Don Keele Jr. knows God directly called him to work with young people when he was in college, and for more than 30 years he has answered that call, most recently being named director of young adult and Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF) ministries. “My goal is to empower young adults to do their own ministry. Great things are taking place all over the Conference,” says Keele.
“Over the past few years, ACF and young adult ministries have grown to the point that administration believes that a coordinated effort would foster continued growth and expansion,” says Gary Rustad, general vice president. “With Don Keele Jr. directing these ministries, we look forward to seeing how the Lord will continue to grow young adults and expand ACF chapters.”
Keele shares that when you examine the collegiate ministries age group, there is a one-third to two-thirds split. Roughly one-third of Adventist youth attend an Adventist university, and two-thirds attend public universities. Upon graduation, many stop attending church for a variety of reasons. Some stop and discover that no one misses them; others stop because they have no role or function at church.
“Let’s face it: none of us stay where we don’t feel wanted or needed,” Keele said. “And, after a busy week it’s easy to sleep in, and they just fall out of the habit of going.” They are not against church, or mad; they just aren’t there. Then there are those 10-15 percent who are actively running from God. They want to be away and are running from the Father, and want nothing to do with Him or His Church. And sadly, there is that group that has been hurt by someone. They quit the church where they were hurt, can’t find another church, and simply stop looking. “We need to stop complaining about them and begin actively seeking them, calling them back, and integrating them into the body life of the Church,” says Keele.
To reach out to the varied youth and young adults, Keele is offering training events designed to assist members as they pursue these groups. In January his office offered young adult liaison (YAL) training. In this position, individuals are trained to become a connecting point for youth and young adults, ages 12-35, at their church. They connect people to service, to one another, and to opportunities that are often unique to each church. The next YAL training is August 17 and 18, 2018, at Cohutta Springs Youth Camp. “Any person who wants to connect young adults to their church can attend this training,” says Keele. Another event especially for young adults is the Conversations Young Adult Retreat, August 31 to September 2, 2018.
The goal with ACF is to visit and build up the 12 existing chapters, as well as add several new chapters; there’s a potential for 32 universities within the Conference borders. ACF offers training and ways to connect youth/young adults attending public colleges and universities with the Church. Re.Start, held August 24 in the Atlanta area, is a Friday evening back-to-school worship and inspiration event for anyone attending a public university. Additionally, the ACF Leadership Reboot for all ACF officers and their advisors, will be October 26-28, 2018; and February 22-24, 2019, the ACF CONNECT Retreat will be held at Cohutta Springs for any student attending public universities, whether they are involved in a local ACF chapter or not.
Keele plans to form regional and Conference level advisory boards for post-collegiate young adults, as well as ACF. The regions will include northern Tennessee, Chattanooga area, Atlanta area, and south Georgia. Keele says, “There are young adult groups everywhere in our Conference, and we just need to connect them, empower them, and get out of the way. One great example of what can happen when you empower them for ministry is 71.5 magazine with editor Emily Long.” (http://715youthmag.com)
Once a speed skier, skiing at speeds of 92 mph, Keele now enjoys reading, especially books on young adult ministries; writing (his teen devotional book is on Amazon, Ed’s Tohlet & Other Stories); photography; woodworking; motorcycles; and birding. Keele is married to Sandy, and they have two adult children, Donnie and Andrea.
Georgia-Cumberland | May 2018