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Young Adult Retention Summit

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I am sitting in the GC Auditorium waiting for worship to begin (I am attending the NAD Year-end Meetings here in Silver Spring, Md) listening to the organ and piano playing a rendition of Blessed Assurance. Oh my, wish you could be here – it is so inspiring!  

I can’t help but think about how blessed we are to be a part of this great movement – and blessed to share the truth of God’s Word to lost men, women, boys and girls.  Let us never forget why we do what we do.  

To grow God’s Kingdom is an amazing privilege and one that we must stay focused on.

However, there is one report that concerned me. Below is reflection on the Young Adult Retention Summit and NAD Year-End Meetings by Justin Yang (Ministries Director for Center for Youth Evangelism).

Blessings, Wayne Culmore, President

Original article can be found here.

According to the latest statistical report by G. Alexander Bryant (Secretary of NAD), NAD currently has 1,191,436 members.

Out of 1,191,436 members — about 15% of them (177,724) are considered youth.

And out the 177,724 youth, approximately 56% (99,134) are young adults.

And if the latest statistic on our young adult attrition is correct, we’re losing about 70% of our 99,134 (which accounts for 69,393) young adults.

Which leaves us with the remaining 30% — which comes out to 29,741.

Now to give you a perspective — out of 1,191,436 members in NAD — we only have 29,741 members that are between the ages 18–30.

That’s about 2.5% of the membership.

Think about the for a second.

Let that sink in.

That’s the reality we’re facing as a church.

If you’re having a hard time believing this, take a look of the net loss we’ve experienced globally as a church. (by David Trim, GC Archives and Statistics)

This report reveals that we’ve lost approximately 284,587 members every year for the last 40 years.

To give you another perspective, at the NAD Year-End Meetings, everyone over 40 was asked to sit down. Guess how many remained standing up? (See picture below.)

Many of our Union Magazines and Adventist Media have been doing a fantastic job by posting articles and pictures of our 2.5% young adults that were still willing to come and let us take their pictures at our events.

And most of our members saw these articles and pictures and thought — we’re still doing pretty good with our young adults.

But nothing could have been further from the truth and the reality we were facing as a church.

Recently, some young adults in our Adventist Colleges/Universities couldn’t just stand by and do nothing about losing their beloved peers. So, they came up with a plan and contacted the NAD Administration for their support.

Thankfully, the NAD Administration chose to fund this summit (quite an investment) and flew in student representatives from all of our Adventist College/University campuses.

Debra Brill, the NAD Vice-President personally came to witness and participate in this summit with the young adults and received an official documentation that was collectively written as a testimony and appeal to the church leadership.

And that written documentation was presented to all the delegates at this year’s NAD Year-End Meetings. (I was told that the written documentation will be available shortly.)

It was also noted in these meetings that we have more students that are attending Public College/University Campuses. And that there’s a desperate need for us to be more intentional in connecting our students to local churches nearby public campuses and to empower the local church leadership to minister & mentor our students on these campuses. It is estimated that we have about 100,000 students in public campuses.

And how many of our 5,449 churches are nearby a public college/university campus? We’ll soon find out.

But what we do know is only about 450 churches out of our 5,449 churches currently have a ministry for young adults.

That’s about 8.2% of our churches in NAD.

Again, think about that for a second.

What would happen if were to intentionally equip our local congregations to be welcoming, friendly, and empowering to our young adults?

Our young people will not simply drift away or find one of the reasons above to leave.

Please note that 53% of our members either just drift away or leave because they see no compassion in the church. They either find no reason to stay or feel no love in the Adventist Church.

The more we dig and research — we find that member attrition isn’t just a young adult issue. It’s an issue for the church-at-large.

Unless the church (that’s us) begin to provide reasons to stay and become the most loving church people will ever experience in their lifetime — we’ll continue to lose both our young (and older) people.

Love is the only reason to stay in a relationship.
Love is the only reason to stay in a church community.
The only antidote to attrition is love — more fierce, passionate, persevering love.
And the thing about love is — it can’t be systematized or made into a nice grid or strategy.

But it can be a intentional choice we make on a daily and weekly basis.

*To go beyond the “Happy Sabbath” and the handshake — and really deeply care for the individual that you’re shaking hands with.
*Send a text message or call that person in the middle of the week to check how they’re doing.
*When in transition or re-location — connecting that individual with a spiritual community in the area they are moving to.
*When graduating from our or public college or university campuses — don’t just give them a diploma and say “have a nice life” but intentionally connect them with a job and a safe spiritual community.
*When contacting them as our alumni — don’t just ask for money but check how they are doing spiritually.
*Don’t abuse them by only calling when you need them for quick menial labor — (church clean-up, graphic design or website creation) in the church or need their picture for the union magazine.
*Continue the discipleship/mentorship process even after they get baptized.
*Entrust them with church property, funding and leadership.
*Have the Ministerial and Youth department to talk to each other and work together.
*Stop fighting about women’s ordination or seventh-gay adventists.
*Go beyond theological differences and unite to deeply love each other and our community.
*These are just some of the things we can do now — to not only retain but deeply love and empower this generation!

No doubt, — God is definitely on the move to gather this generation to Himself.

His heart in on fire — to raise an army of youth and young adults that will finish the work.

I pray that you’ll join Him in this movement.

By Justin Yang

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