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Produced by

Youth Ministries Department
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mission Statement 3

A Note to Youth Leaders 4

What is YouthFirst 5

Why Involve Youth 5

How Youth Have Impacted God’s Family 5

Youth in the Bible 7

Youth in the Spirit of Prophecy 9

Youth in the Foundation Movement of the SDA Church 10

Youth in World History 10

How to Create a Sense of Involvement 11

Through Training 11

Through Leadership Styles 12

Through Delegating 12

Involvement Sparks Missionary Zeal 13

Youth Count Now 13

Two Boys, Two Futures 14

Common Barriers to Young People’s Participation 15

Good Practice Principles for Youth Participation 16

Hart’s Ladder of Young People’s Participation 17

Practical Ideas for Involving Youth 19

Modeling and Mentoring Youth 20

How to Improve the Current Situation 21

Advantages of YouthFirst 22
PRIMARY FOCUS:
• The salvation of youth through Jesus Christ.
• Equipping youth for service.

OUR TASK:
• Lead youth to understand their individual worth by helping
them discover and develop their spiritual gifts and abilities.
• Equip and empower youth for a life of service within God’s
church and community.
• Ensure the integration of youth into all aspects of church life
and leadership, making them full participants in the mission
of the church.
YOUTH MINISTRIES DEPARTMENT

OUR GOALS:
MISSION STATEMENT OF THE

• Achieve a balanced ministry by incorporating the Biblical
dynamics of fellowship, nurture, worship, and mission.
• Relate effective ministry to the needs of youth.
• Conduct ongoing research to discover areas that need
attention in the ever-changing youth culture.
• Seek divine guidance in God’s Word.

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A NOTE TO YOUTH LEADERS

Y
oung people under the age of 30 comprise about 75 percent of the total Seventh-day
Adventist Church membership. Youth ministry leadership at all levels has contributed to
that encouraging statistic. However, unless the church is able to mobilize this vast, youthful
army of the Lord, global mission will never be accomplished. Its success depends on how effectively
the church involves young people in missionary activities.

How do we involve young men and women in the mission of the church? How do we ensure that
they are given top priority in the life of their chosen church organization? Not only must we be
concerned over those who are already in the church, we must also look to the needs of the new
members in this group who are joining God’s family in ever-increasing numbers around the world.

Such is the challenge that faces every youth leader. We, as a church family, must provide a positive
atmosphere where young people will feel accepted and loved. We all must be reminded from time
to time that the primary focus of youth ministry is Salvation and Service. Bringing young men and
women to the cross is only the beginning. Keeping them there by assuring them endless opportunities
for service is just as important.

That’s why your General Conference Youth Ministry Department has created YouthFirst.

The purpose of this document is to assist every youth entity—Adventurers, Pathfinders, and Senior
Youth—in making YouthFirst the central theme of all of their activities. “Business as usual” will
not stand in today’s fast-paced, high-tech, sin-darkened world. We invite every church to implement
the ideals outlined in YouthFirst as their primary method of involving youth in church life.
Administrators at all levels must show the world that, in the Seventh-day Adventist church, youth
come first!

We challenge every youth leader, Adventurer and Pathfinder directors, administrator, local church
officer, and church member to prayerfully adopt these valuable and practical ideals for involving
youth in the work of the church. The journey promises to be exciting. Welcome to YouthFirst!

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WHAT IS YOUTHFIRST?
YouthFirst:
• Is a new, radical way of thinking about youth and their place in God’s
work.
• Is an attitude that drives action.
• Provides ongoing opportunities for youth to have a voice in the decisions
that affects their spiritual lives.
• Creates volunteer avenues for young Seventh-day Adventists to be a part of
the changes and decisions being made in the church.
• Challenges the whole church to make sure that young people are listened to
and involved in decision making and planning within the church.
• Offers support and training for young people as they work with church
leaders to address issues of direct concern to them.

WHY INVOLVE YOUTH?

