Pathfinders: Training Our Leaders

Blog November 8, 2023

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance (Proverbs 1:2–5, ESV).

Were you in Pathfinders? Many of us who participated in Pathfinders remember learning how to march in formation, memorizing Bible verses, going camping, and of course, the joy of getting to add another honor to our sashes. Some of us made lifelong friendships during that time.

In 2021–2022, a survey was sent to Pathfinder leaders in the Florida, Michigan, Northeastern, Ontario, Potomac, Southeastern California, and Texas Conferences to find out how they felt about and implemented the Pathfinder program.. Participants answered questions about Teen Leadership Training, the Investiture Achievement curriculum, basic drill and marching, and Pathfinder honors and uniforms. Responses were very positive, with participants largely supporting the processes or approaches currently in place, and when given an “other” option on the survey, respondents mostly wished to change nothing.

While most of the questionnaire was multiple choice, participants were given the opportunity to write their own comments about what they found most helpful in running their Pathfinder groups.

The survey asked, “What is one thing that would help you the most in Pathfinder Club Ministry?” and “What one thing would you change about Pathfinder Club Ministry?”

Interestingly, the first question prompted mainly “do more of this” answers, and the second question received more “do less of this” answers.

While the second question was addressed in our previous blog, a major theme arising from the first question was the need for more training for the Pathfinder leadership in several areas—for staff, directors, instructors, and volunteers. For instance, more than 40% of leaders find that the greatest challenge they have in doing drills in their clubs is a lack of a qualified instructor.

More than two-thirds believe that providing “instructor plans” would improve the teaching of Pathfinders honors in their clubs. Interestingly, a quarter pointed out that there should be less reading or memorization. Important as it is, especially in our digital age, there may be room for  creative activities facilitating indirect memorization.

Participants also suggested various ways of delivering training such as online training and tutorial videos.

Write-in comments from survey participants include:

  • YouTube videos to show how to teach honors.
  • Better training. The ones we have are too long, too boring, and we don’t focus on the subject.
  • Staff training materials offered directly online. It’s hard to train new volunteers … and new staff without these resources. This can cause confusion and chaos down the road if staff and teachers aren’t trained properly.
  • More resources online and free to download
  • More links to short video segments related to various topics and resources.
  • Offering training more than once a year. Offering trainings online and via videos so traveling is not a factor. This could be done using online portals similar to what schools and colleges use for their virtual learning.

Pathfinder leaders across the conferences were deeply committed to their roles as mentors and guides for Seventh-day Adventist youth, and Church leadership and Youth Ministries directors should be encouraged by the results of the survey. At the same time, there were aspects that were identified by the questionnaire that need attention. Training options provided online, in real-time and video format, short and specific to a topic, and easily searchable by the users, would be very helpful.

How can you help in making such training options available? Maybe your Conference or Union offers Pathfinder leader training already online? You can share this information with us via email by contacting us at [email protected]. Also check out the Pathfinders page at the Adventist Youth Ministries website:

Here are our previous research blogs on Pathfinders:

Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.

Published by ASTR on 11-08-2023

Image credit: International Camporee

References: Petr Činčala and Injae Son. The Pathfinder Club Ministries Study: The Club Leadership and Members’ Commitment and Interests in the Major Elements of the Ministry. February 2023.