By Erica Jones
Have you ever been told to “put your money where your mouth is”? The origin of this widely-known expression is unclear, but its intended meaning is not: when you value something, you put your resources behind it.
For years, we have been watching as a growing number of teens and young adults leave the Adventist Church, and we ask, “’why?” I’ve searched for the answer to this question and have found that one reason surfaces more than any other: they don’t think the church is relevant to them.
The leadership of the North American Division not only recognizes this problem, but has also committed to actively investing in new avenues to reach our young people with a message of hope and wholeness.
When asked to serve as the assistant director for Women’s Ministries, I understood my primary role would be to create resources for teen girls and young adult women. As I travel and meet some of the amazing young women in our division, I feel certain God is leading and opening hearts. As they’ve shared their personal struggles and questions of faith with me, however, I am convinced that unless we minister to our young people in a way that speaks to their everyday lives—and is relative to the real issues (and distractions) they are facing—and in a communication method they respond to—we will continue to see an exodus of this next generation.
Today’s youth are bombarded with thousands of messages every day. They spend an average of nine hours a day on social media. The Church cannot ignore this reality; not only must we have a voice on social media platforms, our voice must be clearer and more relevant than all of the others they are hearing.
|Screen shot of Gorgeous2God website/blog
When the media tells our girls they’re not thin enough or running with the right group of people, we must speak up and help them understand how beautiful they are in God’s eyes. When they struggle to see their own self-worth, we must speak up and remind them that they are daughters of the King.
Together with the NAD Education and Youth departments, Women’s Ministries has developed an online blog to facilitate conversation about real-life issues and to give our young women a place to ask tough questions anonymously. The Gorgeous2God blog serves to inspire and uplift teen girls while providing a Christian perspective on how to navigate the unique challenges they face.
We are often hesitant to open the door for difficult questions because we fear we may not have the answer. But I have found that young adults care less about us having the answers and more about feeling they have spiritual support and the ability to grow in a non-judgmental environment. They are looking for leaders who are consistent, committed, and compassionate. They wilt under criticism, but grow spiritually when they are mentored by a loving, mature Christian family.
If being a Seventh-day Adventist looks like nothing more than a list of “don’ts,” they’re not interested. They’re searching for a faith that is deeper than how they dress or what they eat—a faith that is relevant, engaging, and serves others in practical ways. As leaders, parents, and mentors, we have a critical role to play in encouraging them as they search, and showing compassion and understanding when they stumble.
Every young person needs a feeling of acceptance, belonging, and validation; this must be reinforced by offering opportunities for leadership. Our goal must be to convince them that they have a stake in the future of the Church. I am grateful to be a part of the North American Division family and to have been given an opportunity to serve the Church in a leadership capacity. I thank the leaders of this division for being willing not only to speak up, but to put resources behind what they value: our young people, the future of the Church.
— Erica Jones is the assistant director for the North American Division’s Women’s Ministries Department.
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