I n his keynote address during the 58th General Conference Session in St. Louis, President Jan Paulsen
challenged the assembled youth to get involved in the mission of the church. “Come with me,” he
pleaded, “come and let us travel together on this journey.”

During an interview published in the church’s news magazine Adventist World in September 2005, Elder
Paulsen expanded on his statement. “Look, I do not come with a wealth of ideas and plans as to how this
can be done,” he stated. “My primary concern is to change our mind-set. I want the youth to know that they
owe it to Christ to step up to the plate, to say, ‘I want to take part.’ This has to do with a sense of ownership. I
think it is important that students and young professionals accept what Christ puts on them and the church
places in their laps.” Then he added, “I want the youth to be a stronger and more visible and more creative
partnership in what we do as a
church.”

Involving young people in
the life of the church must
become the DNA of our
treatment of them. Our
actions, our support must
reflect this God-ordained
duty. Our young people are
tired of hearing speech after
speech pontificating how
important they are. Our youth
want action, not mere words.

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During the General Conference session, one young man was heard to say, “My church is not serious
when it comes to involving youth in the every aspect of church life. I feel like I am in a retirement home.
I just see old men and women. Is the church really serious?” This young man had reason to ask that
question. The session in St. Louis boasted around 35 youth delegates below the age of 30 out of 2,000
representatives! To involve youth means that they must be seen and heard. They must not be left behind in
the mission of the church.

Ambassador of Papua New Guinea , Evan Jeremy Paki—after attending the General Conference Session
in St. Louis—had this to say:

“As far as substantive issues are concerned, first I would have liked to see more young people. I
understand there are only about 35 delegates under 30 out of 2,000—which is 1.75%. My question
is: Who will take on the mantle of leadership? We rightly talk of involving young people and
dialoguing with them. We need to turn rhetoric into reality. Once young people are involved and
have the weight of responsibility, they act well and mature faster. We should not ignore young
people, since they act as they are perceived. I hope that for Atlanta in 2010, at least one year before
the session, the General Conference would send out guidelines encouraging youth participation,
and even a suggestion that one third of the delegation should be under 30 (Adventist World,
September 2005. Paki was appointed US Ambassador in 2003 at the age of 30).

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HOW YOUTH HAVE IMPACTED
GOD’S FAMILY

___________ Youth in the Bible ___________

Christ’s Disciples
Though the Bible does not clearly indicate the ages of Jesus’ disciples, it’s
evident that some of them were called in their youth. John and James have always been identified
as young disciples who made tremendous contributions to the progress of the church. Titus
and Timothy were young when they served as elders in their respective churches. God is in the
business of using young people to create and nurture church families.

Joshua
Joshua, along with another young man, Caleb, believed the people of God could indeed
take the land that was promised to them. When the adults felt like grasshoppers, it was the
younger generation that believed the promises of God. At the end of Moses’ life, Joshua was
given the call to be strong and courageous when the baton of leadership was handed to him
(Deuteronomy 31:7-8). God is in the business of using young people as revolutionary leaders.

David
Consider the story of young David in the seventeenth chapter of First Samuel. There appeared a
giant who brought fear and terror upon God’s people. The adults who were trained in warfare with
swords and shields were afraid to deal with the mighty Goliath. Yet, David, with no sword and no
shield—armed with only a slingshot and some small stones—disposed of the giant and brought
about victory. God is in the business of using ordinary young people to do extraordinaire things.

Josiah
He became king when he was eight years old, and, even though his father and grandfather before
him were evil rulers, he broke that curse in his generation by being a monarch who followed God (2
Kings 22). He made the Word of God a priority and called his people to revere the Lord’s commands
once again. God is in the business of using children to do incredible things in this world.

Esther
Here’s the story of a girl whom God raised to become a queen who brought political, social and
spiritual change to her land and her people. Even though her biological mother or father didn’t
raise her, Esther risked her life in approaching the king on behalf of those she considered her
family. God is in the business of taking a foster girl and developing her into a queen of destiny.

