December 2, 2021

Pathfinder Leadership Training Seeks to Keep Young People Engaged

New program in the South American Division aims for ongoing involvement, leaders say.

Vanessa Arba, South American Division, and Adventist Review

“Once a Pathfinder, always a Pathfinder!”

The new Desbrava+ (“Pathfinders+”) program in the South American Division (SAD) is intended to give renewed meaning to this common slogan.

Traditionally, Pathfinder club activities are directed to 10-15-year-olds. After 15, club members can opt to stay and fulfill the requirements to become club leaders. Most of those teenagers, however, end up distancing themselves from the program.

Church leaders have noticed that some of the young people who leave their Pathfinder club  become influenced by secular activities and ideas. Some even end up disconnecting themselves from their Adventist congregations.

To fight this trend, SAD church leaders launched the Desbrava+ program. This initiative encourages Pathfinder club members who turn 16 to remain engaged in their club activities at the local level. Adventist members can opt for joining a leadership training class, taking group classes in the regular program, or taking over supporting leadership roles at their local club. Club members who are not yet baptized can nevertheless get trained to take over assistant roles and supervised assignments. As they follow additional training, every club member is encouraged to serve in various church ministries.

According to SAD Pathfinder director Udolcy Zukowski, “Staying active in the club and the church is essential to keeping every member’s faith alive. At this age, they want to experience a sense of belonging. They want to feel useful.”

Zukowski explained that sometimes, young people think they have no qualifications or abilities to take over leadership roles or are too shy. “The Desbrava+ program is there to give them a little push so they can develop skills and continue to be part of the club they love so much. As they do, they can keep being influenced by a Christian environment,” Zukowski explained.

He noted that Desbrava+ is not a new class in the traditional cycle, nor a parallel club with different activities, but a specific personal growth program for 16- and 17-year-olds. “It is an initiative in which they are challenged to ‘get their hands dirty’ to serve and make a contribution,” Zukowski said. He added that it is a program exclusively geared to those who have already been members of a Pathfinder club because that experience is essential to performing the activities the program suggests.

Teenagers who sign up for Desbrava+ will have a special identification on their uniform and, at the end of the year, receive a pin that can be used for various specialty honors. Developed with the assistance of church leaders across the region, the program will launch its pilot version in 2022. First, it will be introduced to department leaders and secretaries across the SAD in early December 2021. By late January 2022, church leaders said, they expect to launch a pilot training phase in selected clubs. After performance reviews and adjustments, the program is expected to be implemented across all SAD Pathfinder club in 2023, they said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.