by Becky St. Clair
Camping. Knot tying. Adventist history. Yellow scarves. Bible Bowl. “Keep the morning watch.” These are just some of the things that come to mind when Adventists hear the word Pathfinders. But Pathfinders is so much more than that. Pathfinders is a means not only to connect young people to Christ but also to connect them with ways to help others make that connection.
“Being a Pathfinder is fun,” said Brayden Quijada, a Pathfinder from the club at Waterman Visayan church (WVC). “I can interact with many kids of different ages, and it helps me grow closer to God. I like the workbooks and honors, and especially worship with my friends.”
Quijada is one of nearly 50 members of the WVC Pathfinder club. In August, they, along with 57,000 other Pathfinders, leaders, parents, and pastors, attended the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And for Quijada, there was something special about this camporee: He was baptized.
“Baptism is important to me because it’s like living a new life with God,” he said.
Twenty-four of the WVC Pathfinders made similar public declarations of their love for Christ during the camporee. This is just one example of how Pathfinder work has a profound impact on young people in the church—and in turn these young people deeply affect the world around them.
“I always told my Pathfinder directors that their primary purpose as leaders was not the classwork or the honors,” said Rudy Carrillo, former youth director for SECC, who retired in 2018. “Instead it is to present Christ to the kids.”
Pathfinders has its roots in SECC; the first club on record to be organized was in Anaheim in the late 1920s. John Hancock, then conference youth director, began a club in Riverside in 1946, establishing the program that extended to the world church in 1950.
When Carrillo arrived at SECC in the early 1980s, he fine-tuned the volunteer coordinator program already in place, and for the next 30 plus years Pathfinders as an organization “grew by leaps and bounds,” he said.
According to Carrillo, on Sabbath morning during the 2005 General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri, the question was asked, “How many of you would say that Pathfinders played a role in your spiritual life?” About three-quarters of the people in the room raised their hands.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” recalled Carrillo. “I never could have imagined how many laypeople sitting in those pews were affected by this ministry to youth.”
The extent of this impact is made clear to Carrillo every time he travels. He recalled stopping at store in a remote area during a road trip. A man who recognized Carrillo came up to him and hugged him, saying, “Thank you for everything you did. Pathfinders changed my life.”
Today there are more than 3,000 Pathfinders in SECC and approximately 2 million Pathfinders globally. Those numbers grow yearly.
“I always told my directors that they weren’t in those roles by chance,” Carrillo said. “They were in it by divine appointment. Pathfinders is truly a ministry.”
For resources and support for your local Pathfinder club, or for information on how to start one in your church, visit