The warmth of colorful ambient lights and the gentle glow of a giant video screen illuminates 400 young faces in the darkened auditorium. Some are in their seats, while others have come forward to be closer to the front during praise time. On the platform, the young band leader introduces the next song, “Here Again,” by Elevation Worship.
“I just want to sing this song over you,” she says earnestly, encouraging the teens to “take whatever worship posture feels most comfortable.”
Many choose to stand and raise their hands as the band leads the group in song. “Not for a minute was I forsaken; the Lord is in this place,” the group sings as their gently waving arms catch the edge of the bright stage lights.
That place was PK Journey, the 2022 North American Division Pastors’ Kids Congress at the CALLED convention in Lexington, Kentucky, held June 19-22, 2022. And in that place, 14 of the young attendees asked to be baptized.
The NAD Youth Ministries department designed PK Journey for young people in grades 7-12. Programming featured community outreach projects, social excursions, and heartfelt worship planned specifically for pastors’ kids and their unique experiences.
“I don’t know what kind of things you need on your journey,” NAD Youth associate director Vandeon Griffin said in a video message before the event. He offered to help young people on their journey with Christ, on “your journey in life, your journey with your peers, and your journey as you make this decision to follow Jesus Christ.”
NAD Youth Ministries arranged the congress to include both “quality time together” and “spiritual time together,” Griffin said. Social excursions included roller skating, arcade games, and laser tag, among other options. Worship time featured an energetic praise team made up of youth and young adults; biblical drama presentations; and dynamic speakers who also grew up as the children of pastors and understand the challenges PKs face.
“How many of y’all heard that PKs are bad?” MyRon Edmonds asked during Tuesday night worship. Hands went up all around the room. He added, “That’s been your whole experience your whole life. People looking down on you.”
Edmonds then encouraged teens not to wait for others to validate them, stating, “You will never get to a place of acceptance with who you are … not with what other people say. You’ve got to stop sleeping on yourself.”
“There’s a familiarity that you establish when everyone kind of has the same types of things in common,” said young adult Pax Fordham, who co-hosted PK Journey worship time and is also the son of a pastor. “We all kind of understand the jokes.” He continued, “We wanted to provide a space where kids can … learn to accept themselves for who they really are.”
“These kids need to be loved,” program co-host and young adult Priscilla Luna said. “The conference is just such an uplifting experience — seeing them all unite together and understand that they're not alone.”
Luna’s mother, a school principal, saw value in supporting the children of church leaders. “Because of our profession, our children are held to a different standard,” Ana Luna said. “We need to help our children understand that they are kids, and they can make mistakes … and that doesn't negate their value, nor the love that Jesus has for them.”
The baptism hadn’t originally been planned, Priscilla Luna said, but something special happened during Monday night worship. “I’ve never seen God work like that,” she stated. “Some of [the teens] were crying, I was almost on the verge of tears.”
She added, “God transformed lives last night, and I truly believe God put the PK convention here for a reason.”
After Monday’s moment of deep connection, the group held a baptism Tuesday in a nearby hotel swimming pool. Several pastor parents were able to baptize their children at the event. Family and friends stood around the pool as Andre Hastick, executive secretary for the Chesapeake Conference, gave the charge, then each young person’s name was announced, and Scott Young, pastor of the Courthouse Road Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia gave the pronouncement. As the young people came up out of the water, the crowd broke into song: “I have decided to follow Jesus,” they sang. “No turning back, no turning back.”
Robert Edwards, vice president of the Southeastern California Conference, offered a prayer after the baptisms. “We thank you for these young people that see the gospel through imperfect vessels, and they still accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” Edwards said.
Back in the auditorium, the singing and sermon are over, and Luna steps on to the stage to encourage the young guests. “Stop putting up the act. Stop using Instagram filters,” she exhorted. “You are enough.”