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Jeremiah
In the first chapter of the book by that same name, God says that he knew the young Jeremiah
before he was formed in his mother’s womb. Then He tells him that there is a calling upon his
life to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah responds by telling God that he is only a child—as
if God didn’t already know that. God reassures the young man that the words placed in his
mouth will not be his own, but will come from heaven. He tells Jeremiah that the same power
that puts words in his mouth will rescue him in the time of trouble (Jeremiah 1:5-10). God is in
the business of taking kids who are scared, shy, and intimidated and giving them the ability to go
public with their gifts and speak boldly before any opposition.

Timothy
His mother was a believer, but his dad was not. Yet having one parent who didn’t believe was no
obstacle for Timothy. His mentor, Paul, saw something in the young man beyond what Timothy
saw in himself. “And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young,” Paul told him.
“Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your
post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching, and that special gift of ministry you were given
when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use”
(1 Timothy 4:12-14. The Message). God is in the business of using young people as leaders within
His church.

Through God’s Eyes
When it comes to young people, God sees far beyond Sabbath School, Adventurer and
Pathfinder Clubs, AY Societies, and church fellowships. He looks at young people—even
little children—through very different eyes. It’s those eyes through which each one of us
must view the youth of our church. The YouthFirst message is simple, yet powerful:

• God did not believe that Josiah was too young to become a king. So, we must not
place barriers before any young person who wants to serve God.
• Could it be that if young people today were to truly connect to stories about Josiah,
David, Samuel, and the others listed above, they would accept God’s transforming
power in their lives, too?
• It’s our privilege and our duty to help young people see themselves as potential
servants of God.

We must develop an environment in which leadership from young people is both
encouraged and affirmed.

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__________________ Youth in the Spirit of Prophecy __________________

“With such an army of workers, as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a
crucified, risen, and soon coming Savior might be carried to the whole world” (MYP, 196).

“The church is languishing for the help of young men [and young women] who will bear a courageous
testimony, who will with their ardent zeal stir up the sluggish energies of God’s people, and so increase
the power of the Church in the world” (ibid, 25).

“The Lord has appointed the youth to be His helping hand.” 7T 64. “I saw that many souls might be
saved if the young were where they ought to be, devoted to God and to the truth; but they generally
occupy a position where constant labor must be bestowed upon them or they will become of the world
themselves” (ibid, 206).

“Preachers, or laymen advanced in years, can not have one half the
influence upon the young that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon
their associates” (ibid, 204).

“Let young men, and women, and children go to work in the name of
Jesus. Let them unite upon some plan and order of action. Cannot you
form a band of workers, and have set times to pray together and ask the
Lord to give you His grace, and put forth united action?” (MYM, 197).

“Educate the youth to help the youth; and in seeking to do this work
each will gain experience that will qualify him to be a consecrated worker
in a larger sphere” (MYP, 203).

“Let our young men and young women go forth as canvassers,
evangelists, and Bible workers, in company with laborers of experience,
who can show them how to labor successfully” MYP, 298. Teachers, business persons, physicians,
nurses, ministers, missionaries skilled in languages are all needed” (MYP, 219-225).

“Those who have the gift of song are needed…Young and old, should be educated to go forth to
proclaim this last message to the world. If they go in humility, angels of God will go with them,
teaching them how to lift up the voice in prayers, how to raise the voice in song, and how to proclaim
the gospel message for this time” (MYP, 217).

“The Lord calls for young men and women to gird themselves for lifelong, earnest labor in the Sabbath
School work…Another work in which all may engage is gathering children and youth into the Sabbath
School. The young may in this way labor efficiently for the dear Savior. They may shape the destinies of
souls” (MYP, 219, CS, 130).

“When young men and women are sober-minded and cultivate piety and devotion, they will let their
light shine forth to others, and there will be vital power in the church” (CSSW, 69).

