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Growing a Younger Generation Church

Growing younger, growing “smaller” and growing deeper for the fame of Jesus
By: Samantha Angeles Peralta

“The church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” This statement has been used prolifically in a variety of Christian circles, but Dr. A. Allan Martin, teaching pastor of Younger Generation (YG) Church, has taken the statement a step further.

“We see YG Church as a teaching hospital, a learning lab, for younger generations,” says Martin. “It’s a place where young adults are expressing, in their lyrical, technological language, their excitement to deepen the devotion of those around them to Jesus. They’re not doing it by themselves—we have intergenerational relationships of people working together. We really see this as a living laboratory of leadership.” 

Beginnings 

YG Church, the thriving young adult ministry of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas, USA, began in 2004 as a third church service under the leadership of then-senior pastor Mike Tucker. His desire, according to Martin, was for young adults to direct, produce and participate in worship that would be meaningful for them.

“This was very revolutionary at the time,” said Martin. “YG Church was an anomaly across the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex and probably across the nation. It was a contemporary worship service with dynamic, relevant preaching and contemporary worship music for young people.”

In 2010, YG Church invited Martin to transition from his teaching position at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary to pastor the YG community. Martin, who has a rich ministry background, including planting and pastoring a thriving church in Celebration, Florida, USA, recognized God’s leading and moved to Texas to lead the YG community.

“When I came in, one of the things we wanted to do was integrate this great worship service with the entire church, not just be a church within a church,” he said. “We moved from being a really cool and flashy youth and young adult service to a more robust, discipleship-minded, mission-minded ministry embedded in the heart of Arlington SDA Church.”

YG Today

Now, more than seven years later, YG Church’s weekly service averages 300-400 attendees and up to 1000 online viewers each week. Under Martin’s leadership, YG Church has developed into a vibrant ministry that “transcends age and program boundaries, making authentic efforts to foster the Great Commandment and Great Commission in new generations,” according to their mission description sheet.

“It’s not unheard of in our church culture to have a 13-year-old running the sound board,” says Martin. “That 13-year-old is being mentored by a young adult, who is being supervised by our media director. There are even kids younger than that, seven or eight years old, behind cameras training to do broadcasts.”

#EveryMemberAMentor

This intergenerational mentorship is intrinsic to the YG community, and has been an important part of integrating YG Church into the larger Arlington SDA Church family. Martin has intentionally nurtured intergenerational mentorship through his #EveryMemberAMentor initiative.

“We believe that every church member can benefit a member that is younger than them by pouring a little bit of God’s grace, God’s goodness, and their experience of Jesus into that person,” he says. “If you’re a high school student, there’s always Jr. High students that think you’re the coolest thing since Ken and Barbie. Or, you could be a 70-year-old couple that can pour into those younger whippersnappers, those 50-year-olds, who don’t know anything. No matter what age you are, there’s always a generation coming behind you that you can mentor.”

Along with reaching next generations with the gospel, YG church’s mission is to “deepen our devotion to Jesus Christ by pursuing intimacy with God, experiencing community with each other, and inspiring those around us with the hope of grace,” according to their mission description sheet. These three values—intimacy, community and grace—are embodied by the ministries of YG Church.

Pursuing Intimacy With God

“Pursuing intimacy with God through our worship experience is our most prominent and most heavily-engaging element of our mission statement,” says Martin. “We pursue this with everything we’ve got. On Friday nights, as we’re preparing for our worship service at Arlington, our church is brimming with groups of young adults doing everything from getting cameras ready to preparing prompters to artists up on stage getting the band ready. We’re using YG Church as an opportunity for young adults to be heavily involved in every aspect of what we’re doing.”

YG Church is not limited to a worship service, however. Experiencing community with one another is an important element of YG that happens all week, and is integral to reaching the hearts of younger generations.

Experiencing Community

“Millennials are a lonely generation,” says Martin. “They have very few relationships of depth, but a kajillion friends on social media. So we believe at YG Church that in order for us to grow big, we have to grow small.”

On any given Sabbath, around 1,500 people attend at least one of the three services offered at Arlington SDA Church. In order to ensure that YG members have an opportunity to experience community, each member is encouraged to join a Life Group. These groups range from interest-based gatherings, such as basketball teams, to theological discussion groups. However, each group studies Scripture together, prays together and seeks to hold one another accountable.

 

“That’s where growth happens, where relationships form, where accountability happens,” says Martin. “That’s why the first-century church flourished, because people were doing life together.”

Inspiring Hope

The third aspect of YG Church’s mission is “inspiring those around us with the hope of grace.”

