Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the north, central, and mountain range regions of Chihuahua in Mexico recently provided training in leadership skills to dozens of children and adolescents from across the region with a special program they have named “The Conference of Tomorrow.”
The program seeks to involve young church members between the ages of 10 and 15 in leading at different levels of the church, including administrative, departmental, pastoral, and local church for one week.
Leadership Training Initiative
This is the first year that the initiative has drawn youngsters to experience firsthand how the church operates from the local church level to the conference level, church leaders said. The program covered the region from May 14 to 21, 2022.
“Our main goal is to promote church leadership development among children and adolescents and prepare them to be the future leaders of the church,” Ivan Orozco, youth ministries director in the Chihuahua Mexican Conference, said. Each position was filled by an election at the local level, including the pastor, treasurer, and elders. Each department or ministry leader was “elected,” he said.
Children, adolescents, and youth were also selected to be part of the leadership training at the conference office to shadow leaders and take part in decisions and meetings, Orozco explained. “Each [elected] child or adolescent performed their responsibilities in person, spending days in the office or at church and organizing activities,” he explained.
Throughout most of the churches that took part in the leadership development program, young people dealt with numerous responsibilities and issues, Alma Ubaldo, Chihuahua Mexican Conference children and adolescent ministries director, said. “Every participating church elected its pastors and church board and the participants to organize the church activities of the week while being mentored, they visited families, and met with district pastors, among other activities,” Ubaldo said.
Given that the state of Chihuahua is so large, two “Conference of Tomorrow” groups were organized so that children could have the opportunity to participate in the experience in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, where the conference office is located, Ubaldo explained. The group included the election of two sets of conference administrators and departmental teams, she said.
The first part of the conference level training began in Ciudad Juarez, where participants led the program during a church elders’ congress.
The second conference team of children and adolescents visited the office in Chihuahua City for orientation and work in the office. “We gave them the keys to the office, and each leader explained each role of their department, what their responsibilities were, made calls, took part in leading meetings, and then met together on Zoom to speak to the ‘pastors of tomorrow,’ ” Ubaldo said.
Several outreach activities were proposed by young people, including plans to hold a large health brigade in Ciudad Juarez, and an initiative to invite young people who are not church members to a special program for Students’ Day, celebrated in that country.
In addition, the young group took care of incoming calls, held meetings with pastors and church leaders, held a planning session on a detailed proposed initiative coined as “Conference or Church of Tomorrow” to be studied by the North Mexican Union, voted, and later shared the results with the rest of the conferences in the territory.
In past years, many local churches have featured young children and adolescents in a similar leadership program as part of an honor class requirement in Pathfinder clubs, but later it was adopted as an initiative to be followed across the conference, Ubaldo said.
Young Leadership Experiences
Valeria Orozco was elected to be the treasurer of Chihuahua Centro Adventist church. “I really liked how the church is well organized,” she said. “When the deacons collected the tithes and offerings, I had to verify the funds collected were correct and had to post on an Excel sheet. I had to also make some payments.”
Hector Olivares, who was named president of the conference during the program, shared that the experience taught him a lot about church leadership. “I learned that as president of the conference you have to keep good relations with your administration and leadership, and your presence is very important to carry out order,” Olivares said. “What I most enjoyed was leading people and coordinating and helping others.”
North Mexican Union president Arturo King celebrated the efforts of conference leaders in the young leadership development initiative. Although other fields have trained children and adolescents at the local church level, the Chihuahua conference is the first field across the union that is holding the activity at various other levels, King said.
“We encourage children and young people to serve in their churches,” King said. “Without their creativity, enthusiasm, and strength, many churches will start to die. Each one must put their gifts and talents to the service of the Lord.”
Conference leaders said that they plan to continue the initiative as an annual program throughout the territory.