During a conversation at Camp Meeting, where he spoke in both the youth and young adult tents, Chad shared what he sees and wants to see in the short-term and long-term. The short-term window included a recent community service project in Detroit that was conducted on July 27–28 (see sidebar).
Looking at the bigger picture, Chad effuses a tangible zeal for executing Christ’s method of soul-winning (see The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). Furthermore, he has identified that when youth ministry is going well, three factors are prevalent: a fervent love for the Lord, a fervent love for the church, and a fervent love for the community. These factors are intertwined in another one of Ellen White’s inspired declarations: “The church is God’s agency for the proclamation of truth …” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600). He is convinced that event and strategy planning must both emanate from and reinforce this three-dimensional love.
Youth Ministry is not just about youth
Chad seeks to imbue the world church’s emphasis on total member involvement into the Mitten State. Though he directs the Youth Department, he still desires total member involvement, not total millennial involvement. The niche he has carved into this specific generation does not in any way diminish the value he sees in inter-generational ministry. There is an undeniable proportionality between what the youth and young adults can accomplish for Christ and the willingness of middle-agers and seniors to contribute resources and wisdom to their efforts.
Chad did not espouse this concept from a theoretical impetus, but a firsthand, personal account. Soon after graduating from Andrews University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, he began his first teaching position at Oakwood Academy in Taylor, Mich. As he got to know Joe Skrobowski, a long-time member and elder of the Oakwood Church, he became increasingly impressed with his consistent, infectious example of devotion to Jesus, his wife, kids, and church.
Those who know Chad and have recognized his penchant for boldness will not be too surprised by the fact that he approached Joe, admitted that he wanted to be like him, and requested mentorship. Joe, with a warmth and graciousness with which many are familiar, gave a hearty thumbs up.
In underscoring the spiritual import of this type of relationship, Chad said, “I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, can I just start hanging out with you?’ And what I really was saying is, ‘I want you to disciple me, I want you to mentor me,’ which is what Jesus did. Jesus said, ‘Hang out with Me, eat with Me, just hang around Me … I want you to do what I do.’ I really think, in a basic sense, that’s mentorship. It’s just spending time with someone, listening to them, gleaning the wisdom that they have to share, and practicing what they’re practicing. I just feel so grateful for Joe’s influence on my life. I think that’s a perfect model.”
That influence has had an exponential spread as Chad has impacted hundreds of lives inside and outside the classroom and helped build the kingdom of God. Imagine if Joe swatted that proverbial butterfly instead. Oh, how the course of history might have changed!
Chad urges everyone in the church, from ages 10 to 100+, to engage, one way or another, in the continual manifestation of this discipleship pattern. To the youth: acknowledge that those who have orbited the sun more often than you have, have a lot to offer in the way of promoting your growth as a Christian and heavenly representative. Look for those who are doing things the right way, for the most part (nobody’s perfect).
To the youthful at heart: consider it a privilege to take a student, recent graduate, or young professional under your wing. Disseminate your counsels and experiences with liberality. Even if it amounts to many hours per week and many weeks per year, think of the time you invest into their development as a grain of sand in the hourglass of eternity.
Chad originally grew up in Flint and graduated from Great Lakes Adventist Academy. His master’s degree in curriculum and instruction is also from Andrews, and eventually, his Ph.D. in leadership will be, too. As dedicated as he is to impacting young people, no one else on earth holds a more special place in his heart than do his wife of 21 years, Melinda, and five-year-old daughter, Adelaide.
Author – John Simon, Michigan-based freelance writer
The Michigan Youth Department, Ministerial Department and District 12 pastors mobilized across the City of Detroit providing assistance to homeowners in need. This bold endeavor, dubbed “Fieldwork,” was s an opportunity to build lasting friendships with people in a town that, although it’s on the road to recovery, still needs significant boosts in infrastructure, education, law enforcement, and most importantly, gospel presence.
Michigan Conference Youth director, Chad Bernard, indicated that Fieldwork was born out of his belief that young people genuinely want to help those within their spheres and positively change the world. Fieldwork and similar projects can be channels to say to those who are looking wistfully toward something better, “We care about you and love you.” As their confidence grows, our offer of something better — nay, the Best — will drip with more substantive credibility.
Fieldwork took place during the final weekend of July. On that Sabbath (July 27), participants united in worship and fellowship with the members of the Metropolitan Church in Plymouth. There was a concise training session mid-afternoon, followed by the formulation of teams of five and initial disbursement throughout the neighborhoods.
All five members of a given team shared the responsibilities of general labor. Additionally, two members carried certain designations: foreperson and connecter. The foreperson, typically the one with the most extensive handy skillset and aptitude for repairs, was the the first person to meet a family, assess their renovation needs, and ensure that the team purchased the proper materials.
Fieldwork also is known as the $100 Challenge. Those who registered to participate in the physical side of the project also committed to raising $100 by appealing to whatever number of generous benefactors. With combined funds raised by the team, the foreperson made the purchase.
The connectors were Detroit-area residents who served as the relational liaisons between their teammates and the families they are helping. Their roles will continue beyond late July, as they seek to nurture these new bonds for weeks, months and, hopefully, years to come.
Work boots hit the ground Sunday as the teams returned to their assigned homes to begin the projects requested. Afterward, the entire Fieldwork staff gathered together to cap off the weekend with testimonies and prayer.
For more on Fieldwork, visit www.fieldwork.love