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Youth in the Foundation Movement of the
__________________ Seventh-day Adventist Church __________________

The pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were in their youth when they established the church
by God’s leading. James White started his ministry at the age of 21; Ellen G. Harmon at 17; John
N. Andrews at 21; Uriah Smith, at 20. The progress of the church in the past clearly shows that the
involvement of our youth cannot be ignored.

Today, God is still calling young people with outstanding potential to lives of service through various church
activities. Total involvement of SDA youth will accomplish far more than we can even imagine. The desire of
our youth to be given the responsibility and to participate in various church offices and committees is strong.

__________________ Youth in World History __________________

Victor Hugo wrote a tragedy at 15, received three prizes at the Academy, and the title of Master before
he was 20. John de Medici became a cardinal at age 15. Pascal wrote a great work at 16 and died at
thirty seven and Raphael painted his wonderful works as a young man and died at thirty seven.

Calvin joined the Reformation at 21 and wrote the Institutes at 27, thus profoundly influencing the
theological thought of later centuries. Alexander the Great was a mere youth when he rolled back the
Asiatic hordes that threatened to destroy European civilization almost at its birth, and conquered the
world when he was 23. Isaac Newton was 24 when he formulated the law of gravity and made some
of his greatest discoveries before 25. McCormick was 23 when he invented the reaper; and Charles
Dickens wrote his Pickwick Papers at 24 and Oliver Twist at 25.

Martin Luther was a triumphant reformer at 25, and started the Reformation at 30. Francis of Assisi
was 25 when he founded the Franciscan order, and John of Austria won the Battle of Lepanto—the
greatest battle of modern times—at age 25. Keats, the “divine singer,” was only a youth and died at 25.

At the age of 27, Napoleon conquered Italy and was recognized as the foremost commander of any
age; Patrick Henry cried, “Give me liberty or give me death;” John Smith staked out a colonial empire
in Virginia; and the evangelist Spurgeon built the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

Columbus laid out his plans to find an ocean route to India when he was 28. At that same age, Xavier teamed
with Ignatius Loyola (30) to organize the Society of Jesuits. Roger Williams was important enough to be
banished as a heretic at 29 years old. Cortes was 30 when he stood gazing at the golden treasures of Mexico.

Billy Graham was 31 at the time of his now-famous Los Angeles crusade. Hamilton was 32 when he
held the post of Secretary of the Treasury, and when Maurice of Saxony died at age 32, all of Europe
recognized him to be the profoundest statesman of his day.

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HOW TO CREATE A SENSE OF INVOLVEMENT

Young people show interest in programs and activities for which they feel a sense of ownership. They’re
generally not interested in having pre-packaged programs delivered to them by an adult.

At every level, involve young people in the planning of your youth programs. Their level of involvement
and responsibility will, of course, increase with age and the tasks you assign them should always be
age-appropriate. Younger Pathfinder-aged children may not be able to take on as much responsibility as
older youth, but they can still be involved in planning for a campout, a social, an evangelistic outreach,
or a service project. As a general rule, it’s usually safe to assume that a young person is ready to shoulder
responsibility sooner than we assume he or she will be!

Give your young people a role in planning your worship, your social activities, your outreach activities.
Provide them with the necessary support to ensure they can do the job. Then—and this is difficult for
some leaders—stand back and allow them to do it. Youth will be much more motivated to participate in
and support a program if they think it is “theirs.” To bring about a higher level of involvement, establish
an AY Society executive, an Ambassador executive, a youth council or youth leadership team, a spiritual
life committee for your school, a student association, or a campus Adventist Club. Then encourage your
young people to direct the programs themselves.

__________________ Through Training __________________

One common mistake that many youth leaders make when they do give young people the opportunity
to be involved and carry responsibility, is to do so without providing the proper support and training.
If a young person has the ideas and enthusiasm to carry out a task but lacks the skills and support to
complete it, he or she will quickly become frustrated and discouraged.

