How to Grow Young
By: SAMANTHA ANGELES PERALTA
What does it take to grow a church, especially when it comes to young people? I took some time to talk with Dr. A. Allan Martin, the teaching pastor of Younger Generation Church (YG Church), to discover what helps young adults thrive there.
YG Church, the thriving young adult ministry of Arlington Adventist Church in Texas, began in 2004 as a third church service under the leadership of then-senior pas- tor 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 and relevant preaching as well as contemporary worship music for young people.”
In 2010, YG Church invited Martin to transition from his teaching position at the Seventh-day Adventist Theo- logical Seminary to pastor the YG community. Martin, who has a rich ministry background, including planting and pastoring a thriving church in Celebration, Florida, recognized God’s leading and moved to Texas to lead YG Church.
“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 and mission-minded ministry embedded in the heart of Arlington Adventist Church.”
Building relationships among the generations has been instrumental in helping YG Church to continue to expand. Producing a worship service is one of many ways members of all ages grow together.
“It’s not unheard of in our church culture to have a teenager running the sound board,” says Martin. “That teenager 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.”
This intergenerational mentorship is intrinsic to the YG community and has been an important part of integrating YG Church into the larger Arlington Adventist 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 they are 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. Or, you could be a 70-year- old couple that can pour into those younger ‘whipper snappers,’ 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 Je- sus Christ by pursuing intimacy with God, experiencing community with each other, and inspiring those around us with the hope of grace. 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,” says Martin. “We pursue this with everything we’ve got. On Friday nights, as we’re pre- paring 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.”
On any given Saturday, over 1000 people experience at least one of the three services offered at Arlington Adventist Church. In order to ensure YG members have an opportunity to experience community, each member is encouraged to join a LIFEgroup. 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.
“LIFEgroups are where growth happens, where relation- ships form, and where accountability happens,” says Martin. “The first-century church flourished, because people were doing life together. We aspire to do the same.”
“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 our young adults started Revive Community Care giving our entire church an opportunity to help people with food, health/vision, and visitation. There are dreams of doing even more.”
In worship, fellowship, and outreach, YG Church is intentional about young people leading, but also about fostering nurturing relationships amidst all the generations. It's in these relationships, especially with older members, that young adults grow a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose. When this happens in young lives, there's not only growth, but there is also bearing fruit.
“When younger generations grow and thrive, the whole church benefits,” reflects Martin. “Growing together is much more rewarding than growing apart. At YG Church we've experienced that we are definitely better... together.”