Alfredo Garcia-Marenko is a General Conference Ministerial Association Elder’s Digest Assistant Editor

A generation of experienced Adventist leaders is passing from the scene today. If the younger generation is to take their place successfully in these end times, we must learn, teach, and intentionally exercise the art and strategy of mentoring. As we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elder’s Digest, it is appropriate to reminisce about significant moments of our church’s heritage in the beginning of Adventist youth ministry. From this beginning we learn important lessons for the huge challenges facing our youth today as we minister to them in Seventh-day Adventist churches around the world.

In 1879, God used two young men to raise the first Adventist Youth Society and youth ministry: Luther Warren, 14 (who subsequently became a pastor and evangelist), and Harry Fenner, 17,1 members of the former Hazelton Church in Michigan, USA. There they were divinely inspired to organize the youth, later to be followed by millions of young people of future generations. Archived records show that Luther and Harry had both the concern and support of the local church leadership and their own parents, who hosted the first meetings in their homes before moving to the church building.The first meeting was held at Luther’s home in an unfinished upstairs room with the support of Doran and Ellen Warren.2 Their parents ignited the vital roles of mentors, counselors, trainers, coaches, role models, and prayer warriors for the youth.

I want to mention another young man God used to form a different youth society in those formative years: Meade McGuire. He became a pastor and eventually an associate Ministerial secretary of the General Conference. His photo is portrayed on the historic wall display of the General Conference Ministerial Association. His story illustrates how youth initiative and adult mentorship may combine to do powerful work for God. He wrote:

 My first experience in young people’s work was gained in the church at Antigo, Wisconsin, [USA] in 1891. I was but a youth and had no one to counsel with; but I felt that something ought to be done to help and inspire the young people. I had never heard of any young people’s organization among our people.

Then he faced something that would be challenging to any young person:

I proposed holding a young people’s meeting, but my proposal was met with almost universal disapproval. . . . However, the elder, a saintly old man, long since dead, placed his hand on my shoulder and said: “My boy, you go right ahead. You may have the church for your meetings, and I will stand by you.”3

What a vision! What a leader! What a formula to be emulated in our church today. What a voice to be echoed in each level of our church structure: “My boy [girl]. . . . You may have the church . . . and I will stand by you.” The historic account identifies that church elder simply as Brother Conner,4 but I am sure that in the heavenly account that saintly old man, with his full name, is regarded as a faithful elder, an honorable leader, and a visionary mentor!

1 Arthur W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1962), 3:119.
2 Sharon Boucher, Luther Warren: Man of Prayer and Power (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1959), 15, 40.
3 Matilda Erickson, Missionary Volunteers and Their Work (Takoma Park, MD: Review and Herald, n.d.), 12–13.
4 Spalding, Origin and History, 120.

Alfredo Garcia-Marenko is a General Conference Ministerial Association Elder’s Digest Assistant Editor

2019 Fourth Quarter

Download PDF
Ministry Cover