Jim Feldbush and Willian Hurtado, authors of the book Seven Principles for Youth Ministry Excellence (NAD
Youth Ministries) suggest the following six keys for empowering youth for leadership:

1. Vision: develop a definition of what you want your group to become.
2. Skills: give your youth the skills they need to succeed by modeling those skills, mentoring the
young people as they practice them, and monitoring their progress.
3. Incentive: provide affirmation and recognition of the good work they are doing.
4. Resources: use the resources and talents of your church to help youth accomplish
their goals.
5. Action Plan: create a plan for specific actions to turn goals into reality.
6. Results: help youth to see the fruit of their labor.

If any one of these six key elements is missing, young people may have a negative experience with
leadership and be reluctant to try again.

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__________________ Through Leadership Styles __________________

There are several different ways to define “leadership style,” but it’s important to recognize that you
and your young people may choose to lead in different ways depending on the kind of person you are.
Different leadership styles may be appropriate in different situations.

Three major leadership styles are sometimes defined as: autocratic (maintains total control of every
situation); democratic (allows everyone in the group to have input and work together towards goals);
and laissez-faire (takes no control and allows everyone to do whatever they like). It should be obvious
that a democratic style of leadership is most appropriate. Neither autocratic nor laissez-faire leadership
will lead to the salvation of our youth and their training for service.

It might be helpful to look at leadership styles as a continuum. While extreme autocratic leadership
is usually damaging, there will be situations where you, as a leader, will need to take a more strongly
authoritarian role; particularly when launching a new project or idea. The level of involvement of
group members can vary depending on what goals you are trying to achieve. You will never want a
completely laissez-faire leadership style in which everyone mills about with no purpose, but there will be
situations—for example, some social activities—in which the need for strong leadership is minimal and
the focus can simply be on everyone enjoying themselves.

You will find that as you train your youth to become leaders, their personal leadership styles will fall at
different points along this continuum. Some youth have very strong ideas about how a thing should be done,
and when put into leadership positions, they assume an autocratic style. Others are so timid and unsure
of their own leadership skills that they give no leadership at all and produce a laissez-faire environment.
Your job is to help them become strong, democratic leaders while using them in situations where their
natural style is most appropriate. Your strong-willed, autocratic young woman could be put in charge of a
challenging fund-raising campaign for your mission trip, while the quiet, unsure boy might be asked to plan
a trip to the beach where the main responsibility is inviting everyone to show up and bring food.

__________________ Through Delegating __________________

“If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” the saying goes. Though we might not
admit it, many of us agree! We find it frustrating to delegate tasks to others, knowing that they may not
do a good job—or as good a job as you’d do. It’s especially difficult to give up the reins of control to
young people since the results are often mixed.

Remember that training your youth to serve is more important than producing a perfect result. Guide and
support where you can, but don’t be afraid to take your hands off the steering wheel and delegate responsibility
to your youth. They may surprise you! Even when they’re not successful, they’ll learn from the process.

When you put youth in leadership roles, they may be tempted to do everything themselves. Encourage
them to delegate to others in the group. This will create even more potential leaders!

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INVOLVEMENT SPARKS MISSIONARY ZEAL

Youth should be encouraged to take the lead in the life of the church. That’s where the YouthFirst
principle becomes so important. Young men and women will “own” the teaching and programs of the
church as they’re allowed to be involved in the planning, implementing, and running of the affairs of the
church. “Young people have imagination,” says W. Pratney is his book, A Manual for Discipleship (Bethany
House). “Youth can capture a vision quickly. And young people dare to believe when they are faced with
the impossible.”

In order to provide young people with a greater feeling of personal meaning and purpose in a setting
that supports the Biblical values of interpersonal relationships, we must integrate and involve them
in the fellowship of their local church, letting them participate in all levels of operating it. How? By
utilizing small-group activities in the church and/or youth clubs, keeping membership in these groups
small enough so that each person feels important; like they belong.

