The 2022 Growing Together cohort launched early in the year, with nearly 150 leaders from 40 different churches across the North American Division (NAD) attending the virtual summit. The initiative is a learning journey that seeks to build thriving Seventh-day Adventist churches for all generations, while specifically connecting with and empowering youth and young adults.
“I was just blown away by the diverse and unique ministry contexts they all represented,” Justin Yang, young adult ministries director for the Texas Conference, said. “I was impressed by how passionate, committed, and authentic they were in sharing their story, their journey so far.”
An inaugural virtual summit officially begins the yearlong learning journey. Cohort participant churches come from many of the unions across the NAD, representing all church sizes, major ethnic groups, and every geographical location (rural, urban, suburban) — all committed to #GrowingTogether with Jesus at the very center!
“Growing Together is about changing the culture of our churches. It is about intentionally reaching out to youth and young adults with acceptance, grace, and the love of Jesus,” John Freedman, president of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC), said. “As they respond to the love of Jesus shining through His church, we need to also disciple them in Christ, so they can reach out to others. A focus on Jesus Christ and His matchless, sacrificial, and unconditional love changes lives. I’m excited about those who are passionate about reaching out to active and inactive youth and young adults with the truth about the love of God!”
“The Growing Together summit was a very informative experience that enabled me to understand what this program is all about as well as what’s expected of me,” Diana Mogeni said. Mogeni is a 29-year-old account manager, and part of one of the local church teams. “It was great to evaluate and get a deeper look at our church — where we stand versus where we would like to be. It was great to discuss what we can do to change.”
Joan Okemwa, a 22-year-old nursing major at Rasmussen University, agreed. “I liked how we start from the beginning. Looking at what we have now and examining the current health of our church,” she said. “Being honest among ourselves in the group is important, so that we know what we are working with.”
Mark Sigue, young adult pastor at the Minnetonka Seventh-day Adventist Church in Minnesota, added, “I am beyond excited to experience my church is no longer just talking about the young people leaving our church, but instead intentionally doing something … Knowing is one thing. Doing something about it is a key thing. It’s only summit one and I am already supercharged.”
The cohort has been made possible by the collaboration between NPUC and Southwestern Union Conference (SWUC), which made the Growing Together training experience available to churches across the NAD — as well as an international participating church from Uganda.
“The Southwestern Union is excited to be a partner in Growing Together,” noted Helvis Moody, young adult and youth ministries director for the SWUC. “We are grateful for the churches who have started this journey and we look forward to seeing what God will do as it’s our desire to see all of our churches experience kingdom growth.”
Throughout the yearlong cohort journey, local church teams will receive training, coaching, and assignments to help their church adapt and change culture so that Jesus is at the center and all generations can thrive together. In addition to virtual summits, webinars, and coaching sessions, each local church will participate in assessments and engage with research-based commitments that have been shown to improve the vitality of church life, especially among young people and young families.
“In my travels around our union, in person, and on Zoom conference calls, I’m excited to hear of positive stories and appreciation for the Growing Together emphasis,” Freedman added, explaining how Growing Together started as an experiment to answer the greatest weakness church leadership and laity identified six years ago — the tragic loss of more than 50 of its youth and young adults from our churches. “Growing Together has grown (even during the pandemic) from an experiment with a few churches to a multi-conference, multi-union strategy to address the tragic issue of the losses of youth and young adults from our churches. I’m extremely grateful and thankful for those of you who are not content to just talk about the losses but are actually partnering with Christ to do something about it. You are making a difference!”
Yang said: “My heart is once again filled with hope, as I witnessed local leaders committing themselves to learn, grow, and recalibrate intergenerationally — to reconcile and collaborate for such a time as this!”
“Let’s do this for kingdom citizens!” Sigue said. “Thank you, Growing Together Cohort leaders and organizers!”
The original version of this story was posted on the North American Division news site.