The idiom 'End of the Road' represents a time when a process or a person has reached a point where they cannot progress any further. This situation was true for Pathfinders and Adventurers who participated in this year's Pathfinder (PBE) and Adventurer (ABE) Bible Experience testing. The ABE's end of the road was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Trans-European Division (TED) finals took place on Sabbath 16th April 2022. Still, for the PBE testing, the end of the road was at the North America Division's finals at Lane Events Center, Eugene, Oregon, USA, on Sabbath, 23rd April 2022.
One of the hot topics in the car industry this week was the announcement from the Japanese giant carmaker Nissan that signalled the end of the road for its flagship Datsun car. This century-long global brand helped the Japanese carmaker establish itself globally after World War II. In its long history, the Datsun brand helped sell millions of cars worldwide. However, the Datsun name was phased out in the 1980s before the company revived the brand a few decades later by describing its new range of vehicles as "an important part of Nissan's DNA". This week's latest announcement represents the end of the road for the Datsun brand.
There is no such rebranding or reviving the teams' fortunes in the ABE or PBE as this year's testing is now fully concluded. However, teams have now got at least a four- or five-month hiatus to reflect, regroup or start afresh in readiness for next year's testing. With this in mind, I have decided to provide personal reflections on what has been an incredible year in the Adventurer and Pathfinder calendars.
Firstly, credit to the organisers of both the ABE and PBE for holding the four levels of testing face to face this year after the virtual experience during the lockdown months. A welcome development that provided the young people with an opportunity to experience fellowship when such opportunities are scarce. The hybrid nature of revision employed by most clubs assisted the young people in covering a lot of ground in the months preceding the start of this year’s competition in January 2022.
The North American Division Pathfinder Bible Experience finals were the first-ever PBE hybrid event this year. With ninety-three teams participating: sixty-three teams gathered in person at the Lane Events Center in Eugene, Oregon, and thirty teams joined remotely. Most of the teams in the finals were from the nine unions in the North America Division. The British Union had nineteen teams participating, with teams from the North England Conference, South England Conference, Irish Mission, and the Welsh Mission.
The PBE competition serves to engage the Pathfinders in in-depth Bible study, preparing them with lifelong skills in comprehension, memorisation and application. It was refreshing to see at this year's event teams with a smaller number of participants. For example, one team consisted of only two members and their mentor. It was because of the dropout from the other members of the group.
I have had open and honest conversations with fellow Pathfinder and Adventurer Club Directors and parents in a bid to understand their experiences. On reflection, most parents agree that the ABE and PBE should form the cornerstone of any Adventurer and Pathfinder club calendar and the normal curricular activities. However, there is a need to address a few hurdles for the competitions to be successful.
Firstly, the organisation of all the four levels of the testing needs to be improved. The calendar is set in the PBE guidance detailing the timelines for each level of testing. For example, the area testing is held on the first Sabbath of February, conference testing on the first Sabbath in March, the union testing on the last Sabbath, and the division finals are held on the third Sabbath in April. According to their unique scheduling needs, they may change them in each conference or union as the dates are altered forward or backwards a week. Most of the club directors feel it would be a great idea to have these dates and venues published in September. That is before the year of testing so that clubs can calculate the financial costs of their teams' participation and plan for fundraising ventures or ask parents to start making savings.
Secondly, the financial burden needs to be shared by both the participating teams and their conferences and unions. The present arrangement in the British Union Conference (BUC) is that the highest-scoring team at the BUC finals receives financial sponsorship to attend the North American Division (NAD) finals, leaving all the other first-place teams scrambling for their funding. I believe that part of any church gift aid budget should be devoted to supporting their local ABE and PBE teams in this journey. The most excellent form of in-reach evangelism is to help our young people in this programme.
Thirdly, the church should support new teams who wish to participate by offering them mentorship from a sister club or support from specialised Pathfinder or Adventurer Area Coordinators within each conference or mission. On reflection, I learned that while it may be a daunting and challenging task to set up any new ABE or PBE team, the best way to start a new team is to make sure you start small, with one team, either ABE or PBE and grow as the years allow. It will avoid overwhelming the leaders with a mammoth task.
Overall, while we have reached the end of the road for this year's events, next year's event will provide our young people with a new route and a new journey. I am already excited about next year's journey that will take us into an in-depth study of the whole gospel of John (PBE), and John chapters 1-8 (ABE).
If you are a club director and wish to start a new ABE or PBE team, please register your interest for an introductory session on how to set up a new ABE or PBE team here.