After Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, officially opened the Annual Council session on Thursday evening, Gary Blanchard, youth director for the Adventist World Church, led those present in a call and response exercise.
“Pass it on!” he called from the stage.
Following Blanchard’s instructions, everyone in the audience replied, “Identity! Mission! Leadership!” and then leapt from their seats, fists in the air, shouting, “Pass it on!”
Thus began the Annual Council session on LEAD, short for Leadership Education And Development. Prayer, then praise singing with students from Washington Adventist University put everyone in a Christ-focused mindset, and the New England Youth Ensemble performed an exciting and well-executed classical piece. Pathfinders from the Greater New York Conference demonstrated a tight drumline and marching drill as they carried in the flags.
Pathfinders By the Millions
A video, followed by an interactive Q&A led by Pako Mokgwane, associate youth director for the Adventist World Church, provided inspiring worldwide numbers regarding youth in the global church:
- 4 million in AY
- 0.5 million ambassadors
- 2 million Pathfinders
- 1.5 million Adventurers
“Each new initiative ignites an everlasting fire in the hearts of our youth that they can share with others,” Mokgwane said with passion. “Pathfinders is the youth ministry program with the strongest retention rate in the whole of the church. This is an important ministry.”
Blanchard gave the devotional, focused on the motto of the Department of Youth Ministries: Pass it on. He said all young people are asking the following three questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I belong?
“It is a race between the church and the world to answer those three questions,” Blanchard said with a meaningful pause. “We need to help them to find identity in Christ, a mission in Adventism, and leadership opportunities within the church. We have to pass on these values to our young people and we have to do it fast.”
Of the One Year in Mission (OYiM) initiative, Wilson said the goal was to “engage young people in a dynamic way to reach out to others through their own focus on God’s word and a relationship with him, and do something in service to other people.” Around the world there are 500 cities being targeted with this program, and 6,218 young people participating.
Public Campus Ministries (PCM)talked about their initiative to inspire Adventist college students attending non-Adventist colleges and universities to be “modern-day Daniels and Esthers” and reach others for Christ on their campuses. This program includes a magazine, Dialogue, which addresses the challenges students may face while attending college, such as alcohol use, evolution theories, and keeping the Sabbath.
Karen Glassford, digital evangelism manager for Adventist World Radio, shared that 80 percent of young people around the world have smart phones, and many of them claim their top hobby to be video games.
“Cell phone evangelism is a reality, and it is powerful.” She shared several stories of lives being changed due to cell phone evangelism initiatives around the world.
Kamil Metz, director of publishing ministries for the Michigan Conference, reported that every year there are 24,000 young people participating in literature evangelism, reaching five million people annually.
“Believe in your young people,” Metz said. “Invest in our young people. They will in turn invest in the church and the mission of the church.”
Purchase The Open Door,a book of stories from youth in literature evangelism across North America)
Train Up A Child
Associate director of health ministries, for the Adventist World Church, Katia Reinert, talked about the Youth Alive initiative; the South Pacific Division announced their new World Changer Bible, which includes information on how to change the world one person at a time; and the South African-Indian Ocean Division presented a new program that engages community youth through Pathfinders. The Inter-American Division also talked about their mentorship program in which church officers serve as mentors for youth.
To end the evening, the North American Division presented on their summer camp evangelism, taking place at 54 reported summer camps throughout the Adventist Church in North America. The presentation included several inspiring numbers: Every summer there are
- 2680 camp staff hired
- 25,639 campers across the division
- 11,110 decisions for Christ
- 3,636 baptisms
Abner de los Santos, General Vice President for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, closed with prayer, saying, “Lord, you have made young people your helping hands. Thank you for leaders around the world helping us work together as an intergenerational church to inspire others so the world is ready to see Jesus come soon.”