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Life Experiment
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at the Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church
By Trevis Moorley and John-Mark Steubing
 
Currently there are over 80 million young adults in the United States. This is a larger group than any other generation in the country. Data supports that 60-70% of Christian young adults (ages 18 – 30) are walking away from church after high school graduation, and the majority are not coming back. Many of these young adults are our sons, daughters, grandchildren, and friends. If this trend continues, the population of the North American Seventh-day Adventist church will begin to dwindle. The church invests much time, energy, and resources in ministry of children and high school students, yet has not built an effective bridge leading into a vibrant adulthood. Given this reality, it is important that our churches place a greater importance on reaching and retaining our young adults.  Pastors, being the leaders in church congregations, are in a prime position to institute changes in their churches. Pastors, along with other church leaders, need to foster an environment conducive to young adult ministry development.
 
The Living in Faith Experiment (LiFExperiment) young adult ministry started when just a few young adults at the Glendale, AZ Adventist Church recognized that there is a need to reach out specifically to this age group. Church leaders associated with the LiFExperiment recognized the importance of young adult ministry development and have supported the efforts of the LiFExperiment. This has resulted in our local church being a warmer, loving, and friendly environment for young adults.
 
There is generally a lack of an active and vibrant young adult population in many churches today.  This age segment can be especially passionate when issues special to them are raised.  The age group is therefore valuable to the church and must be intentionally developed.  The 20-30 somethings with The LiFExperiment determined to put God to the test.  Ultimately, this is not a project of the LiFExperiment – it is God’s project.  We simply make ourselves available. The LiFExperiment is based on claiming the promises God gave is in John 10:10, Matthew 17:20, John 14:12, etc? Are we really living the "abundant LiFE" that Jesus promised us or are we meant for more? What if a group of young adults decided to get serious about living their faith and put Jesus and His promises to the test? What would that look like?  The Living in Faith Experiment is a 3 dimensional project that pursues the following goals:
  1. Grow in Christ (Spiritual Dimension)
  2. Connect With Each Other (Social Dimension)
  3. Serve Our World (Service Dimension)
It offers numerous opportunities to participate in this experiment. The project is focused on reaching 20-30 somethings but welcomes anyone who shares these goals. Events are planned that are related to these three areas with the intention of building community and reaching young adults with opportunities to get involved wherever they feel comfortable. For example, weekly small group Bible studies, co-ed soccer, game nights, prayer meetings, feeding the homeless, and many more.  Some events require church board approval and are therefore discussed with the church leadership during board meetings.  A representative from The LiFExperiment has even been added to the board. It has been our experience that the church leadership is generally very supportive of the events being presented.
 
Young adulthood is a time when many young people are making important decisions in life. Decisions on dating, marriage, which job offer to take, which school to attend, etc. The consequences of these decisions often have a lasting effect on the lives of young people. It is important that the church be present in the lives of young people when these decisions are being made. The average age of a Seventh-day Adventist in North America is in the mid-fifties. This means that there are many seasoned adults who have valuable experience to share.  Most companies recognize the need to pair up seasoned, older workers with the new hires. This process is called mentoring. Mentoring has to be part of our church culture. Most of the seasoned adults of our church have valuable life experience to share with the younger generation. It can sometimes be difficult to convince younger and older adults that it can be mutually beneficial to work together for God. The Arizona Young Adults is in the process of establishing a program which will assist churches in creating a culture of mentoring and loving young adults better. It is suggested that pastors try to implement the program in their local church.
 
No program can be successful without God in the center. Church pastors and other leaders have to commit any young adult program to God in prayer. Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus to help churches learn and grow. It can be easy to become discouraged by the perceived lack of results at times. However, leaders have to commit to a growing journey and they must not let the circumstances diminish God’s plan. The LiFExperiment has been through many seasons where it was not clear how God would develop our ministry. There have been times when we wondered if it was better to discontinue the ministry and put our efforts elsewhere. However, we have decided to claim God’s promises and continue the ministry.
 
Acts 2:42-47 gives us a glimpse into the united lives of the apostles. They met every day, ate together and praised God regularly.  They lived LiFE together.  
 
The North American Division consists of a very culturally diverse church. It can be difficult to achieve unity when many different cultures are under one roof. However, we must strive for it, pray for it and work towards it. What other option do we have? Any successful mentoring program will require unity in the local church.
 
The LiFExperiment seeks to develop young adults be providing opportunities to:
  1. Grow in Christ - We will welcome all who seek Jesus. We desire to be united in our mutual love for Jesus Christ and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with Him. We will lift Jesus up and seek Him earnestly through group prayer, discussion, and study of His word.
  2. Connect with Each Other -  We will welcome all new friends that God brings into our ever growing family, no matter where they are in their lives or where they have been, with outstretched arms and unconditional love. Just like the apostles in Acts 2 were a united group, we too try to foster a community of unity despite our individual differences. We will join together and with others in a variety of fun, uplifting, social activities to facilitate wholesome friendship and Christian unity.
  3. Serve our World - We will seek to “DO” Christianity by demonstrating the love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ through service and evangelism. The Arizona Conference has been instrumental in providing opportunities to serve the local community.
Local churches and conferences will need to provide enthusiastic support for grassroots young adult ministries. Trusting the young adults to lead and make decisions without trying to maintain strict control or being critical is essential for allowing them to learn and grow.  It’s also important to be present, willing to give advice when asked and offer assistance if needed.  Small ministries do not typically have the human resources needed to operate consistently. It takes a lot of volunteer time to plan spiritual, social and service events. Any support from the pastor, local church or conference in these areas is very helpful.

This journey towards loving young adults better and creating an environment where they can flourish and explore their faith together is an extremely rewarding one and desperately needed.  Your efforts will most certainly pay off whether you end up reaching just one young adult or one hundred.  If you don’t already have efforts in place in your church, start.  You don’t need a church full of young adults to begin to intentionally reach out to young adults.  If God can use us, He can use anyone!
 
Trevis and John-Mark co-founded the LiFE Experiment at the Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church.