When we’re in conversation with church administrative leadership that are responsible for and taking care of a church that is 62 years old (Adventist median age) - we begin to see how difficult it is for church administration to intentionally set aside or dedicate a portion of budget for youth and young adult ministry.
*Currently, the North American Division has 28 full-time staff for Retirement as opposed to 3 full-time staff for Youth Ministries. But the NAD administration did put Young Adult Ministry as one of their Building Blocks and did set aside $250,000 for Young Adult Ministry.
But, often, there are so many ministries and departments that are vying and competing for attention, budget and care that it is almost impossible to give sufficient regard for a generation that’s simply not offering or tithing enough.
To date, I haven’t met a single administrator that would say that youth or young adult ministry is not important. But in all of their committees and meetings, there are always more pressing, urgent and important matters at hand that insist and demand to be heard, noticed and ultimately cared for. And often, the youngest person on our committees is somewhere in his/her early fifties.
So, what do you do with much of our church leadership that is constantly surrounded and besieged by committee members and departmental leaders that are making a very convincing and compelling case for their ministry and their department?
And how do we deal with a culture and an environment where anything that is ‘of youth' isn't really taken seriously? (i.e. the different reaction you get for terms like youth pastor vs senior pastor; youth tent vs main tent; youth convention vs asi convention etc.)
1. First, we pray for our church leadership.
The answer never lies in being critical or cavillous to our leadership. We need to first seek to understand and empathize with their current predicament and feel the enormous amount of weight pressure they are dealing with on a daily basis with their constituency. Then, we need to prevail in our intercession for them and ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to be upon them in every committee and every meeting they preside and facilitate. Prayer still remains to be the most powerful weapon for change and transformation.
2. Second, we exercise our leadership.
The fall back verse that we always turn to when it comes to encouraging and empowering youth comes from 1 Tim. 4:12.
Don’t let anyone look down on you for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
The background and context of this verse comes from the beginning of this chapter where Paul talks about the later times (end times) and how many will abandon faith or become hypocrites. According to Paul, in the end of times, many will either leave church or stay & deceive. This prophecy has been fulfilled for the most part. And it’s in these times, we’re called to ‘train ourselves to be godly’ (vs 7) and to ‘set an example’ (vs 12) to all believers. The command is to fully manifest the power of godliness in our lives. For if we’re diligent in these matters and persevere in them, we’ll save both ourselves and those who are hearing/watching us. (vs 15-16)
3. Third, we equip, mentor and empower the next generation.
The calling we received isn’t to stay idle and wait until we’re told what to do. Nor is it to point fingers at the leadership and remain cynical. There’s still an army of youth that needs to be gathered and rightly furnished to finish the work. Instead of passively waiting for a budget & job descriptions to be handed down to us, it’s high time for the youth & young adults go creatively crowd-source the funding that is needed for innovative evangelism. It’s been a great privilege of mine to witness amazing evangelism startups by entrepreneurial Adventist young adults that were committed in reaching their peers for Jesus. Brand new children’s ministry, campus ministry, community outreach projects have been planned & launched by the young adults that decided to train in godliness & set an example.
While there might be some signs of the times that alarm us (pope, sunday law, middle east, and more) - we need to remember that unless the “gospel of the kingdom is preached to the whole world” (Matt 24:14) by an army of youth that has been rightly equipped and empowered - Jesus is not coming any time soon. For there are still millions and billions of people in this world who have not heard the name of Jesus yet.
So, don’t waste your life pouting, blaming, complaining or running away. Instead, train yourself in godliness and set an example. For this is God’s will for your life!