Youth ministry is important – always has been and always will be! Many years of youth ministry have made it clear to me that young people are a number one priority for the church.
This is not an idle assertion but one that I can personally attest to. As a teenager, I attended a Seventh-day Adventist school. My parents weren’t particularly interested in church, but they wanted to give me the best, so they sent me to Adventist school. However, during those pivotal teenage years, my life changed dramatically.
Seeing my growing interest in the Adventist faith, my father once said to me, “You will never become a Seventh-day Adventist because if someone gives you a sports game on the Sabbath, you will play it. He was both right and wrong. He was right to say that at the time, spzrt was my number one priority, but he was wrong to underestimate the power of the influence of the Holy Spirit working through a group of contagious Adventist school friends. , with a dedicated and very relational youth director.
It was youth ministry at its best, and it ultimately led me to surrender my life to Christ and put Him first. This decision radically changed my life. I then studied ministry and spent 30 years working in the youth ministries department. As such, I have seen that even though times may change, the relational needs of young people remain the same.
Into this mix comes the central role of life-transforming youth events, where young people have the unique opportunity to meet and mingle with other like-minded young people at events designed just for them. These include local church youth days, conference-wide youth rallies and camps, national and international youth conventions, and pathfinder camps. The significance of these events is borne out by a series of very important studies of youth over the years.
the Valuegenesis Europe youth survey (2007) involved over 6,000 young adults, ages 14-25, and found not only that youth ministry has a powerful impact, but also that youth ministry events are highly valued. “74.6% of those who have actually experienced such activities say that ministering to union or conference youth is important because it promotes their faith development.”¹ Faith development is important to all stages of life, but most crucial during adolescence and young adulthood. years when so many life-defining decisions are made.
I remember my first international camporee, sitting around the evening campfire, marveling at the atmosphere. This was also true of my experiences with Youth Congresses. I swore that as long as I am involved in youth ministry, I will ensure that other young people have the opportunity to have similar experiences. I have seen how young people look forward to events such as International Youth Congresses and Explorers’ Camporees. To be part of a faith-affirming event involving hundreds, if not thousands, of other like-minded young people is inspiring. It is also heartwarming to see how the youth ministries calendar has grown and expanded over the years to include many faith-building opportunities for all.
Life is a cycle. This is what a parent very involved with my generation of young people told me one day. “In turn, you will help the group of my children,” he added. I have never forgotten those very wise words, and I pray for the current generation of youth leaders at all levels as they help our young people establish, maintain and share their faith.
¹Stephan Sigg, A spiritual home for young people? Adventist youth and their church seen from Data from Valuegenesis Europe, Part 111, Spes Christiana flight. 24, (Theoogische Hochschule Friedensau, 2013), p. 164.