We Can Trust the Church In the Hands of the Next Generation

July 01, 2006 | Ila Zbaraschuk

In the Hands of the Next Generation

This is my 18th year teaching in an Adventist boarding high school, dealing daily with teenagers. While some come from non-Christian or non-faith backgrounds, most are from second, third, up to sixth-generation Adventist homes. They are also truly "typical" teens: last year's music or fashions are without merit, adults are suspect, and rules are for examining and debating—critically.

Given all that, I still believe that this generation of Adventist teenagers will do just fine as church leaders.

Facts and figures I could quote to you. But three specific examples from my students will show where I get courage to make such an assertion.

This is the second year I've had "A," a truly scatterbrained student with an attention span of about two seconds and seemingly no interest beyond the here and now—with the emphasis on the here. When she applied to be in the journalistic writing course, I had visions of missed deadlines as the least of the complications. Last week, I saw that energy focused on the plight of women in other parts of the world, a place where the death and birth of women are simply not recorded, where education is not an option. "That's NOT fair," she stormed. "We can't let that happen." Somehow, someway, she was determined to help change that. I'm betting that with her energy, she will.

My "B" student sits on the back row. If I didn't require a change of seats every six weeks, she'd still be in the same seat. Her paragraph responses showed absolutely no interest in exploring ideas. No part in class discussion. No trouble, certainly, but never seemingly engaged in anything. One day I mentioned a book I had just finished—and highly recommended: Matters of Life and Death for the 21st Century by Reinder Bruinsma, published in 2001 by Pacific Press. "Well-researched, great style on issues that are not easy," I said. After class, "B" stood at my desk. "Please, may I read that for this month's outside reading?" I gladly handed her the copy, but was pretty sure she'd return it in a couple of days. She did, with completed thoughtful paragraphs indicating she had read the entire book. "I've always been interested in these issues," she said.

As the school principal has done over the years, he announced that this year's senior class has a National Merit Scholar. As such, student "C" can go to virtually any college or university he chooses. He has narrowed it down to two: both Seventh-day Adventist institutions. His goal: a double major—with secondary teaching credentials. He wants to teach history and religion to the next generation of this church's young people.

No, I have no worries about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the next generation.