Leaders Empowered to Work With Youth and Young Adults
Much excitement was stirring around the Atlantic Union as youth leaders and youth registered for the Atlantic Union’s Adventist Youth Ministries Leadership Congress held January 22-25. Typically, each local conference provides an annual leadership training convention for their youth leaders. This year the Atlantic Union Youth Congress, held once every five years, focused on bringing leaders from all youth ministries together for training.
The theme for the event, “The Future is Now,” focused on the fact that youth are the leaders of the church today. The premise is that if youth are engaged in leadership, their ideas being embraced, and they are given an opportunity to lead, then the future of the church will be bright and promising.
The quote, “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world”—Education, p. 271, has been heard in the church for decades. However, the follow-through to give youth the opportunity of not only participating, but sitting at the table to make decisions, was highlighted as a key to the success of engaging the youth now.
More Than 1,100 Trained
Many plans were put into place to make the youth congress, held at the Providence Convention Center and Omni Providence Hotel, in Providence, Rhode Island, successful. Attendance exceeded 1,100 participants. Twenty-seven training tracks were available, including Pathfinders, Adventurers, public campus ministry, young adults, teens, preaching, music ministry, theater ministry, teen leadership training, medical cadets, and Adventist Youth Emergency Services (AYES), among others. Some of the tracks offered were presented in Spanish.
Those attending the congress had 10 opportunities to attend training workshops. Trainers for the workshops were from across the Atlantic Union and the North American Division (NAD). The congress was held in partnership with the North American Division Youth Ministries Department. Arthur Blinci, Adventist Risk Management’s assistant to the president for Strategic Risk Management, presented in the general session, information on ways to protect children. The local conference youth ministries directors took responsibility for planning the event that initially was spearheaded by the former Atlantic Union youth ministries director, José Cortés, Jr.
The worships were inspiring, encouraging the audience to take responsibility for sharing the gospel with others and finish the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. The keynote speakers for the weekend were James Black, NAD Youth Ministries director; José Cortés, Jr., NAD Ministerial associate director; Raewyn Hankins, senior pastor in the Southern California Conference; and Anthony Stanyer, member of the One Year in Mission program.
Each speaker posed a different challenge for youth and youth leaders. The speakers asked the group to change the world by sharing the love of God and rising to the occasion when the opportunity knocks.
“The night service was wonderful. Sometimes, as leaders, we feel as though we are all alone and we want to quit, but God always sends help for us. In turn, we need to help others,” said Gabrielle Brutus, a youth leader from Temple Salem church in Mattapan, Massachusetts.
Ellen White said, “We have an army of youth today who can do much if they are properly directed and encouraged . . . We want them to be blessed of God. We want them to act a part in well organized plans for helping other youth”—General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 29, 1893.
Several compassion projects held just prior to the congress on Thursday, January 22, offered youth and youth leaders the opportunity to serve. Included among those projects were SVDP Ministry of St. Charles Church, a ministry focused on feeding the homeless; two food pantries: West Bay Cap Market Place and Maranatha Food Pantry, where volunteers helped with food distribution; and helping with visitation and prayer at the West Warwick Senior Center.
Compassion was an important element of the congress and continues to be a benefit to the local church youth who are putting their faith to work. “Youthful talent, well organized and well trained, is needed in our churches. The youth will do something with their overflowing energies. Unless these energies are directed into right channels, they will be used by the youth in a way that will hurt their own spirituality, and prove an injury to those with whom they associate”—Gospel Workers, p. 211.
Empowered to Lead
On Sunday, the last day of the congress, many people stopped to give thanks for the well-organized weekend. The youth congress offered training over a broad scope of youth ministries, providing inspiration to allow the participants to go back to their churches empowered to do their work.
“Youth ministry is an important part of the work in the Atlantic Union and I am proud of what is being accomplished for the kingdom,” said Donald King, Atlantic Union Conference president. Until the next congress, we are to labor for the harvest of young people for God’s kingdom!
Josue Feliciano, Southern New England Conference Youth Ministries director, writes in collaboration with the Atlantic Union Youth Ministries directors.