Training Our Youth For Generations To Come

Training Our Youth For Generations To Come

Christian Education Council

Rev. Nicholas J. Kersten

Director of Education & History

 

One of the values which has guided our Conference for generations is the raising and training of children. The responsibility we have as biological families and families of believers is to share the blessings of the Gospel with those who are younger than we are. These familial relationships (both biological and congregational) are among the strongest parts of our tradition as Seventh Day Baptists.

And in the strength of those convictions, SDBs have been very innovative in their approaches to Christian Education. From the frontier schools to universities to missionary academies, SDBs have varied approaches to match the cultural circumstances we have found ourselves in. One of the more innovative approaches we have employed as a people, and with great success, is our camping ministries. Associational and regional camps, combined with our Pre-Conference retreats for youth and young adults, have long provided our denomination a wealth of committed, relationally connected young leaders who have formed the backbone of our next generation. Scanning the pages of the General Conference minutes, it is not hard to track the lines of leadership development through our camping programs.

For that reason, those who love Christian Education among Seventh Day Baptists have cringed at the consistently lower attendance at our Pre-Conference retreats for the last decade. To be sure, there has been a core of very dedicated young people and parents who religiously add Pre-Con to their yearly schedule and come. But attendance has steadily declined to the point where serious questions had to be asked about the future of our Pre-Conference retreat. Acting on a question from General Council, the Christian Education Committee (CEC) spent time in prayer and in brainstorming a future for our pre-Conference and Conference ministries for young people which dealt with the primary challenges: low attendance, high cost, scheduling conflicts, and lots of unstructured time during the General Conference sessions. Surprisingly for those present, what emerged was not a strategy to change or prop up Pre-Con, but rather a robust vision for a new program to respond to cultural factors which have impacted our retreats. This new program is in the form of a leadership training conference for our youth during our General Conference meetings, running concurrently with our sessions. The program will focus on training for ministry in Seventh Day Baptist youth, making use of all of the resources (sites, staff, etc.) at our General Conference sessions. We believe this represents an exciting opportunity for growth in our programs for youth. Young Adults will be taking control of their events at Conference and focusing their efforts there rather than having a dedicated Pre-Con retreat. All of these changes are aimed at increasing attendance and equipping for ministry at General Conference.

Having arrived at this new vision for Conference youth leadership development, we took the proposal to General Conference and asked for feedback from three interest committees: Christian Education, Young Adult, and Youth. All three, after asking their questions and carefully considering the proposal, agreed to try the new vision, and even expressed some excitement for the possibilities in the new program. Both the youth and young adults gave meaningful suggestions to

improve the proposal. That proposal is now being worked on by a committee and will yield a new program at General Conference in Houghton, NY, in 2016. We encourage you to watch the Recorder and the Conference website for more information about this new program. Meanwhile, if you have further questions, please contact us for more information or talk to representatives from your church who attended General Conference this past year!

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