The church should invent youth programs that stimulate, encourage, and motivate young people for
volunteer work. Instead of providing entertainment programs that will only deaden their missionary
zeal, we should provide many more positive, mission-oriented programs that will resurrect the lost
volunteerism among us. When Christians are seriously involved in frontier missionary work for Christ,
their commitment to the Lord will be strengthened. Once they totally commit their lives to Him, they’ll
not be afraid of giving even their lives for His work.

YOUTH COUNT NOW

The church needs to move beyond the Leaf Racking (Gary Swanson) and Sit Down till you are 35 (Benson
and Roehlkepartain) mentality. Young people must possess the three major elements of a healthy
self-esteem. The first is the feeling that they belong; that they fit in somewhere—in the home, the
community, the school the office, or the church. Secondly, they want to be people of value now and not
just numbers in the local church. And thirdly, Adventist youth are yearning for the day when they will stand
shoulder to shoulder with the adults in the church, participating fully in the mission of the church.

From America to Africa, from Europe to Asia, young people have been involved in bringing positive
change to the world. Unfortunately, our church is not being as proactive as it should be in calling young
people to a Christ-centered, revolutionary spiritual movement. Many times we talk to them and nurture
them for some future change; some “down-the-road” impact that they may not even live to see. Young
people have talents and abilities God’s church needs now.

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YouthFirst is all about how you see young people. When you look at them do you see them as
childish, hopeless, not to be trusted? Or do you see them involved in the mission of the church from
the very first moment you lay eyes on them? When young people walk into your churches or take part
in your youth programs, can they sense right away that this is a place where they are loved; where adults
have dreams of what they can become?

TWO BOYS TWO FUTURES
There’s the story of two boys growing up in Europe. The first, while
serving as an altar boy in a small village, was carrying the chalice
before the priest when he accidentally dropped the goblet and
spilled consecrated wine all over the floor. The priest responded by
backhanding the boy, striking him in the face and shouting, “Never
come back here again!” The child obeyed.

The second child also served as an altar boy in a different church.
One day, he committed the very same mistake. But his bishop
reacted very
differently.
He winked at
the boy and
whispered “You
are going to be a
priest someday.”

The first child grew up to become Marshall Tito, the
abusive, tyrannical head of the communist party in
Yugoslavia who reigned with an iron fist for decades.
The second boy grew to become Archbishop Fulton
J. Sheen, the Roman Catholic bishop who, in the
1950s, received an Emmy award for his work on
television where he positively affected hundreds of
thousands of people.

May we, Seventh-day Adventist youth leaders who will
shape the face of youth ministry in the next ten years,
lead and train our youth in such a way that when they
become adults, we’ll see that we’ve invested well.

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COMMON BARRIERS TO YOUTH PARTICIPATION
• Older people don’t trust youth.
• Older people have no confidence in youth.
• Involving youth goes against cultural norms or the established mind set.
• Young people’s attitudes can create a barrier.
• Gender, education, and lack of experience can throw up
roadblocks.
• Many churches give only lip service but no action.
• Adults have a lack of skills in certain areas.
• There’s not enough time to tackle the challenges of youth
participation.
• Funding—this is a major problem in the Seventh-day
Adventist church at all levels of administration. The church
needs to support youth initiatives with money, not just words.
• Leadership turnover and weak adult training at all levels of the church.
• No one wants to change the “status quo.”
• Barriers created by power and politics.
• Adults are afraid of losing control.

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GOOD PRACTICE PRINCIPLES FOR YOUTH PARTICIPATION
Respect the views of young people:
• They’re not obstacles to be overcome, but fresh perspectives to be thoughtfully considered.
• Determine the role of youth on committees and how that role relates to the rest of church
organization.
• Avoid tokenism. Use actual, real-world numbers to determine the ratio of youth in various
church organizations.
• Encourage all levels of church administration to include youth participation.
• Share what the committee expects out of its young members.

