“What happens to all those kids in our church,” said Jeff Parker, youth director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, “when around 62 per cent of young people who attend church leave before they’re 30?” And with that challenge ringing in their ears, around 80 young people, youth directors and conference presidents began to work on some key action plans to allow the Adventist Church in Australia to “grow young”.
Pastor Parker told participants to “dream big. Anything and everything is on the table.” And around the table was where real strategising happened—with intergenerational and inter-conference brainstorming and dialogue.
After key note presentations on a variety of topics—including the importance of family in passing on faith, intergenerational and inter-cultural worship—delegates were given the opportunity to engage with focus questions around their tables, with ideas and feedback compiled and reported back at the end of the weekend.
According to the 2017 AUC church attendance survey, the largest age group in our church is 5-14 years after which there is a stiff drop in the 15-24 year bracket.
As a sign of how seriously the church is taking this conversation, South Pacific Division president Pastor Glenn Townend joined the meetings for some time on Friday; Pastor Jorge Munoz, AUC president, was present and involved throughout; and every Conference president attended except one, who’s general secretary attended instead.
“This challenge belongs to all of us–every department, institution and every member,” said Pastor Brendan Pratt, AUC ministerial secretary. “Having AUC admin and all the departments working together on the event was in itself an attempt to model that this challenge belongs to all of us. Youth and Children’s ministry leaders have been doing an amazing job in this space for many years however the solution is not one or two departments but all of us.”
Another significant milestone was the inclusion of a delegation from New Zealand, who were able to observe and take part in the conversations. While acknowledging the different cultural contexts, the team from saw crossover in many areas.
Each day of the Youth Engagement Summit began with worship. Pastors Parker, Murray Hunter (AUC communication and media project officer) and Terry Johnson (Greater Sydney Conference president) presented challenging worships over the three days: Pastor Parker talked about the young boy who gave his loaves to Jesus, Pastor Hunter talked about “our Father,” and the levelling influence that all being under God gives us and Pastor Johnson spoke of the transformative power of hope, in the face of bad news.
On the final day of the summit, conference delegates voted on nine resolutions, including measurable actions, which will keep the Australian church accountable and help to determine progress. These broad strategies include intentional prayer, empowering families, connecting, collaborating and discipling young people, communicating and synergising the strategies throughout all levels of the church and an overall emphasis on growing young.
“It is imperative that the recommendations turn into tangible actions that make a difference,” said Pastor Pratt, who along with other members of the AUC team, helped to plan and execute the weekend.
Members from all departments including ATSIM, Adventist Schools Australia, ministerial, personal ministries and the youth department attended and were involved in the discussions.
“We’re really excited about these nine recommendations and we just hope and pray that the future is going to be really strong for our Church and youth and young adult ministry,” Pastor Parker said.
Keynote presentations have been made available at disciple.org.au.