Ryan Hablitzel is passionate about millennials, mission, Jesus, and juice. Why juice? Because he’s been forced to step outside his comfort zone and pursue the unknown, and it’s resulted in something transformational.
Ryan is a pastor in Utah, located in the western United States (US). In 2015, he invited a Seventh-day Adventist organization called Thrive to begin working with his church in Ogden. Thrive is a group of young volunteers who train local church members in Bible work, literature evangelism, medical missionary work, and lifestyle coaching over a nine-month period.
Ryan noticed something interesting. Thrive drew young people to the church: millennials who had left began attending again. Hmmm, he thought. We have something here! He considered Thrive's emphasis on wholistic health in their ministry. What type of ministry could be self-sustaining, promote a healthy lifestyle, and give young people mission experience? he mused. A juice bar. Everyone loves juice! This is something everyone can get behind!
He approached Thrive directors Westney White and Jo Cadiz with a juice bar concept that could function as an Urban Center of Influence (UCI) and provide income for mission-minded young people. Ryan said, “What emerged wasn’t simply a cold-pressed juice bar business but a plan for a new type of church that provided sustainable employment for young people and engaged communities with street-level, hands-on ministry.”
Miles away from Utah, in the US state of Georgia, two young Adventist entrepreneurs, Jared Thurmon and Jason Churchwell, had opened a cold-pressed juice bar in 2013 with the mission to help others live healthier lives. The company was so successful that it soon became well-known in Atlanta for its organic, cold-pressed juice.
Ryan and Jason knew each other from briefly working together at a boarding academy in southeastern Utah. When Ryan mentioned something about his juice bar idea on social media, Jason responded that “he knew a little something about juice.” Originally, Ryan had planned to build the business from the ground up, but after talking with Jason, Ryan believed that this might be an opportunity to take their mission to the next level.
Jared and Jason already had a quality product established that would take the guesswork out of the juicing side of the operation. Ryan presented the opportunity to make the business openly Seventh-day Adventist. After prayer and patient deliberation, Jared and Jason sold their concept to the Nevada-Utah Conference with Ryan as the principal developer.
According to Ryan’s proposed business plan, US$98,000 was needed to launch a pilot location in a prime downtown Ogden neighborhood. Since this project is considered an urban church plant, the company applied for and received funds from the North American Division’s (NAD) Plant 1000 initiative in 2016. Additional funding was provided by the Pacific Union Conference’s Creative Evangelism Fund and through your sacrificial giving to the General Conference’s Global Mission UCI Fund.
The juice bar opened its doors in April 2018. Ryan says that they’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the community. Everyone he’s spoken to is excited to try the cold-pressed juices!
Ryan plans to refine his business model after one year in Ogden and, when he feels comfortable with their operating system, will try to create a prototype that can be easily replicated globally. He would like to see this concept in every major city around the world, giving young people a righteous purpose: to be sold out to love and sold out to Jesus.
When asked whether they’ll host programs in the store, Ryan emphasizes that it’s not about programs. He says, “We don’t do programs. We do community. There’s a difference. Think of us as a ‘missional community.’ This will be the hub for a church network of people.” At the core of his model is in-home small group ministry. Juice bar staff are currently being taught how to form and lead small groups.
Ryan believes that young people, especially millennials, want to be a part of a transformational, exciting future with others. This juice bar offers them the keys to rediscover Christianity with their peers in an open and welcoming environment.
“One of our main goals is to present Adventism to our communities in a very positive light,” Ryan says. “Ideally, we want people to know that Seventh-day Adventists are the most compassionate, caring people they’ve ever met.”
Join Ryan and his team in praying that God will guide them in implementing the right methods to effectively reach millennials and the secular community. Pray also that they can create an economically sustainable model that anyone, anywhere, can reproduce.
Urban Centers of Influence (UCIs)
Adventist Mission supports wholistic mission to the cities. This includes a rapidly growing number of UCIs that serve as platforms for putting Christ’s method of ministry into practice and as ideal opportunities for Total Member Involvement in outreach that suits each person’s spiritual gifts and passions.
To learn more about UCIs or to support their ministry, visit MissionToTheCities.org.