Image Credit: Lacey Stecker

North Pacific Union Spark Tank Funds Innovation

North Pacific Union launched a brand-new initiative focused on empowering local young adult ministries through Spark Tank, a young adult outreach summit, on Sept. 9, 2023.

After worshiping together at the NPUC office in Ridgefield, Washington, seven teams presented new and innovative ideas to connect with their communities and share the message of Jesus.

Each conference in NPUC was encouraged to bring up to three young adult teams. Representatives from across NPUC attended to evaluate each idea and were given the opportunity to award $50,000 in funding — which would then be matched by a local church or local conference young adult department — to help launch the initiatives. The maximum amount to be awarded to any individual team from the Spark Tank initiative was $10,000.

The seven teams represented Oregon, Upper Columbia and Washington Conferences.

Refuge Church: The first to present was Evelin Vilanova, from Refuge Church in Seattle, Washington. A key strength of Refuge is its professional-level worship music thanks to dedicated musicians and members who have composed for Netflix shows and blockbuster films. Refuge requested funds to help launch an ongoing music mentorship program for their local community.

West Metro PDX: After launching as a collective youth group between three Spanish-speaking churches west of Portland, Oregon, in 2022, West Metro PDX discovered a growing need for community among young professionals in their area.

In July 2023 they decided to host a young adult vespers service, assuming around 20 people would join them. After 60 people showed up, some of them driving more than an hour, the idea began to form for an initiative more specific to the young professional age and stage of life.

A representative team outlined a year-long calendar of engaging events targeted at this demographic, as well as a formalized strategy for “passing the torch” each year to younger leadership, ensuring that the initiative would remain for young adults and led by young adults.

LifeBridge Church: A leadership team from LifeBridge Church in University Place, Washington, shared their vision of an outdoors-based ministry. The focus of the initiative would be to create strong relational connections with local community members who regularly engage in outdoor activities such as bouldering, backpacking, disc golf and other sports.

The team outlined a four-step framework for establishing these relationships: community engagement; invitation to spiritual growth through small groups and volunteer activities; encouragement toward baptism through worship gatherings and Bible studies; and development into spiritual leaders who could create new positive relationships in the community themselves.

Nuestra Iglesia: La Sociedad de Jóvenes Adventistas, similar to what is known in many English-speaking churches as Adventist Youth, is a longstanding tradition with a rich history in Spanish-speaking churches.

The student leaders of Nuestra Iglesia recognized a need on the campus of Walla Walla University to renew SJA and to create meaningful, bilingual Sabbath afternoon services.

They specifically pointed to the space that these services create for international students, who often have less built-in community available to them during their time at college and who greatly benefit from spaces where food and fellowship are provided.

Sharon Adventist Church: A team of four young adult leaders from Sharon Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon, presented Project Resurgence, a year-long initiative focused on developing engagement with young adults ages 18–25 through eight major events including a back-to-school supply drive, a graduation mentorship program, friendsgiving, family field day, community service projects and more.

In addition, the team outlined many quarterly goals including mental health check-ins, life and career coaching, game nights, Bible studies and vespers programs. The team brought strong local support in an initial startup pledge from their church for $10,000.

Unnamed Docuseries: Rachel Swanston, team leader, brought forward an idea for a union-wide docuseries focusing on the ways God is moving through young adults and young adult ministries in the Pacific Northwest. The project is being supported by UCC youth department with additional support from Oregon Conference young adult department.

Journey Church: After being strongly impacted by their own experiences participating in NPUC’s DiscipleTrek program, a team of young men from Journey Church brought forward a pitch for a young adult leadership retreat built on similar values — time away from the distractions of home to invest in Bible study and building strong relationships together.

‍Once all groups had presented their ideas, NPUC and conference representatives prayed over the teams and their ministries. Due to the frugality of several of the teams’ initial pitches, NPUC Spark Tank was able to meet every request brought forward and even present more than what was requested for some teams.

“NPUC and every conference in it just wants to be incredibly supportive to young adults,” said Rob Lang, NPUC assistant to the president for youth and young adults, as he announced results. “That’s the news. So, share that news that your church loves you, values you, believes in you and trusts you. And we need you."

Allen Stafford, participant from UCC, appreciated the opportunity to network and connect with like-minded peers.

"It was inspiring to be in a room with other ambitious young adults with dreams for empowering ministry within their churches," he said. "It was even more special to see NPUC stand behind their young people, say we believe in you, affirm their ideas, give them excellent feedback and fund their ideas. And it wasn't a small amount either [with] more than $100,000 allotted."

Through NPUC Spark Tank, seven new outreach initiatives will be launched between 2023–2024. The teams will come back next year with reports of how their ministry initiatives turned out and what they learned along the way. Please join in praying for each group and the communities they serve.

Featured in: November/December 2023