Transcending talk with types of tithe

An open letter to leaders on developing the next generation

Commentary | A. Allan Martin

An open letter to leaders on developing the next generation

Over the tenure of our past leadership, I was repeatedly impressed by the strong and succinct conviction of Elder Jan Paulsen as to the importance of new generations. Last year, Paulsen articulated in the October edition of Adventist World, "We must give young adults meaningful roles within the church (p.10)." Paulsen also re-initiated the Let's Talk series that he had conducted around the world for over half a decade.

In the afterglow of the 59th General Conference Session, we commence upon the tenure of new leadership for our world church and for many of our divisions. I have already heard wonderful and strong comments from leadership about the importance of young people and the need to retain our young adults. Even though I support these fine and admirable verbal gestures, I feel we fail new generations if we only offer another round of conversations and compelling articles.

So I share this open letter with you, leader -- whether you offer volunteer leadership in your local church or campus or serve as a ministry professional, educator or administrator. Leader, I implore you to move beyond conversations about youth and young adults to conspicuous and calculated action.

Although I admire the outspoken positions our leaders have taken on this issue I want to invite you and every leader in the Adventist Church to transcend talk with tangible action. Specifically I'm asking you to tithe. Tithe one or more of the following beginning today: Travel, time, Timothys, telecasts and talents.

Tithe your travel. Divert one of your travel appointments, and instead sponsor a young adult to be trained ministry leadership. Instead of taking on that 10th speaking appointment or attending another committee meeting, invest that trip's budget into the leadership development of a young adult. In the North American Division, Ignition is especially formulated to deepen the discipleship and leadership development of young adults.

Tithe your time. Offer a 10th of your time each week to mentoring a young adult. If you average a 40-hour workweek, then set aside four hours this week and each week to nurture, apprentice, and encourage a young adult. Begin to pour yourself into the next generation. If you are working a 60-hour workweek and are saying to yourself, "There is no way I can offer six hours each week to mentor a young adult," it may be that you need to change your work habits.

Tithe your Timothys. Empower a 10th of your young leadership to develop new generations. You may be in the situation where you have a large team of young ministry leaders [i.e., a campus ministry or student association for an Adventist college or university]. Ask your team to train, mentor, and nurture the young people who follow them in age. Set aside a tenth of the resources and efforts you give to minister to your campus or church and invest it in the next generation of leaders.

Tithe your telecasts. Dedicate a 10th of your broadcast time to intentionally disciple young adults. Knowing the integral role media plays in young lives, invest in nurturing their spiritual growth through music, television, film, drama, comedy, photography, literature, art or production. Overtly involve young adults in the production, creative, and technical aspects of the tithed endeavor.

For some of you, the pulpit is where you broadcast the Gospel. Afford at least a 10th of the worships in your church to involve young people. If you don't have any youth in your church, more radical tithing may be in order.

Tithe your talents. Begin today to let a young person take your place. The classic parable admonishes us to multiply our talents, not bury them in the sand. Although often referring to talents as money, I would offer here a hybrid application, noting that your skills, abilities, giftedness, and wisdom need to be invested in the next generation. Allow "up and coming" young adults to take roles you might have easily and competently taken. Give them the opportunity to take your place -- at least begin with a 10th of your place.

Dear colleague, I am personally appealing to you to instigate this "tithing" movement today. If you or someone else calls you a "Seventh-day Adventist leader," this talk-transcending-tithing request is for you. Whether travel, time, Timothys, telecasts, or talents, I ask that you put your tithing into motion today.

Thank you for your kind consideration, and in advance I share my gratefulness for your immediate action. I believe that leaders best represent the Christ who relentlessly pursues new generations by transcending talk with tangible transformational relationships. May the God young adults seek be found in and through you.

--A. Allan Martin, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of discipleship and family ministry at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.