In just two years, the Duluth Warriors Pathfinder Club went from placing near the bottom of all Conference teams at the Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE), to receiving first place at the national level testing. Part of their success can be attributed to a more intentional relationship with the Pathfinders and their pastor.
This relationship can be credited to a book published more than 20 years ago. The book, Why our Teenagers Leave the Church, by Roger L. Dudley, made a significant impact on Israel Mora, pastor at the Duluth, Georgia, Church. In the book, it says, “Most aren’t leaving because of a dispute with doctrine. Rather, they are confused by the tension between the truth of Adventism and the way they see it being lived out by the older members of their congregation. They place a high amount of credibility on relationships …” (emphasis added).
“I believe that even though this was written more than two decades ago, it’s still relevant today,” says Mora. “Young people, kids, and adults, all put a high value on relationships, and not to over emphasize the role of pastors and young people, but there is a massive importance in that relationship.”
For more than 20 years, Mora has asked himself how he can be part of the solution, which has led him to placing a high value in remembering people’s names, especially kids’ names. Young people see pastors as spiritual leaders and as having authority. So when a pastor remembers a young person’s name, when a pastor takes the time to stop and ask them how they are doing, they are telling them they are important, that the pastor cares for them, that they are relevant, explains Mora.
When he saw the PBE teams from his church struggling, Mora decided to volunteer as a pastor/coach. This meant meeting with the team on a weekly basis for nearly eight months. These meetings didn’t just include memorizing Bible texts. It was time building relationships. During each meeting, Mora would ask them how their week went. While Mora had gotten involved to help the team, the team had an impact on him. These weekly catch-ups became one of the highlights of his week, when he would hear their animated stories.
This year, the youngest team made it to second place at the Conference level testing, while the oldest team received first place at the North American Division testing, held April 22, 2023, in Tampa, Florida. But, PBE is more than placing first.
For Mora, PBE has provided an opportunity to build relationships with the young people; … to know who they are and what they value … “to show them as a pastor that I love them, to show them that I care about them,” Mora said. “To Arianna, Ethan, Kiara, Brayden, Elia, and Camila: You have made my journey to the promised land a happier one. I look forward to spending all eternity with you, to hear all your amazing and funny stories.”
Note: Israel Mora is transitioning from his role as pastor of the Duluth, Georgia, Church and chaplain at Duluth Adventist Academy, to be the new youth director for the Oklahoma Conference.
Georgia-Cumberland | June 2023