YD Mission Experience opened my eyes,” he states. “It taught me to live my religion in my life.”
Over the years, dozens of young people have served as interns in the Young Disciple office. Cheyenne Francis, a former intern, is now the Young Disciple assistant editor. “I’ve been a YD reader practically ever since I could read,” she says. “The principles I learned from the articles and studies…are a big part of the reason I’ve chosen to give my whole life in service to God.”
Isai Velez, 16, adds this succinct definition of the Young Disciple vision: “Their only goal is to save young people, and I’m one of them.”
*From “Here I Am, Lord,” by Dan Schutte. Copyright 1981, Daniel L. Schutte and New Dawn Music.