Project Documents

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Ricardo Norton

Second Advisor

David Penno

Third Advisor

Ronald Costa

Abstract

Problem. The purpose of this study was to uncover the main factors that contributed to the apathy of youth to the regular services in the Hialeah Spanish Church. The congregation was established in the late 1960’s, more than 50 years before this project. Several generations have been born and grown in the church since; yet, the church had never faced the generational challenges it was facing at the moment this project was implemented. There was a clear disconnection between the younger generations and the church activities, including Sabbath divine services. They frequently met in the church’s parking lot during the worship services avoiding integrating themselves into the program. Parents and church leaders were very concerned because they did not find ways to motivate and integrate this younger generation not only to the general programs and ministries of the church, but even more challenging, to the “Divine Service,” the main worship service on Saturdays. It seemed as if they were disengaged from each other as if they belonged to different worlds, separated by unsurmountable barriers. Furthermore, leaders recognized that the church is failing to maintain church attendance after youth become independent from their parents. The research helped find and clarify factors contributing to that issue and facilitated the development of a strategy to motivate these young people to integrate to church life. The results can help other congregations with similar challenges.

Methodology. This is a qualitative study that through a survey sought to find the factors why young people avoided the worship services including the main Sabbath service, and to develop a strategy that helped create a positive relationship between the parties in tension so that the youth would become actively involved in the church. Participants contributed in a group interview and took part in a discussion that initially included one question: What are the reasons why young people from the Hialeah Spanish church avoid the regular worship services and rather get together at the church’s parking lot? Other secondary questions based on the participant’s responses to the main research question were asked during the focus-group discussion to fully understand the phenomenon. Permission was requested from the participants to tape the group discussion, assuring them the information would be kept confidentially. Important comments selected were read to the participant to confirm clarity and precision. After the interview, ideas and concepts were analyzed, coded, and main themes and factors associated with the phenomenon were underlined. Once the survey took place, the resulting ideas and concepts were analyzed and the most important themes associated with this research were identified. Such ideas and concepts constituted the core foundation in the preparation and implementation of the strategy that was applied so that the youth would connect with the spiritual activities of the Hialeah Spanish Church.

Results. The interview process was completed on January 2011 and provided specific details regarding the factors producing apathy towards church’s services in this group of young Hispanics. Factors included: lack of youth integration in leadership positions in the church, need of contextual changes in the Adoration or Divine Service liturgy, and the creation of a more contextualized Youth Ministry. These factors provided the groundwork for the proposal of a strategy to create a positive relationship between the current leaders of the church and the youth. The research findings also provided valuable information that can be used by many other Hispanic churches in the North American Division dealing with the same challenges and concerns. After the implementation of the project, dozens of young people who we used to struggle with because they stayed in the parking garage were now inside the church during worship services, actively participating from the pews, several of them frequently in the platform. Additionally, many young people who were not attending church started coming.

Conclusion. When I look back and meditate on God’s blessings to our church I realize that only the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts, can help us craft a church that reflects the principles of the New Testament church, the church of the apostles. When we focus on the cultural, generational and contextual differences that the Hispanic church faces in North America, we need to recognize that the task is almost impossible. Nevertheless; we also need to admit that the church under the influence of the Holy Spirit has been able to endure and survive the most horrendous crisis that history has presented. When the Spirit of Christ dwells in the believer's heart, the church finds the answers to the fiercest attacks from Satan. This work presents the realities Hispanic Ministries are facing in North America. It is real that we are losing our youth. In addition, it is true that the weight of culture and traditions separate us from these younger generations. However, it is also true that there are many church leaders looking for the way of keeping these generations integrated in the life of the church. If the church is the body of Christ, and He is the head, we have nothing to fear. We are all part of the Kingdom of God. This study shows that when we look for God's direction for His church and with a clean conscience, we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us; we can find practical and beneficial ways to keep our children in the church. When we ask them to serve in leadership positions, and we allow them to express themselves, the church moves closer to them. When we keep them in mind, when we design our Worship Service in a way that they feel connected with the liturgy, we can keep them on our side. When we minister to them in their context, and put down those cultural and traditional fences that separate us from their realities, we can win their hearts. When all these components are combined, we can say that we are fulfilling the mission that Christ commanded us to do. The church can really be the body of Christ. We cannot afford to lose our children. God should be praise and worshiped from generation to generation.

Subject Area

Church work with youth, Public worship--Seventh-day Adventists, Youth in public worship, Seventh-day Adventist youth--Religious life

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