Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the north, central, and mountain range of Chihuahua in Mexico recently provided leadership skills to dozens of children and adolescents from across the region with a special program they have coined “The Conference of Tomorrow.” The program seeks to involve young church members between the ages of 10 and 15 in leading at different levels of the church, including administrative, departmental, pastoral, and the local church, for one week.
Leadership Training Initiative
This is the first year the initiative has drawn youngsters to experience firsthand how the church operates from the local level to the conference level, church leaders said. The program swept throughout the Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Delicias, Cuaubtémoc, Parral, Valle De Zaragoza, Nuevo Casas Grandes, El Terrero, and Creel regions on May 14–21.
“Our main objective is to promote church leadership development among children and adolescents and prepare them to be the future leaders of the church,” said Pastor Ivan Orozco, Youth Ministries director for the church in the Chihuahua Mexican Conference. Each position was filled at the local level, including the pastor, treasurer, and elders. Each department or ministry leader was elected, he said.
Children, adolescents, and youth were also selected to be part of the leadership training at the conference office to shadow leaders and take part in decisions and meetings, explained Orozco. “Each child or adolescent performed their responsibilities in person, spending days in the office or at church and organizing activities.”
Learning Numerous Responsibilities
Throughout most of the churches that took part in the leadership development program, young people dealt with numerous responsibilities and issues, said Alma Ubaldo, Children and Adolescent Ministries director for the Chihuahua Mexican Conference. “Every participating church elected its pastors and church board and the participants to organize the church activities of the week. While being mentored, they visited families and met with district pastors, among other activities.”
Because the State of Chihuahua is so large, two groups of “Conference of Tomorrow” were organized so children could have the opportunity to take part in the experience in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, where the conference office is located, explained Ubaldo. The group included the election of two sets of conference administrators and departmental teams, she said.
The first part of the conference level training began in Ciudad Juarez, where participants led the program during a church elder congress.
The second conference team of children and adolescents visited the office in Chihuahua City for orientation and work in the office. “We gave them the keys to the office, and each leader explained each role of their department, what their responsibilities were, made calls, took part in leading meetings, and then met together on Zoom to speak to the ‘pastors of tomorrow,’” said Ubaldo.
Several outreach activities were proposed by young people; among them were plans to hold a large health brigade in Ciudad Juarez and an initiative to invite young people who are not from church to a special program celebrated on Students’ Day in the country.
In addition, the young group took care of incoming calls, held meetings with pastors and church leaders, held a planning session on a detailed proposed initiative coined the “Conference [or Church] of Tomorrow” to be studied by the North Mexican Union, voted, and later shared with the rest of the conferences in the territory.
In previous years, many of the local churches featured young children and adolescents in a similar leadership program as part of an honor class requirement in Pathfinder clubs, but soon, it was adopted to become an initiative to be followed across the conference, added Ubaldo.
Young Leadership Experiences
Valeria Orozco was elected to be the treasurer of the Chihuahua Centro Adventist Church. “I really liked how the church is well organized,” she said. “When the deacons collected the tithes and offerings, I had to verify the funds collected were correct and had to post them on an Excel sheet. I had to also make some payments.”
Hector Olivares, who was named president of the conference during the program, shared that the experience taught him a lot about church leadership. “I learned that as president of the conference, you have to keep good relations with your administration and leadership, and your presence is very important to carry out the order,” said Olivares. “What I most enjoyed was leading people and coordinating and helping others.”
Pastor Arturo King, president of the North Mexican Union, applauded the efforts of conference leaders for the young leadership development initiative. There are other fields that have trained children and adolescents at the local church level, but the Chihuahua Conference is the first field across the union that is holding the activity in various levels, said King. “We encourage children and young people to serve in their churches. Without their creativity, enthusiasm, and strength, many churches will start to die. Each one must put their gifts and talents to the service of the Lord.”
Conference leaders said they plan to continue the initiative as an annual program throughout the territory.