January 20, 2022 | Merida, Yucatán, Mexico | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to youth ministries across the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Mexico, namely the possibility of hundreds of Pathfinder clubs shutting down.
“Our numbers went from a little over 1,000 clubs to 700,” said Victor Martínez, youth ministries director for the church in Southeast Mexico. That 30 percent decrease, never before seen throughout the 1,226 churches and congregations in that union, alarmed youth ministries leaders throughout the territory.“We found out that the desertion of clubs was because directors in some of the regions were not prepared to use Zoom and technological tools, and many of the children had no access to the internet,” said Martínez. Youth ministries leaders at every conference level began to look for strategies to better reach many of the clubs that were dwindling, he said. “More pathfinder leaders with access to zoom and able to film honor classes, were enlisted to reach out to club members wherever they were.” When a few activities began to take place outdoors as regulations eased last year, things began to improve.
As gatherings were more possible in 2021, clubs slowly began to meet again. Recently, church leaders took the opportunity to launch stronger efforts to strengthen youth ministries leaders who oversee clubs and youth missionary activities every week, he said.
“We wanted to start 2022 with better attention to clubs providing leadership training to all of our youth ministries directors including the areas focused on Pathfinder and Adventurer age children,” explained Martínez. “We know that these clubs represent the best leadership school for the local church so that was a major focus.”Their efforts are working. The number of clubs in operation has jumped to 906 since last year.
Discipling children and youth is very important throughout Southeast Mexico because they represent 60 percent of the membership, added Martínez. “In just a few years, we know that they will take the positions of responsibility at the local church level.”
Youth ministries leaders doubled their efforts in the past six months to emphasize what they have coined as “I Will Go Jesus”, an initiative designed to motivate and lead young people to a deeper communion with Christ and develop a Christian lifestyle with a stronger identity on discipleship training, said Martínez. It’s about belonging to Jesus, which means cultivating a life of prayer, study of the bible and testifying wherever they are, he added.A recent regional event gathered more than 700 Pathfinders in Playas del Carmen, in Quintana Roo. Pathfinders got to praise, study the Bible and reflect on the great disappointment of 1844 that Seventh-day Adventist believers faced. The pathfinders in attendance were only a fraction of the nearly 3,000 fellow members throughout the North Quintana Roo region who were watching online back home.
Pastor Andrés Peralta, associate youth ministries director for the Adventist World Church, addressed the young people to seek out their fellow young people who had left their clubs. “God wants to restore the life of Pathfinders, he wants to bring salvation, heal and transform them,” said Peralta.
The gathering was a very important event to let Pathfinders know in Quintana Roo and the rest in the union territory that they are valuable, and strong regardless of the circumstances they have faced, said Martínez.Prior to that Pathfinder event, more than 600 children and pathfinders took part in giving bible studies and preaching in their local congregations across the union. As a results 437 pathfinders made the decision to get baptized during the Sabbath event in September. The event, coined as the caravan of baptisms across the church region in Southeast Mexico helped strengthen youth ministries, church leaders said.
Plans are underway in the coming months to hold several camporees for Pathfinders and young people who want to join the clubs, said Martínez.
In addition, youth ministries leaders are equipping and empowering their youth missionary volunteers, youth small groups and witnessing groups to be more active in their local churches and communities every week.It wasn’t all about negative challenges the pandemic brought on, said Martínez.
The goal is not just about reopening more clubs this year but about strengthening children and young people with a renewed purpose in the mission of the church, he explained.
“We learned that more opportunities to solidifying youth ministries came our way,” said Martínez. “We are seeing how God is still blessing our young people with beautiful opportunities to strengthen them in their walk with the Lord and their commitment to spreading the gospel.”
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Mexico and its youth ministries initiatives, visit unionsureste.org.mx