Over the past five years, several initiatives have been adopted in relation to new generations, but challenges remain, especially when statistics are read.
For the second time in the last five years, the theme of the importance of engaging new generations will be one of the emphases proposed by the general leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America.
For Pastor Stanley Arco, the idea of repeating this emphasis is obvious because it is one of the most important challenges for Adventists. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church, like other denominations, sees the need to continue investing so that more children, teenagers, and young people are reached by the gospel message. And, in the case of those who are part of the religious community, who can remain active, motivated, and enthusiastic to make a difference in the lives of others.”
For example, in 2017, a streaming platform for series and films was launched, Feliz 7 Play, which seeks to address biblical themes in a different way for this specific group. The platform records a monthly average of 3 million content views and 400,000 hours of display time.
Another initiative was the creation of a lato sensu specialization on new generations, offered to Adventist leaders for these age groups. The course started in 2018, with a forecast of 360 class hours. The first class had 48 students from seven countries and the second, in 2021, with 57 participants.
There is also the project In each Church a Club, created by the Ministry of Pathfinders and Adventurers. It was created in 2015 with the aim of increasing the presence of clubs for children and adolescents. At that time, there were 9,317 Pathfinder clubs and 5,093 Adventurer clubs. Today there are 12,617 Pathfinder clubs and 8,077 Adventurer clubs.
The past five years also registered the project called Evangelism Kids. It is a discipleship and mission movement in which parents and children are empowered to share Jesus with their friends. The mobilization registered more than 8,900 children involved in evangelistic activities, 2,134 missionary pairs, 2,371 small children’s groups, and 693 baptisms.
The Executive Secretariat’s report, presented during the Plenary Board of Directors of the South American Adventist headquarters, made an interesting comparison. Around 36.6% of the general population in the region served by the South American Division (eight countries) is made up of people between 10 and 29 years of age. Among Adventist members, this percentage is a bit higher at 39.2%.
When the theme is the exit and entry of young people in the Adventist Church, the numbers are worrying. Between 10 and 29 years of age, for example, 46.7% of those joined the church in 2020, through baptism, rebaptism, or profession of faith. For those between the ages of zero through 29 years of age, this percentage reaches 54.9%.
However, the departures of those aged between 10 and 29 years, in the same time period, were 54.3%. And between zero and 29 years of age, the average dropout rate reaches 55.7%.
The record from 2011 to 2020 shows that, during this time period, the Adventist Church in South America has received 2,260,725 people. At the same time, 1,589,600 people left. This leaves a positive balance of 29.7%.
If this is analyzed, also in a period of ten years (2011 to 2020), taking into account the age group up to 30 years old, then we have an entry of 1,414,279 people who came in, while 943,096 left the church.
However, when the analysis is done on the specific age group of 17 to 30 years of age (youth), then the losses outweigh the gains of members. There are 674,408 who left the Adventist community, while only 534,136 joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the same timeframe. This equals a membership loss of about 26.3%.
Caleb Mission and One Year in Mission
One of the most significant reactions, in relation to young people, is shown through projects such as Mission Caleb and One Year in Mission (OYiM). Data that deals with the new generations, presented by the Executive Secretariat, shows that, in three years, on average, 1 in 4 Adventist young people became involved with the Mission Caleb project. Other data shows that, for every 3 regular youth members in the church, 1 is a participant in the Caleb Mission.
Youth Ministry data show that, in the last five years, OYiM has had around 6,000 young people in this project. The Missão Calebe, which calls for less time involvement than OYiM, registered more than 700,000 participants for the same time period.
Pastor Carlos Campitelli, Youth Ministries leader at the South American Adventist branch, notes something important about the challenges presented. He points out that the data show the need for awareness on the part of adults in the sense of collaborating, giving space, and helping the development of new generations.