Respect the needs of young people. Their participation must be positive, attractive, and:
• Based on choice.
• Challenging and fun.
• Related to issues perceived as relevant by young people.
• Designed to raise youth awareness of church needs (Global Mission, Elijah Project, leadership
needs, etc).
• Provide training in certain areas to make them qualified to carry the given responsibility.
• Bestow a sense of ownership.
• Generate a sense of security.
• Acknowledge the contribution of other young people past and present.
• Identify any barriers to continuing youth participation.

Target an accurate level of youth participation by clearly defining the following:
• Manipulation (are we taking advantage of youth for our own benefit?)
• Decoration (do we “window dress” our church with young people?)
• Tokenism (do we include youth, but not in the proper ratios?)
• Assigned but not informed (do we give responsibility without proper training?)
• Consulted and informed (do we ask young people for their opinion and make decisions based
on their observations?)
• Adult-initiated, shared decisions with youth (is there effective adult-to-youth
communications?)
• Youth-initiated, shared decision with adults (is there effective youth-to-adult
communications?)
• Youth-initiated and directed (are we allowing youth to work unencumbered within our
established guidelines?)

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HART’S LADDER OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION
Sociologist Roger Hart, in his book Children’s Participation: The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens
in Community Development and Environmental Care (UNICEF), suggests that there are eight degrees of
participation—eight rungs in the ladder of youth ministry success:

Rung 8: Young people & adults share decision-making

Rung 7: Young people lead & initiate action

Rung 6: Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people

Rung 5: Young people consulted and informed

Rung 4: Young people assigned and informed

Rung 3: Young people tokenized*

Rung 2: Young people are decoration*

Rung 1: Young people are manipulated*

*Note: Hart explains that the last three rungs are non-participation

Rung 8: Young people-initiated, share decisions with adults
This happens when projects or programs are initiated by young people and decision-making is

17 YouthFirst: involving youth in church life
shared between young people and adults. These projects empower young people while at the same
time enables them to access and learn from the life experience and expertise of adults.

Rung 7: Young people-initiated and directed
This step is when young people initiate and direct a project or program. Adults are involved only in a
supportive role.

Rung 6: Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people
Occurs when projects or programs are initiated by adults but the decision-making is shared with the
young people.

Rung 5: Consulted and informed
Happens when young people give advice on projects or programs designed and run by adults. The
young people are informed about how their input will be used and the outcomes of the decisions made
by adults.

Rung 4: Assigned but informed
This is where young people are assigned a specific role and informed about how and why they are being
involved.

Rung 3: Tokenism
When young people appear to be given a voice, but in fact have little or no choice about what they do
or how they participate.

Rung 2: Decoration
Happens when young people are used to help or “bolster” a cause in a relatively indirect way,
although adults do not pretend that the cause is inspired by young people.

Rung 1: Manipulation
Happens where adults use young people to support causes and pretend that the causes are inspired
by young people.

source: www.freechild.org/ladder.htm

18 YouthFirst: involving youth in church life
PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR INVOLVING YOUTH
• Hold spiritual gifts seminars to assist young people in discovering and developing their gifts.
Empower your young people for leadership by learning what spiritual gifts and natural abilities
each has. Train them to employ those gifts in church leadership. Provide the necessary resources,
skills, and support to do the job well and then step back and allow them to do it.

• Examine committees at all levels of the church to ensure that youth are represented at the
decision-making committees.

• Instruct churches to develop a policy to safeguard the necessity of youth involvement in all
aspects of church life.

• Support youth through mentoring and skills-building opportunities.

• Hold seminars for churches on youth involvement.

• Invite local churches to appoint mentors for youth involvement purposes. Ensure that the
appointed mentors have sufficient time and energy to excite youth.

• Make sure the nominating committee will choose youth and young adults to fill real and
significant roles in church life, not just “token” positions.

• Check that the finance committee will make spending on youth activities and projects a priority.

• Monitor the needs of youth and older church members.

