"Growing Young" is a term being heard frequently around some Northwest Adventist churches. It tops the list of current priorities for the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC). In last month’s Gleaner feature, John Freedman, NPUC president, said, “Our churches are growing older. Let’s stop … kicking this down to some future spot in the road. It’s possible to make decisions today that will proactively engage our young people with Christ and the church.”
Adventist realities have been clearly represented in studies such as Valuegenesis and the Barna Group’s You Lost Me comparative project, which have accurately pointed out the challenges of youth and young adult disengaging. And now California's Fuller Youth Institute has created six essential strategies as a pathway toward reengagement. This Growing Young process is based on solid research, is consistent with the earlier Adventist findings and promotes a scripturally solid map for intentional progress. It does not introduce new theology, but rather seeks to draw every member together on a gospel-centered mission.
“It’s not about moving our seasoned members out so young people can move in,” says Ben Lundquist, who in addition to serving as young adult director for the Oregon Conference is also coordinating the Growing Young initiative throughout the NPUC. “The wisdom of experienced members and the creative energy of younger members are both essential for these efforts to be successful.” In a very real way it’s a journey of prayer, asking the Holy Spirit how every generation can be engaged in living the principles of the kingdom.
Ten churches in various conferences around the NPUC are currently working on this together: Anchorage Samoan in Alaska, Cloverdale and Meridian churches in Idaho, Beaverton and Meadow Glade churches in Oregon, Spokane Valley Church in Upper Columbia, and the Emerald City, Port Orchard and Volunteer Park churches in Washington. Under Lundquist’s guidance, they have formed a cohort for ongoing learning and support. Once they have completed the initial year of this journey, they may become the training centers for a second wave of Northwest churches who have caught the vision for Growing Young.
Each Growing Young church is learning to adapt and intentionally practice six essential commitments.
- Unlock keychain leadership: Instead of centralizing authority, empower others — especially young people.
- Empathize with today’s young people: Instead of judging or criticizing, step into the shoes of this generation.
- Take Jesus’ message seriously: Instead of asserting formulaic gospel claims, welcome young people into a Jesus-centered way of life.
- Fuel a warm community: Instead of focusing on cool worship or programs, aim for warm peer and intergenerational friendships.
- Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere: Look for creative ways to tangibly support, resource, and involve them in all facets of your congregation.
- Be the best neighbors: Instead of condemning the world outside your walls, enable young people to neighbor well locally and globally.
It’s important to note these commitments intentionally avoid superficial efforts to create a “cool” factor around worship styles, entertainment, big budgets or drifting standards. Instead, the Growing Young journey calls every age toward faithfulness to Jesus and His way of approaching the message of the kingdom.
Northwest Adventists of all ages can learn more by picking up a copy of Growing Young from AdventSource. We also encourage each member to watch this newly created video from Benjamin Lundquist, John Freedman and others on the essence of the Growing Young journey.