Reflecting a powerful partnership between Adventist Health Ministries and Youth Ministries, as well as other stakeholders including Family Ministries, Public Campus Ministries, Adventist Education and Global Mission, “Youth Alive” is a program that is being adopted around the world to transform the lives of young people and reach new communities.
“Youth Alive has been part of the ministry of the Church for many decades,” explains Dr Katia Reinert, associate director of Health Ministries for the General Conference and global coordinator for Youth Alive. In 2018, she was tasked with transforming the Youth Alive program, which she did by bringing it into the online space, updating resources and creating video materials and apps.
“The program has evolved over the years, but it’s main goal has always been to build resilience among youth and young adults against at risk behaviors,” she says.
Youth Alive: Focused on relationships
Centered around an online portal filled with training and resources, Youth Alive is structured to create and build relationships in small-group settings. The portal offers training webinars for leaders around the world, who learn how to implement the program in their local context. Implementation is often achieved through collaborations with local churches, centers of influence, secondary schools or university campuses.
“It’s all about building relationships,” says Dr Reinert. “We train Youth Alive leaders to bring together a group of young people, where they worship, play games and do service projects together, but they also talk about the issues they’re facing, and learn about risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol, suicide or mental/emotional struggles.”
As well as being multifaceted in its approach, Youth Alive is an intergenerational program where youth leaders work together with adult mentors. Based on the Intergenerational Churches of Refuge (iCOR) model, the program is structured around ten values that promote healthy relationships, spiritual growth, mission and empowerment.
“At the core, we really try to encourage and motivate young people to make better choices—both for mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing,” explains Dr Reinert. “The program looks at people as wholistic beings. In that light, it brings together scientific evidence and research but also emphasizes a spiritual and Christian worldview specifically, focused on Christ and God’s purpose for our lives.”
While Youth Alive focuses on helping youth make healthier choices, Dr Reinert says that worship and Bible study is incorporated as youth are discipled. Being a values-based program, it is flexible to adapt to different contexts and needs in post-modern and secular environments.
“If you’re going to use Youth Alive in countries that are resistant to Christianity, where there are other faiths, or even in secular postmodern societies, you can adapt the program to that context,” she says. “Everyone should feel welcome in youth alive friendship groups—not only just Christians.”
Pilot Programs: Growth despite COVID-19
Currently, there are several pilot programs using the updated version of the Youth Alive curriculum running around the world, especially in countries where the Adventist presence is small and there are few young people.
ALBANIA—In the summer of 2019, a group of young Adventists in Albania set out to establish a downtown center of influence and reach their community by running Youth Alive.
“It was a big vision of the local leaders, they had done so much planning and preparation to get their center of influence ready, and then the pandemic hit,” says Dr Reinert. “They had to change their approach and go online. A lot of youth had already participated so they kept engaged.”
The program influenced the lives of many young people, including a young woman who was initially suicidal, and with depressive symptoms. Now, 18 months on, she is among the leaders involved in running the program.
“The group grew, many found purpose and are now helping grow the program in another city!” says Dr Reinert. “They are doing beautiful things with and for youth in their community in Albania.”
LITHUANIA—The Adventist church in Lithuania had a similar experience, where COVID quashed their initial plans to run Youth Alive. “But they were so creative in how they ministered through social media and online programs,” explains Dr Reinert. “They did service activities, and kept youth engaged. One of them started having Bible studies and made a decision for baptism!”
MONGOLIA—“There is another story I simply must share, although it happened a few years ago,” continues Dr Reinert. “Three young men in Mongolia came along to a Youth Alive conference, they were Buddhists. They were into drugs and alcohol, and one was suicidal.”
At the conference, they all heard about Jesus for the first time and continued to attend the ongoing Youth Alive Friendship Group meetings. “They all ended up giving their lives to God and got baptized, and eventually became Adventist pastors!” says Dr Reinert.
One of the young men, Orgil, went on to become the youth director for the Adventist Church in Mongolia for many years and is now the Pathfinder Director. Now in his 30s, he continues to use the Youth Alive program in his ministry.
Time to take action
The revamped Youth Alive program is teeming with brand new resources, but Dr Reinert says that awareness about the program is still building.
“Some places around the world still don’t know about it, so we’ve been trying to raise awareness and familiarize them with it,” she explains. “The program started originally in the US and was well implemented in some countries in Asia and Africa, but we’re now focused in increasing its presence in all of the world’s Divisions.”
“It can be a very grass-roots program and we’re calling everybody to become ambassadors,” she continues. “If you want to run Youth Alive Club or Friendship group at your local church or school, then encourage you to sign up under ‘leaders’ in the youth alive portal! Then you will have access to all the resources. It’s also important you get trained to become an effective facilitator.”
If you feel inspired to reach your local community by running the Youth Alive program, you can find out more by visiting https://youthaliveportal.org/en.