My Youth Leadership Congress diary

Thursday, December 13, 2018
The story behind the collection of qualitative research

Dr John Skrzypaszek from the Ellen G White Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre and Dr Peter Williams from Avondale Business School attended the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Global Youth Leadership Congress 2018. They traveled to Kassel, Germany, to study the lived experience of youth ministry leaders. Their interviews with these leaders are part of a project by Avondale College of Higher Education’s Christian Education Research Centre. Here are Skrzypaszek’s reflections of the congress and of the research.

Monday, August 30
After an almost 40-hour journey with cancellations and misinformation testing our patience, Peter and I arrive in Kassel. Our welcome: the European heatwave. Kassel is a beautiful city with a history dating to 913 AD. In World War II, it became a centre for German airplane and tank production before being destroyed by Allied bombing. Above the city rises a statue of Hercules, the symbol of Kassel since the 18th century.

We’ve traveled to Kassel as part of a Christian Education Research Centre team studying the lived experience of youth ministry leaders. Our data comes from two sources: an online survey of the participants attending the congress, and; individual or focus group interviews with representatives from each of the divisions of the worldwide church. The goal: to conduct interviews with 36 leaders.

Tuesday, August 31
Surprise! The enormous job of organising the congress places some tasks—selecting our interviewees, for example—at a lower level of priority. So, Peter and I contact team leaders as they arrive. We’re pessimistic about meeting our goal.

As young adults full of enthusiasm and with high expectations arrive from the countries of the world, I’m overwhelmed with the cross-cultural nature of the church. No matter from where they come, the young adults have one thing in common. Everyone holds an electronic device. The global village is getting smaller.

Wednesday, September 1
A win! I talk about the project and its purpose with congress leaders during the morning devotional. From then on, we experience successful progress.

Saturday, September 4
I appreciate Peter’s enthusiastic and commendable involvement in the collection of the data. Our work has been intense—we’ve conducted interviews with 51 leaders and listened to stories of success, challenge and even frustration.

The congress theme, “Pass It On,” challenges the young adult leaders to share God’s love in the complexity of the changing world. “We live in a changing world but I still believe young adults will finish the divine mandate by taking the good news of God’s salvation to the world,” Jonatán Tejel, the Youth Ministries Director for the church’s Inter-European Division tells me. He then adds, “I would love to see how we allow our young adults to be the ones innovating while we are the ones supporting them.”

I’m sure this project will provide a valuable resource for all church leaders as they seek to better understand and support those in young adult ministry. Young adult leaders will also benefit from a deeper understanding of the factors perceived to make an impact on the success of their work and that of their colleagues.

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John Skrzypaszek

Dr John Skrzypaszek is the director of the Ellen G White/Seventh-Day Adventist Research Centre based at Avondale College of Higher Education.

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