What Influences kids to remain in the Adventist Church

As I write this, I am attending the annual North American Division Year End Meetings in the General Conference.  While there are several important actions that the elected church leaders and elected lay delegates are voting on, we also receive a number of reports from various NAD ministries.  Some of these are thrilling to hear of how God is at work.

One of the reports was the most recent ValueGenesis study, which was looking to see what factors most influenced SDA young people to remain in the church.  The notes I took include the following factors:

  1.  Build a warm and thinking climate in the home, the church and the school.  This means to stay close to young people, and be willing to engage with them in conversations as they express doubts and challenges to what you and I believe and have taught them to believe.  Conversations like that can be scary at first, for when they express doubts, we as parents, teachers, pastors and interested adults want to give them the “right” answers and get them to accept those answers,  and move on in the right direction.  However, young people, we are told, in expressing their doubts to us, are on a march toward faith.  Whereas with adults, expressing doubts are on a march away from faith.  So, stay close to young people, listen and dialogue with them in a supportive way.
  2. Help the Church become a Grace-oriented place.  This involves the attitude and atmosphere in our church bodies and our conversations.  While we want to “be right” in our theology and religious beliefs, we don’t have to be rigid in how we express that and how we treat each other.  Being a Biblical Christian should lead us to treat each other with the understanding and compassion that we believe Christ has treated us with.  The atmosphere in our churches says a lot about whether people want to be there or remain there.  Especially young adults.
  3. Encouraging a relevant and meaningful worship service.  Young people don’t need a “wild” or “radical” or even overtly “contemporary” style of service.  Although you may hear various people speaking about their convictions about the type of worship service they find appropriate, we need to consider our worship from a principal based position rather than only a personal preference based position.   Worship can become a lightening rod, or it can be a light in the darkness.  Meaningful worship can include updated congregational songs and new expressions for coming before our Redeemer and Creator.
  4. Assist families to create home-centered helping projects.  Young people are more likely to stay in the church as they participate with their parents in compassion ministry—especially as this is a value of the parents.  What young people see their parents doing is what they embrace and retain.
  5. Grow a children’s, youth and young adult ministry in the local church.  Around the 8th and 9th grade age bracket is the critical time for faith choices.  So it is said that even a bad youth ministry or a bad Pathfinder club is better than no ministry or club at all!  While I’m not entirely sure of that, the message is clear, have a children’s ministry, youth ministry or Pathfinder club – at the very least.  Churches without any children and that think they can’t have a children’s ministry because children are too noisy, too active or demand too much energy from church members, are churches that are only a few years from closing.
  6. Teach popular culture standards in the home.  We used to call them “church standards,” and now another appropriate way to say it is, “Life affirming choices.”  For young people to accept and integrate the Biblical values we hold together in the Adventist Church – the most effective way is for the parents to learn how to teach and model those practices and belief in the home.  It matters less what the church teaches and what the school expects and it matters more what the parents practice themselves.
  7. Learn how to “Faith Talk” with your family and friends.  “Faith Talk,” in this context, means becoming comfortable speaking with others about belief and trust in God. What Jesus means to you.  How God has been at work in your life.  Where you have experienced answered prayer. This means more than the ability to give a Bible study on a specific topic, but rather the ease at which we will speak about our relationship with God.
  8. Support quality Christian Education.  81% of all Adventist students have said that SDA schools are important in their SDA faith.  Supporting SDA Christian Education is well worth our support.

For more information on this topic, you can obtain a book from Advent Source entitled: Hey, Love  Them and They Will Come.

Joining you in Revealing Jesus and Making Disciples in our PA Mission Field,

Ray Hartwell

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