More than 45 young Adventist leaders from across Australia recently traveled to Elanora Heights in Sydney (NSW) to attend the Adventist Students Association (ASA) Summit on July 26-28.
Organised by Australian Union Conference Youth Ministries director Pastor Jeffrey Parker, the ASA Summit is an event that aims to support individuals in leadership positions in student clubs and ministries on university campuses across Australia.
“Many of our universities around Australia have student association clubs,” said Mr Parker. “[We want to] support them and help them develop stronger outreach on their university campuses.”
Despite its purpose of spiritual development and networking for university outreach leaders, the summit also attracted individuals from other ministry areas, including a young Adventist team who design Christian shirts and merchandise in Melbourne, as well as Adventists involved in the Red Frogs program in Queensland.
Attendees were challenged by a number of speakers, including South Pacific Division Youth Ministries director Dr Nick Kross and Andrews University (USA) chaplain Pastor Michael Polite, who encouraged them to actively fulfill God’s purpose for their lives, specifically in sharing the gospel.
Timothy Pinzone, president of Adventist Students on Campus (ASOC) at Macquarie University (Sydney), was inspired by his conversations with other young people over the weekend.
“Meeting young leaders, many of whom travelled from interstate to attend, and hearing the stories of young people involved in ministry was inspiring,” he said. “And on top of all that, Pastor Michael Polite came from the US to preach to us, and delved deeper into Bible stories to give them deeper meaning for our lives.”
Mr Pinzone said that, during the summit, he realised Sydney-based universities are blessed to have an established Adventist presence.
“A lot of other states don’t have any Adventist presence at all in their universities,” he explained. “Here in Sydney, only Western Sydney University and Sydney University don’t have official Adventist clubs, but in places like Western Australia, campus ministry is almost entirely non-existent.”
Mr Parker considers that one of the biggest barriers to university ministry is the transient nature of university students. Even Adventist students who could help lead on-campus ministries are often already busy with a heavy study load, or with local church ministries, which adds to the challenge.
“Sharing Jesus on the secular campus can be quite difficult as well,” said Mr Parker. “We definitely need to spend more energy as a Church reaching university students.”
Despite these challenges, Mr Pinzone believes university campuses are some of the most untapped mission fields.
“Students are the perfect people to reach—so many of them have their whole lives ahead of them yet don’t know where they want to go,” he says. “Many are lost and searching for meaning and purpose. They try everything from getting good marks to joining activist and political groups, to securing high paying jobs, but they never seem to find peace or purpose. They don’t realise it’s the Bible that’s going to give them that.”
The ASOC President has also experienced firsthand the abundant blessings to be gained from on-campus ministries.
“The lives of students have been changed by ASOC groups. In fact, the entire 2018 ASOC Executive team at Macquarie were all baptised as a result of joining. Now, they’re church and ministry leaders! Uni students aren’t walking into churches, but we can bring the gospel to them, and through that they can find the peace and purpose they’re looking for.”
The ASA Summit has been running for many years, with an event held every year during the winter break. The AUC intends to hold the summit again next year to continue supporting student groups across the nation.