• Examine each level of church organization to assess the current level of youth participation in
that particular level.
• Instruct the church board or executive committee to clarify types of youth needed and how they
will be involved in the mission of the church.

• Share decision-making power within the church.

• Provide training. Young people may need training in communication, leadership, preaching skills,
and other areas. Older church members may also need training in working with youth as well as
in technical areas.

• Develop an intern program for youth.

• Promote a strong volunteer program that will be an outlet for participation/involvement.

19 YouthFirst: involving youth in church life
MODELING AND MENTORING YOUTH
There’s real power behind the philosophy of modeling for or mentoring youth. When working with
youth, the first stage is modeling; followed by mentoring which is a lifetime process.

To model means:

First step: I do They watch
Second step: I do They help
Third step: They do I help
Fourth step: They do I watch

To mentor means:

First step: They do I affirm
Final step: We do We accomplish

Remember: when you’re involved in molding young people into leadership using modeling and
mentoring methods, you must be prepared to risk your reputation with what might look like a failing
venture. This should not surprise you. We who are in the business of involving youth in the life of the
church are risk takers. You should dedicate yourself to taking risks for the sake of our youth.

20 YouthFirst: involving youth in church life
HOW TO IMPROVE THE CURRENT SITUATION

• Use YouthFirsts principles in every local endeavor—Adventurer clubs, Pathfinder clubs, or
Youth adults/Senior Youth Societies

• Place YouthFirst front and center at local conferences, unions, and missions.

• Insist on YouthFirst programs at the division level.

• Hold General Conference leadership to the YouthFirst promises they’ve made.

• Introduce YouthFirst ideals in all of our educational institutions, hospitals, and church programs.

There is a great need to make critical improvements at each level of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
to ensure that youth are given maximum opportunities for full participation. Sadly, in some places and
levels of the church, youth are just statistics. But we know better. They are individuals with heavenly
value and long to be involved in the work of saving souls for the Kingdom.

This is our challenge during this quinquennium—to instill awareness in every church member of the
need to empower and involve young people in the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist church. From
this day forward, our battle cry must be:

• YouthFirst in leadership!
• YouthFirst in mission!
• YouthFirst in evangelism!
• YouthFirst in decision-making!
• YouthFirst in discipling!
• YouthFirst in worship!

When Jesus returns, may He find each one of us—adult and youth—standing shoulder to shoulder to
welcome Him knowing we’ve each done all we can to secure the salvation of the other. May God bless
us as we prayerfully put YouthFirst.

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ADVANTAGES OF YouthFirst

• Involving young people in mission planning and administration services will assure that these
will remain relevant and effective because they’re based on young people’s reality.

• Young people bring new ideas, energy, and fresh perspectives to traditional ways of running a
church.

• Provides youth with positive developmental skills.

• Involving young people in decision-making is a key element in Seventh-day Adventist Youth
Ministry and reaffirms the department’s mission statement.

• Help build a better church.

• Youth ministries through Adventurer Club, Pathfinder Club and senior youth/young adult
programs are effective tools for creating on-going youth involvement.

• Adventurer awards and Pathfinder honors are geared for involving youth (silver, gold awards,
class requirements, etc).

• Attendance at church programs and interest in taking part in the mission of the church will
increase.

• As young people become more involved in articulating what is important to them, program
goals and objectives can become more youth-centered.

• Youth leaders will reduce time spent on external discipline and strengthen their influence on
internal discipline.

• Young people can begin to take on leadership roles and work closely with adults in the church,
learning and maturing as they go.

• When we affirm what young people are doing, we are sending a powerful message to them:
“What you think and what you do, matters.”

• Both young people and older adults in the church will benefit from the energy and creativity.

• Youth will remain in the church because they feel that this is “their” church as well.

• Adults can serve as coaches, mentors, and facilitators to build faith development and skills of
young people—a positive opportunity to develop youth in the image of God.

22 YouthFirst: involving youth in church life