The Savior of Life
By Al Reimche
Did you know that there is a group of people that do not have the same degree of drive to acquire material things as the rest of our culture? Within this group there has been documented a decline in home and auto purchases when compared to previous groups of similar ages. This same group would rather be good parents and have a successful marriage than have a high paying job or become famous. Who is this group? They are known as Generation Y, Millennials, or those born from 1980 onward.
Just a week or two ago I was blessed by visiting StoryLine Adventist Church, our newest church plant which has started up in Eugene, Ore. While there, I visited with a number of individuals who call this new church their home. I was excited to sense their strong support for the ministry that has begun as a result of this church plant. Statements like, “This is my home,” “These are my friends,” and “I have been afraid of churches but this feels so safe,” “I feel like I have finally come home,” came from people who are not yet baptized. Others shared that they felt safe inviting their friends and had already done so. They were excited to share, and answered my questions before I even had the questions out of my mouth.
I recently attended the North American Division Year-end meetings. In addition to lots of policy wording tweaks and reports from different ministries, was a discussion about a group within our church that has, to a large extent, been missing. They are the graduates from our academies and universities, the Millennials, who move away from our campuses and disappear into our major cities. It was exciting to hear what various conferences have experienced in taking steps toward connecting again with these young adults. It was a blessing to know that our conference is seen as part of this thrust toward reconnecting with these graduates, though there is still much to be done in this area.
One of the statistics that has stuck with me is that only 30 percent of our Adventist academy students attend one of our universities. The other 70 percent are attending universities where we often do not have a focused ministry. One of the presenters talked about starting a secular campus ministry at the University of Michigan. We have that same opportunity here in Oregon and Southwest Washington at a number of universities and community colleges. How can we provide for these students and reach the rest of the student body around them?
If the previous paragraphs seem to be divergent or unconnected thoughts, let me put them together. What I saw a couple of Sabbaths ago was a new church plant focused on reaching the University of Oregon students. That is a difficult challenge as churches need a stable core and universities have a transient community. This new church plant has taken on the task of being a stable community for the students, even more importantly, to be an outlet for the amazing grace Christ wants these Millennials to experience.
The commission of Christ is to go and make disciples of all. From my experience in visiting with a number of our young adults throughout this conference, the need for fellowship and mentoring is very high. The need to be in an authentic (real) church family is enormous. The desire to make a difference in the world is a driving force within Millennials. Could it be that they are onto something? Could it be that it’s not all about acquiring? Could it be that relationships between our families, our spouses, our communities, and our God will be the savor of life to our churches, including our Millennials?