A Recap: Growing Young Cohort

With SECC Team and SCC Hispanic Leadership at Growing Young Cohort

It was rather a cold, crispy, and chill (yes, in SoCal) morning when we (me and Pastor Juan Martinez II from the Atlanta Korean SDA Church) were frantically searching for the visitor parking area that was supposed to be under Fuller’s Psychology building.

After prayerfully circling the campus a couple times, our eyes opened, parked, ran up the stairs and rushed toward the general direction of where the cohort was to begin.

Up the steps, near the entrance, we were warmly greeted with a sweet breakfast aroma (mmmmmm) that filled the air — along with leadership teams from not only all over the country but from various denominations all gearing up to “Grow Young” as a church community and restore the vitality and pulse of the church for mission.

We were seated with a group from UCC-Medfield (United Church of Christ in Medfield, Massachusetts) where there were 8 leaders from the ages 20–63 all inter-generationally seated together to grow young together.

I was personally delighted to see the young & old all seated together to learn, converse and grow young together.

Because, in its essence that’s what Growing Young is all about.

Growing Young is not about youth ministry or young adult ministry. It’s all about inter-generational collaboration for culture transformation.

We, at Atlanta Korean SDA Church, have embarked upon what is now already a 3-year journey where the whole church (both young and old) made a corporate executive decision to delegate the church to the next generation and were wholeheartedly committed to developing next generation leaders, especially the 2nd generation of Korean-American Seventh-day Adventists.

From the very beginning, the decision our church had made to ‘delegate the church leadership to the next generation of leaders’ (aka. exercise keychain leadership in Growing Young terminology) was unheard of and was an uncharted territory.

So, we leaned heavily into what I had been involved with at the Center for Youth Evangelism a few years back— known as COR (Church of Refuge) with its 9 COR Values.

The model with COR was very simple.

It wasn’t something that was dumped on the youth leader or even a young adult. But it was the senior and younger church leadership coming together to commit themselves — to implement the 9 COR Values in their ministry context — which would naturally ‘nudge’ their course of leadership to develop next generation leaders.

So, when the book Growing Young came out, it was awfully familiar and made perfect sense. In fact, I remembered meeting Kara and giving her the COR Brochure back in 2011 at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference (SYMC) in Indianapolis, IN.

With Kara back in 2011 at SYMC (Simply Youth Ministry Conference)

Growing Young is based on a research that found 6 essential strategies that would help guide the whole church (not just the youth group) — to grow young together.

Kara and her team at Fuller, after talking with 250+ churches, found 6 essential character traits that were common to churches that were growing young.

And they are: (equivalent to COR Values)

  1. Unlock keychain leadership (Leadership, Change)
  2. Empathize with today’s young people (Acceptance)
  3. Take Jesus’ message seriously (Sabbath <Gospel>)
  4. Fuel a warm community (Community, Support)
  5. Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere (Budget, Change, Leadership)
  6. Be the best neighbors (Service)

And they have done a marvelous job of simplifying and packaging this very important and critical research with an assessment, splendid support system, action steps along with coaching w/ other church communities (1-year long cohort) that’s very local church friendly.

And here I was at the Growing Young Cohort with a community of leaders that were on their quest to grow young.

And I was joined by our friends and leaders at SECC (Southeastern California Conference) as well as the Hispanic leadership at SCC (Southern California Conference).

And with so much vitality and energy in the room with great reminders of how a,

Vision is a shared story of hope

and how great leadership transitions people from

Complaining to creating

and profound changes take place only when we view young people as

Possibilities instead of liabilities

hope began to rise and my eyes once again opened to the story God was wanting to write with the church here at the North American Division and all over the world.

I was reminded that Growing Young as a Adventist Church (where the current median age is 62) will need to begin with a:

Posture than Proclamation.

And that posture is listening.

It all begins with empathetic hearts listening to one another and beginning the process (not taking positions but being on journey) of grow young together.

As Scott Cormode put it,

What people fear isn’t change but loss.

What we’re not trying to do is take each other’s budget.

Instead, we’re wanting to all invest together — to Grow Young together.

We’re not going to fight for our position — but align our postures in a way where we are actively attentive to each other’s needs.

And more than anything else, instead of accusing or blaming each other we’re going to practice the holy benefit of the doubt and believe in one another and work together as a family.

Family is messy.

And we’re all in this together.

And how beautiful (and glorifying to God) would it be, if we were Growing Young together as a family every single day.