“We know from the research that most young adults won’t give a second look to your church if you’re not doing something meaningful in your local community to make a difference,” says Martin. “So we do everything from helping out at the local food bank, to being involved recently with the hurricane relief efforts. This is more than just evangelistic, though it can include evangelism. It’s about making a positive difference in our world for the sake of the fame of Jesus.”

YG Church has made this value such a part of their corporate identity that they encourage their members to carry a heart of service wherever they go.

“We have the saying at the church—“I Am YG.” So no matter where our members are, they’re being compelled to be involved in their community and be an extension of our church, even if they’re college students studying far away and are not able to be here every single weekend,” Martin says.

Start With Listening

To pastors or ministry leaders in churches where ministry to younger generations is practically nonexistent, Martin makes this challenge:

“If a church decides they want to reach out to young adults, all they have to do is begin listening to the young adults they already have. As you create opportunities to spend time with them, even if it’s just over meals, or watching a TV show together or attending a ball game—as the Holy Spirit gives you a heart for the young person, inevitably, God will come up. Faith will come up. Questions about life will come up. . . Start by listening.”

Looking for More?

1 Hear Dr. Martin present LIVE at the #ReachingMillennialGenerations Conference

2 Take Dr. Martin's FREE young adult ministry training course offered through the Adventist Learning Community

Article originally published by Centre for Secular & Postmodern Studies

Posted by A. Allan Martin, Ph.D with

My Experience of Younger Generation Church

My desire has always been to find a way to bring my local church youth and young adults into a closer relationship with our Creator. I have tried many ways to accomplish this, but with an ever-changing world and fast-paced society, it’s become exceedingly more difficult. I have visited Younger Generation Church [YG] in Arlington on many of my trips to Texas, but I have never had the real “behind the scenes” experience until my most recent visit. I asked for some time to talk about ministry and see beyond the worship experience. I learned many things that I hope to emulate when I return home.

The green room devotional was how it all began that Sabbath morning, where the team gathered to worship before the worship; Beautiful singing and a discussion-based study of the Word got everyone geared up for the YG service that immediately followed. Everyone was so engaged from the very beginning that I clearly felt the Spirit of God.

During YG, the worship team invited the congregation to “worship how they are wired,” many standing to their feet and lifting their hands in praise to the Almighty. Others remained seated in careful reflection, but worshiping none-the-less. This blew my mind, such freedom to express worship as one is inspired and impressed.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the lyrics, as I heard the instruments skillfully played, my heart was lifted heavenward and I felt tears roll down my cheeks. For me, this was a foretaste of heaven. I found it fascinating that every portion of the YG worship experience was being led out by young adults. It was obvious that they take the work that they are doing for Christ seriously. They took it as being really meaningful for them, as it was for me. The worship experience began and ended on time [seldom the case in my local church experiences], which I felt was very respectful of the congregation and reflected a level of excellence.

The sermon was approximately 20 minutes in length, which is purposefully done to emphasize the main point of the worship experience. Every portion of the worship is intentionally crafted to focus on the main point, giving the experience purpose and clarity. The Lord has truly blessed Pastor Allan Martin with the wisdom and energies to be the one to deliver these powerful sermons and encouragements to YG.

I thought the worship experience was the end of YG, however this was not the case as immediately following, all were invited backstage to the green room for refreshments and fellowship. I loved the encouragement of the green room host for everyone to enjoy the food and “meet someone new to you.” This community-building time offered newcomers an introduction to others and opportunity to spark friendship; Belonging, which is often missing from today’s church, can take root in this casual gathering in the green room. For me, this was icing on the cake.

But wait, that’s not all. Following some time in the green room, the host invited those interested to enjoy YG’s community group. Held in a separate venue, this conversational Bible study, led out, again, by young adults, offered a chance for all to dive deeper into the sermon topic or a Biblical principle of interest. While participating, I felt my opinion valued and listened to the different life experiences of various young adults and adults alike. We got so into the discussion I didn’t want to see it end.

For me, Younger Generation Church was a wonderful worship experience. It was great to mingle with next generations and together experience the glory of God. I felt authentically drawn in and was inspired to be part of something greater. I’m going back to Belize, energized to share, to break barriers, to be non-judgmental, to be embracing and mostly, to experience Jesus Christ! Thank you YG for making me feel welcome and part of who you are. #IAmYG

–Dalheart McFadzean,
Local AY Director, Belize City, Belize
Posted by A. Allan Martin, Ph.D with

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YG University [YGU] is our endeavor to be a life-long learning community of disciples, seeking to deepen the Christ-centered devotion of next generations, beyond the contours of Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church.

YGU aspires to be of benefit to the larger sphere of young adult ministry development across the Adventist landscape. We pray to be a blessing to many others and we are excited for the learning opportunities it will offer us as well.

 

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4409 Pleasantview Drive
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