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Did I Lose You?
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By Hubert Cisneros
 
Pastors and elders are responsible for the people in their parish including the 70% of our youth and young adults who end up leaving. Did I lose you with that opening line? If not – keep reading. That is why Steve Case and I have written a book (training manual) to train youth leaders and leading youth. The name of the book is, A Place To Belong[1] and it comes out of personal experience.
 
Our church Sabbath School leader was a busy attorney by the name of Lloyd Summers. Lloyd also coached our Boulder Junior Academy (now Vista Ridge Academy) basketball and football team. At the same time, I was beginning to get into trouble. My loving and caring parents were aware of my harmful choices but like many teens I dismissed them and their efforts to help me.
 
Lloyd learned what was happening and went into action. First, he got permission to pull me out of class. Next, he met me in the hallway and asked if he could talk to me privately about a serious matter. Soon, I found myself walking with Lloyd to the parking lot and sitting with him in his car. In a calm and caring manner Lloyd confronted me about the bad choices I was making. At the end of the conversation Lloyd said that the reason he came to talk to me was to pray with me so that I would stop destroying my life. This intervention was just what I needed. Afterward, he continued helping me to deal with my situation and turn my life around.
 
In January 2014, we learned at the NAD Ministries Convention in Monterey, California, from David Kinnaman that 59% of young adults stay active in the church because an adult, other than pastor or parent, took an interest in their life. I am one of those 59%. Kinnaman[2] informs us that we are losing up to a staggering 70% of our youth and young adults. What a tragedy!
 
My experience has taught me that we actually lose our young adults when they are much younger. We lose them when they are 13-16 years of age. If we don’t have a place for them to belong by the time they get the keys to the car – it is too late. What can we do for our young people before it is too late? The solution to this problem is not a simple one but I believe the key is by training youth leaders and leading youth.
 
I went on from my experience in Boulder, Colorado, to attend college and become a minister. In the seminary I took a class from Steve Case in youth ministry and soon afterward became a youth director of a local conference. I became busy with summer camp and Pathfinders, but I didn’t have a ready-made tool to help me train youth leaders and leading youth of local congregations. When I became a youth director of a union I received a call from a local pastor to help him train the youth leaders in his three church district. I searched my library for anything that would help. The only thing I had was Steve’s syllabus so I tried some of the material and the principles really proved effective. That’s when Steve and I teamed up to design the material into the special manual that it is. It is our hope and prayer that this tool can be a helpful and important tool for your church.
 
The training is rewarding and simple. Recruit leading youth and adults who love young people. Get a personal copy for each of your team members so they can take notes (Steve and I get zero royalties). Just read the six chapter manual together with your group and do the exercises. The manual will train you. Take a chapter per week or take a weekend. The manual is ideal for one person or for a group of any size. 
 
Please help stop the internal bleeding of our most precious commodity and thank you for making an effort.
 
Here is a great promise from God to encourage you: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6 NKJV
 
Hubert Cisneros is youth director for the Mid-America Union Conference
 

[1] A Place to Belong can be ordered at www.AdventSource.org | 800.328.0525
[2] David Kinnaman, president Barna Group, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church….and Rethinking Faith.”