IGNITION: Sparking a Movement of Young Adult Disciples
by Raewyn Hankins
I went to Young Adult Summit: IGNITION, held mid-February in Dallas, Texas, not sure what to expect, but definitely wanting to be part of something, hoping to see spiritual sparks, eager for something more than just talk.
Cyberspace had alerted me to IGNITION, inviting young adults and those passionate to minister with them to gather for worship, discipling, and networking. I got excited about hearing speakers like author George Barna and connecting with other young adults and close friends from across the country, and decided I had to be there.
I wasn’t aware that IGNITION was just one facet of the North American Division Youth/Young Adult Ministries Leadership Summit held every two years. For the first time at this summit, a comprehensive young adult ministry concentration offering best practices, dynamic worship, and experiential learning would be part of the mix. Nearly 1800 people were in attendance at the summit for everything from campus ministries, to pathfinders, to adventurers, to camping, to youth and young adult ministries. And of those registered for seminars, 25% had come intentionally for IGNITION!
“[At IGNITION] I found other young adults from all over the country who are doing amazing things in Jesus’ name,” exclaimed Lisa Hope, director of Adventist Christian Fellowship, at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “I came home from IGNITION with a sense of energy—the kind of energy that comes from being with hundreds of young adults who are passionate about God and sharing Him in each of our corners of the world. It is good to know of other ministries happening all around the country and beyond, and to know I’m in good company on this journey!”
As I arrived at the first IGNITION breakout session, a group of smiling strangers literally rushed me as I walked in the door, pulling me in to form a group of 12. The room was a blur of young adults moving, mixing, and mingling. As we settled into small groups, scattered circles on the hotel ballroom floor—praying, sharing, learning—I looked around and saw many peers whose ministry paths had crossed with mine in various parts of the world. It struck me that I was witnessing part of a growing movement of young adults seeking to be part of a worshipping community of disciples, determined to turn the world upside down for the sake of the gospel. And I certainly wasn’t the only one.
“The earnest praying, vulnerable sharing, and missional focus of IGNITION reflects what I imagine was the upper room of Acts 2,” shared Jose Bourget, a young adult pastor from Chicago, IL. “It seems this generation of young adults is actively anticipating a Pentecost of catastrophic proportions. Through IGNITION I was inspired, equipped, and sent out to disciple others for the sake of His Kingdom.”
Equipping came in many forms including seminars on significant young adult issues. Matthew Gamble and Adrienne Townsend gave presentations on young adult sexuality including the topics of identity and pornography. Surging young adult ministries, like Deeper in Central Florida and Oasis in the Chicagoland area, offered best practice case studies that are galvanizing this movement locally and gave us the chance to learn from peers. I appreciated those who have many years of experience in young adult ministry, like Lane Campbell and Bill Cork, presenting How to Start a Young Adult Ministry.
“The IGNITION seminars really ministered to me in a profound way,” shared young adult leader, Steven Gusse. “It was a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other people with the same passion. There is such a great need for young adult ministry, and I’m excited we are beginning to address that void.”
Although I was inspired by the exceptional seminars, what really struck me were the opportunities to enter into an experience of GOD. Beyond ministry training and social networking, I was invited to just stop and rest in GOD’s presence.
I experienced this rest at Encounters Café, where we came together casually around tables in a relaxed, candle-lit atmosphere to have quiet life conversations with friends old and new; joined Nick Zork and Elia King in singing praises to Jesus; or simply changed pace, enjoying being with GOD and others. True!mprov, an improvisational ministry troupe from Washington, brought much laughter into the conversations, and even tears as one member shared how God brought him back home.
On the final night I was rushing over to see the two prayer rooms (transformed hotel suites), hoping to look and take pictures for my ministry files. I pressed in the door and was stopped in my tracks by the sudden realization that I was on holy ground. It wasn’t the elegant decorations or creative expressions that hit me, but the couple kneeling, praying, weeping together there. I put away my camera and took off my shoes. It was a delight to partake in communion that late-night and just be with my Savior.
I wasn’t the only one feeling refreshed.
Young adult seminarian, Diane Ingalsbe, lauded, “I gained some practical ideas for my ministries and really appreciated the prayer rooms and the vibe in the cafe. I came back home completely re-invigorated!”
“I’ve attended many other conferences which offered hope, energy, enlightenment, encouragement, and an authentic worship experience, but never at an Adventist event—until now, that is,” shared a young adult physician. “Mad props to all of those who sacrificed as leaders, speakers, or presenters for IGNITION. I’ve been close to leaving this denomination many times, but being a part of this past weekend has given me some hope. Praise God.”
I have often attended ministry conventions where I felt pushed into a frantic pace to get to seminars, pick up resources, run to this program, rush to this training. IGNITION was distinctly different in that it gave me permission to “let my hair down” and enjoy lingering in GOD’s presence, to freely worship Him, to feel like I was part of a team, a community, a grassroots movement. Friendships were affirmed, with GOD and each other. We were being fueled by worship, ignited to disciple, sparking a movement within our generation and our church.
“I enjoyed the sense of togetherness that was present. The positive vibes promoted a strong foundation for genuine friendships,” blogged Bid-Lose Olivier, a Nutrition/Dietetics and International Relations major at Florida International University. “IGNITION lifted up Jesus and His Words. It helped me to have unlimited confidence in GOD.”
Kris Bryant, a 22 year-old Psychology major, from Oklahoma City, OK blogged, “IGNITION was a brilliant display of young adult passion, creativity, and innovation. I learned so many fresh ideas and connected with so many great people!”
Events like IGNITION are inspiring, but what happens next? I came away with the sense that this event had initiated a larger, more local process.
“My prayer now is that the things learned, inspired and discovered can now be spread out at the local level, starting a new movement of love and inclusion for all ages,” articulated Amy Prindle, managing editor for the Mid-America Outlook and a young married. IGNITION conversations continue in cyberspace via our blog and our Facebook group, fostering steps both in encountering GOD and discipling others.
“I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I feel after IGNITION!” raved Tuesda Roberts, a young adult ministry leader from Charlotte, NC. “I still feel the energy, passion and compassion that permeated the atmosphere in Dallas.”
Collegian Gilberto Caraballo of Worcester, MA shared, “Just got back from Dallas and I must say that IGNITION will forever stand in my mind as a great spiritual gathering of young adults. It was amazing!”
I went to IGNITION and found young adults on the move. In fellowship with peers passionate about Christ, I felt moved to deepen my devotion to Jesus. I was encouraged that concern for young adult involvement in our church has not ended with talk, but has been surpassed by action. I found a young adult movement. As sparks fly, igniting a young adult revolution across the nations, may the movement gain momentum, finding more and more of us wholeheartedly pursuing a 24/7 experience of the living GOD.