In fall 2019, just months before a global pandemic changed our world forever, a team of young adults in the U.S. Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church felt called to launch a social media page to unite Adventist young professionals.
These young adults had seen many of their peers struggle through the transition from college to professional life. Unfortunately, many of these peers had moved to a new city, struggled to find a church family, and eventually walked away from their faith altogether.
The new organization, called Adventist Young Professionals (AYP), first sought to share stories and inspiration — to help young professionals realize that no matter what they were going through, they were not alone. This group of young adults did not realize at first the wider plan God had for their grassroots movement.
Fast forward to 2023, and AYP unites and connects 7,000 young people around the world through a digital social network, virtual groups that foster intentional Christ-centered discussions, and local, city-based chapters that collaborate with churches to facilitate spiritual gatherings, service activities, and social meetups. AYP is now a global organization fostering Christ-centered community through faith development, authentic connections, and ministry engagement.
So how can a church region benefit from this grassroots ministry? How can church members and pastors support AYP in engaging young people in our local churches? How can we intergenerationally work together in mission to reach young adults for the kingdom?
“It is my hope that the local churches in Mid-America will provide resources and a safe place for this ministry to grow in our union,” MAUC youth director Tyron Douglas said. “AYP not only provides the warm community and authentic connections for our youth and young Adults to grow spiritually, and socially, but also the ministry engagement opportunities and service activities that will bring vitality to many of our congregations.”
With an emphasis toward missions, AYP seeks for all its programs to unite, engage, and inspire young people to get involved in their local church. Beyond fostering intentional community, AYP educates young professionals for missional impact through an annual convention, mentorship, and inspirational devotional resources.
This growth from a digital ministry to a global movement in just four years showcases the possibilities that arise when young people say, “I will go.”
Inspiration and Empowerment
Currently on a path to launch 25 city-based chapters across the North American Division (NAD) by summer 2023, AYP’s founder and president Tim Kosaka met last fall with MAUC youth directors to explore opportunities for collaboration.
The young professional community recently established a chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is collaborating with churches to engage young professionals across the territory. While its presence in MAUC is still relatively new, the impact thus far has been inspirational and empowering.
“It’s so exciting to be part of a global movement that is passionate about organically engaging young people while also working closely with our churches,” Gladys Saruchera, coordinator of AYP Minneapolis, said. “I want to help unite young adults from across our city’s many churches and conferences so they may be inspired and equipped to further their involvement in a local church. We seek to be a collaborator and supporter to the pastors and church leaders in our area.”
Saruchera shares that her conversations and interactions with the area’s AYPers have inspired her as a leader. She shares about a young woman named Edith, a long-time Minneapolis-area resident attending a small church, where she is one of just a few young adults. Another young woman, Eden, appreciates that AYP has provided her the opportunity to meet other Adventist young people from the area’s churches and shares that it has inspired her to get more involved at her local church.
Nina is a PhD student who came to Minnesota from Kansas for a summer internship, not knowing anyone in the area. She also attends a church with just a few young adults, and she heard about AYP from one of them.
“It was such an experience and warmth to have young professionals who share in your faith and are not only looking to do greater things in the world but also looking to strengthen our relationship with God,” Nina said. “As an intern in a new big city, it felt lonely being in a different environment, but through AYP programs it was easier to meet new people. We had amazing gatherings and fellowship with each other. Apart from the company we shared, we also had the chance to give words of encouragement and pray for each other, which I think is a blessing. I am so grateful to God and the organizers for such an opportunity to be part of a big family like AYP.”
Saruchera also shared about Angie, a young professional from Georgia who is not an Adventist and spent the summer in Minneapolis for an internship. When she was preparing to move to Minnesota, Angie did an online search, found AYP through social media, and decided to check out a gathering. As she spent Saturday (Sabbath) afternoons with AYP Minneapolis, she made new friends and learned about the Adventist faith. When it was time for her to return to Georgia, she was glad to have found a group of Christ-focused young adults and that the AYP community had helped her stay grounded in her faith despite being alone in a new city more than a thousand miles from home.
“AYP is not only engaging Adventist young adults and inspiring them to serve in their local church, but it is planting new seeds for the kingdom and introducing our faith to young adults who might not otherwise step foot into an Adventist church,” Saruchera said. “When I moved to the area and signed up to launch an AYP chapter in the [Minneapolis area], I simply wanted to serve Christ in a collaborative and empowering ministry. While there are discouraging and hard days, AYP has been a blessing to serve with, and the stories I hear from AYPers inspire me to continue thriving to the next level.”
The stories of these individuals represent the experiences of 7,000 young adults who have been united, engaged, and inspired by AYP’s grassroots movement. Only God knows how many young people are engaged in churches because of the inspiration and empowerment they received through the AYP community. Only He knows how many young people are still searching for a loving and empowering church family to call home.
While AYP serves a mere slice of the millions of Adventist young professionals, its narrative represents a generation who are not only the leaders of tomorrow but who are ready to make an impact — together in mission — today. Millions of young people are saying, “I will go,” and are simply seeking an Adventist community that fosters faith development and, more importantly, authentic connections and ministry engagement.
“Let us rethink how we engage young people in our churches. Let us listen to their perspectives, empower their ideas, and mentor them in love and with an open perspective,” Kosaka said. “Young professionals, let the global community of AYP provide you the community and resources you need — not to get comfortable as followers of Christ, but to grow in faith, to live in integrity, and to serve Jesus Christ in love through your local church and around the globe through missions.”
The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook. Names of select AYPers have been changed at their request for privacy. Adventist Young Professionals is not part of, affiliated with, or supported by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Thus, any content or opinions expressed, implied, or included in or with the services offered by Adventist Young Professionals are solely those of Adventist Young Professionals and not those of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.