In an era when churches are fascinated by statistics, the number 70 percent caught my attention. As I searched “Adventist young adults leaving Adventist church,” I found many articles stating that about 70 percent of young adults have left church in recent years.
The Adventist Church is not alone. Many Evangelical Christian denominations are going through similar struggles of Christian youth and young adults dropping out of church.
The other 70 percent figure that challenged me was the number of Adventist college-age students attending public colleges and universities. While I support Adventist education as someone who attended our schools from kindergarten through graduate school, this reality presents opportunities we cannot afford to ignore.
It’s an interesting coincidence having a very close number to 70 percent on both reports. If the two statistical reports mean anything, then we have reason to approach the ministry to our Adventist students on public colleges and universities seriously. We need to connect Adventist students to church communities and create safe environments where our youth and young adults can have meaningful relationships with Jesus in their spiritual journey.
Minnesota Conference Young Adult Ministry wants to create a channel of communication with Adventist college students on public campuses. The University of Minnesota has over 51,000 enrolled students (as of the 2013-14 school year) on several campuses: Minnesota State University (over 15,000 enrolled), Bemidji State University (over 5,000 enrolled), St. Cloud State University (over 15,000 enrolled), as well as other colleges around the state. These campuses attract Adventist graduating high school students because of their brand and size.
There is, therefore, need to provide opportunities for current and future college students to meet and have fellowship together on these campuses. Moreover, we want to provide resources and training for our current Adventist college students on these campuses so that they can reach out to other students as ambassadors of Christ.
Thus, last March a special retreat was held at North Star Camp for Adventist college students on public universities interested in campus ministry. Pastor Ron Pickell from Berkley Adventist Church, who also serves as Adventist Christian Fellowship Volunteer Coordinator for the NAD, presented his personal experience based on over 30 years of ministry on public campuses. He provided resources for students and attendees, shared how to lead out in small group Bible discussions and reach out to others students, as well as how to connect with our Adventist students on public campuses.
Adventist students from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Duluth campus, Bemidji State University, Minnesota State University Mankato, and several other colleges in the Twin Cities metro area attended the retreat. These participants enjoyed worship, fellowship and having fun together throughout the weekend. Sabbath afternoon encouraged meaningful dialogue on how to connect and organize Adventist student groups in different locations.
Please keep praying for Public Campus ministry in the Minnesota Conference, and kindly let the Youth Department know if any of your young adults have plans to attend public universities in Minnesota.
Sean Lee is an associate pastor for the Southview Church in Minneapolis.