Tell us about the adults in your faith communities who are showing up for today’s young people. Share stories about their courage, faithfulness, energy and boundless love. They come from all seasons of life. They are #GYA heroes because they love next generations extraordinarily well. And we are so grateful for them.
To our #GrowingYoungAdventists Heroes: Thank you for showing young people what it means to follow Jesus. For leading them through tumultuous years of discovering who they are and where they belong. For encouraging them to raise their doubts and share their hopes. For sitting with them even when their friends shut them out. In showing up for young people, you’re showing up for all of us. You’re making an impact as you equip them with lifelong faith and unleash them to change the world.
Here are some of our hero stories:
Keychain Leadership: Greg Phillips is a pastor in Oregon at the Pleasant Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church. He has a passion for developing young leaders. Four years ago the church started a college/young adult ministry. As the ministry became more organized, they developed core team of leaders to oversee the ministry and work on developing younger leaders. During a particular leadership meeting, Pastor Greg shocked a young adult named Andrea, by handing her a master key for the church. She was so pumped about this, that she posted a photo of the key on her Instagram. Andrea is a “key” young adult ministry leader in Portland with a passion for sharing Jesus and reaching the next generation.
Warm Community: At the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Paradise Valley, AZ, the former senior pastor, now retired, Paul Gibson would stand in the church parking lot every Sabbath morning with his wife, greeting people by name. Many church members shared that this parking lot greeting was the reason they came to this church, Pastor Paul cared about people by receiving them with a hug and kind word every time they came to church. Church felt warm and inviting.”
Empathy: Larry Chadwick, church member from the Camelback Seventh-day Adventist Church in Phoenix, AZ, would regularly take young adults Taco Bell, where Larry paid for dinner. Well into his 60s, Larry spent most of this time listening to the stories of young adults. He listened to understand, not to reply.
Taking Jesus’ Message Seriously: An Adventist church in the Southwest wrestled with how to best live out the gospel in their city. They felt God calling them to close their church on a Sabbath and go out and love the community. They put a date on the calendar and called the effort “Servant Sabbath.” All church members were asked to dress in casual clothes, show up at the church for a short message from the pastor, and then head out for three hours to serve in one of twelve different ministries for the community that had been set up in advance. No one really knew how many church members would show up on that Sabbath. To the shock of the pastoral team, over 300 people showed up. After the effort was done and everyone returned to the church a member replied, “This is the best Sabbath I have ever had, we should do this every week.”
Prioritizing Young People: An Adventist church wanted to better reach young people and families, so they launched a monthly “Children’s Church” which brought the sermon message–in the big church–to life for kids. When you focus on young people, everyone wins. This monthly gathering exploded, and in a few months there were 80+ kids coming to Children’s Church. There little meeting room was packed. Kids where being invested in. The adult leadership team soon put teenagers in load bearing roles for Children’s Church. The teenagers rose to the occasion, and became the leaders of this ministry. Prioritizing young people literally changed the culture of this Seventh-day Adventist Church engaging kids, teenagers, and parents.
Best Neighbors: Another Adventist church in the Southwest wanted to reach out to the homeless in Phoenix, AZ. Around Christmas time, they purchased 1000 warm blankets and distributed them on Christmas morning to the homeless community through a local family shelter. After the project was done they asked the question, “What is the real need of the homeless in Phoenix?” In talking with a bunch of community organizations, it was discovered that one of the biggest needs was high quality backpacks for homeless guests to carry their personal belongings. Over the next 8 years, this church launched a project called “Backpacks for Christ” which provided over $250,000 in high quality backpacks to the homeless community. Being the best neighbors meant asking the question, “What are the real needs and how can we help?”