By Ken Rosenauer
Were there a single word to describe how staff and supporters of Next Generation Ministries feel about their programs right now, it might be “outtasight.”
At least that seems to be the message coming from the Rev. Ron Watts, chair of the Next Generation Ministries Team, and Next Generation Ministries Director Jeff Baker on Saturday afternoon at Annual Conference.
Watts, senior pastor at LaCroix Church in Cape Girardeau, told the audience that 4,417 children, youth and college students attended United Methodist camps during 2017. They expect the number to top 5,000 this year.
He said that churches hosting the camps offer rave reviews of the experience for their young people. One parent said that her daughter considered being baptized following camp. Others report noticeable, positive differences in how their kids behave after camp.
One high school student who had served as a youth counselor during a camp in Aurora, emailed Bishop Bob Farr, telling him how much he and his friends enjoyed the camp run by the Office of Next Generation Ministries in partnership with Eagle Lake Camping. He was asking the bishop if the camp could come back in 2018.
“We enjoyed having them here,” the student wrote. “Those five days have changed my life.”
Baker said, “There’s a lot going on in Next Generation Ministries, and it’s not all just camping.”
As director of the office, he explained that their purpose is to develop new missional leaders. While camping has tremendous potential to do that, several more of their programs promise to similar success.
With a goal of developing 100 new young leaders this year, Baker announced the launch of NextGen Academy. It has three areas of focus:
- Service and mission
- Leadership development
- Spiritual gift discovery
The academy, according to the NextGen website, “creates an environment for youth from across the state to come together to grow spiritually, learn critical leadership skills and serve through local and distant mission experiences.”
Baker said that quarterly events will encourage students to continually grow in their relationship with God throughout the year.
He also said that the office is seeking 50 paid college interns, who will be used in various leadership development capacities designed to help them grow.
Finally, he pointed to two events of particular value. The first is MO Explo, a day of discovery and discernment for college students. Sponsored by the Center for Pastoral Excellence, it will be held in Columbia on Nov. 3. Stay tuned for more details.
The second is Love Well: Youth 2019, slated for July 10-14, 2019, in Kansas City. This is a United Methodist Discipleship Ministries national youth conference. Online registration begins next month.
The Office of Next Generation Ministries serves local congregations by strengthening the effectiveness, fruitfulness and discipleship of the next generation. The office website is at https://nextgenumc.org/. Baker’s email is email@example.com.