Young Adult Tour’s Fourth Stop Engages Members in Mid-America

Message zeroes in on encouraging all generations to grow together in faith.

Brenda Dickerson, Mid-America Union Outlook, and Adventist Review
Young Adult Tour’s Fourth Stop Engages Members in Mid-America
Panelists answer questions at the Young Adult LIFE Tour in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States. [Photos: Saul Dominguez and Allan Martin]

The fourth stop of the Young Adult LIFE Tour took place in the Mid-America Union Conference territory at the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States, January 26-27. With more than 150 registrants and 900 in attendance on Saturday (Sabbath) morning, the event reached a large audience with the message of strategically engaging and encouraging all generations to grow together on their faith journey.

For several years we have known that many Christian churches in North America are both shrinking and aging as more young people disengage. However, scores of congregations are bucking this trend and developing cultures that welcome, engage, and empower young people.

In Seventh-day Adventism, the Young Adult LIFE Tour, co-sponsored by the North American Division, unions, conferences, and local churches, is an opportunity for family, friends, and church members to come together in a dedicated space and place to empower young adults for ministry. 

“The Young Adult LIFE Tour stop in Lincoln was such a hopeful and helpful way for the Mid-America Union to start off the year with a focus on young adult ministry,” Nick Snell, director of Kansas-Nebraska Conference youth and young adult ministries, said. “The leaders created an inviting space for young adults and church leaders to show up, learn, and share. The weekend brought us inspiration to move forward with practical instruction. I believe God is only getting started with what Young Adult LIFE will bring. We are better together, and I think that was abundantly clear on this beautiful weekend.”

Faithful and Fruitful

Featured guest speaker Benjamin Lundquist is one of the leading voices for young adult ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Currently he serves as the young adult ministries director for the Oregon Conference, as well as coaching and mentoring leaders across the nation and abroad. According to event organizers, he is instrumental in the initiative of Young Adult LIFE across the NAD. In addition, Lundquist hosts the Rise and Lead podcast, providing world-class content and conversations to help people grow to their next level and expand their impact.

Lundquist spent his freshman year attending Union College in Lincoln. He was on the gymnastics team and said his year there “was a huge piece of my puzzle.” During his message on Friday evening, Lundquist focused on the difference between a career and a calling. Speaking directly to students, Lundquist told them what he wished someone had told him when he was a young adult.

“Your calling is bigger than your career. Your calling is what you do with your life to bless the world the way God created you to. Your first calling is to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Your relationship with Jesus defines your life. Your second calling is to do something with the gifts and abilities God has given you.”

He added that as we spend time with Jesus, He will make us into who He created us to be.

“Be faithful and fruitful in your current assignment,” or season of life, Lundquist advised. He then listed four ways to do this: (1) lead yourself well; (2) take care of “your people” in your sphere of influence; (3) steward the momentum you already have in your life and keep it going; and (4) maximize your opportunities, including showing up and connecting.

Lundquist used examples from the life of David to support each point. “Every assignment sets you up for the next assignment,” he said. “You don’t have to have it all figured out right now, because God does.” 

Casting a Culture Shift

On Sabbath morning, Snell facilitated a Q&A time with five young adults ranging in ages from 18 to 27. This discussion, recorded by the Adventist Learning Community to be posted on its site as a resource, focused on the young adults’ experiences with Adventist congregations. 

In response to the question, “If you previously disengaged from church, what brought you back?,” panelists stated that they wanted to be a part of something, wanted to contribute, and wanted to worship God and give Him glory. Most said they viewed “the involvement piece” as being a “major shift” for them. They also mentioned critical thinking skills and favorite mentors.

When asked to describe their dream for an Adventist Church that they would be proud of, and want to invite others to be part of, the panel members mentioned that their dream is every person is welcomed at church (and talked with); that there is more discipleship (have Jesus in our life every day); there’s a belief in mental health (Jesus and a therapist are OK); and more cultural and intergenerational integration (don’t be afraid of each other).

Kyle Smith, teaching pastor at The Commons KC, a plant of the New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, said, “The Mid-America Young Adult LIFE tour stop was a catalyst for culture shift in churches all throughout the Midwest. The presentations were not only equipping but incredibly practical and tangible.” 

Smith added, “The reason we’re here is … we believe the way you change anything in life is through an overall culture change. We’re casting vision, casting culture change, and asking, ‘What does that look like in practice? What does the new culture need to embrace? What needs to be let go of?’ ”

Reflecting on the panel discussion, Chandler Tarbox, young adult pastor at Spring Meadows Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sanford, Florida (which hosted Tour Stop #3), said, “What really caught my attention was the beautiful balance between authenticity and hope in their responses. One powerful moment in particular was when they shared their dreams for the future of the church. Dreams like deepened intergenerational connection, true discipleship modeled after Jesus’ love for the people, and an unmistakable warmth and welcoming to anyone looking to be a part.

“This weekend I was reminded that the future of our denomination is in good hands with this upcoming generation, who are so locked in on Jesus,” Tarbox added. “I pondered personally how to continue authentic and hope-filled conversations like this — with hopes to topple generational barriers, leading to the bright and beautiful future Christ desires for His church.”

The next YA LIFE tour event will take place in the North Pacific Union April 19-20 at the Pleasant Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oregon. Plans are being laid for tour stops in other unions as well in 2024 and 2025.

The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Outlook.

Brenda Dickerson, Mid-America Union Outlook, and Adventist Review