Retaining young people in the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the focus of a special tour organised by the South New Zealand (SNZ) Conference and featuring youth ministry expert Dr Nick Kross.
The Conference administration team of president Pastor Mike Sikuri, secretary Paul Devine and youth director Sarah-Jane Riley joined Dr Kross as he presented on “The adolescent mind”. Each night the team travelled to a different church in a different town on New Zealand’s South Island to equip members, old and young, with knowledge that could help them support the young people in their congregations.
Earlier this year, Pastor Sikuri and his team travelled around the Conference, speaking with churches and getting a feel for the needs and issues confronting them. One of the issues raised was the fact that in some of the churches there were no young people and in others there were very few.
“If we do not address this issue now, in 10 or 20 years we will have to close some of our churches,” Pastor Sikuri told a number of the congregations throughout the week. “We refuse to see that as an option.”
The tour started in the north and west of the South Island, with stops in Nelson, Blenheim, Westport and Greymouth.
Then, after a brief pitstop in Christchurch, the tour moved to the southern half of the island, visiting Timaru, Queenstown, Invercargill, Dunedin and finally returning to Christchurch for the final weekend.
“This week has been a blessing for us; travelling through the South Island, meeting with a number of our churches, our people, many of whom were concerned,” Pastor Sikuri said. “They love their young people; the fact that many of them are missing is a huge concern for us.”
Dr Kross spent time describing the conditions that young people experience today, the systemic abandonment they often face and the changing societal pressures that see them grow up slower as their period of adolescence is drawn out.
“Gaining an insight into what they are going through helps us to better care for these precious young people and children that God has blessed us with,” Pastor Sikuri said. “We want to do something about it and create places of worship where our young people feel safe. They’re already struggling with so much in the world, struggling to be relevant and to be accepted. We believe our churches can provide that opportunity for them.”
Pastor Sikuri spent time talking about the support systems that parents and the Church can put in place to mitigate some of those factors.
Dr Kross spoke about the need to provide “social scaffolding” and “social capital” to adolescents. Social capital is any investment of time you can make in young people, learning about them and knowing their names. Social scaffolding is skills or qualities you can teach them that will help them with their lives.
Every session ended with a chance for participants to break into smaller groups and talk about how they could apply these lessons in their own church context, beginning a conversation that the SNZ Conference hopes will continue.
“We continue to let the Lord lead and we look forward to seeing what He will do here in the South Island, both in our homes and in our churches,” Pastor Sikuri said.
Adventist Record editor, Jarrod Stackelroth, also attended the trip at the invitation of the SNZ Conference. He blogged his experience which you can read below: