While the Conclave NextGen conference underwent a remodel back in 2018, this year’s event saw breakthroughs in both attendance and connection opportunities that Baptist General Convention of Texas ministry leaders believe brought it to a whole new level.
“We had more children’s ministry workers than we have ever had. We tripled the number from 2021 to 2022 and then tripled again this year,” said Cory Liebrum, youth and family ministry specialist at BGCT. “This is significant enough that we really feel Conclave can be one of the main trainings you can send your whole NextGen leadership to.”
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A cohesive continuum of church ministry support
Traditionally focused on training and fellowship for those in youth ministry, Conclave added breakout session tracks for those working in preschool ministry, children’s ministry and family ministry. The aim, Liebrum said, is to create a cohesive continuum of programs for young people from birth through college age and beyond. Jennifer Howington, childhood ministry specialist at BGCT, partnered with Liebrum to lead these efforts.
“There has been a lot more focus in churches about reaching the family, and if you have different people doing those responsibilities, the ministry can start to operate in a silo. The family coming in might have an eighth-grader, a fourth-grader and one in pre-K, and those are in different areas of the church,” explained Liebrum of the shift. “If the leaders aren’t communicating and working together on the same page, it will just confuse and frustrate families. There are a lot of resources out there that can help do that for our churches.”
New additions to the 2023 event, held October 2–3 at Dallas Baptist University, included a pastor’s track that Liebrum said was comprised of more than 30 senior pastors. The event featured a new networking luncheon for childhood ministry leaders and a luncheon for those new to childhood or youth ministry to network and hear from experienced leaders. The event also saw the “On Your Own” fellowship reprised, giving those who may be the only leader attending from their church a chance to connect and network as well.
“[Pastors] were able to hear from a few of our breakout and keynote speakers in a more intimate format to talk about leadership, family and NextGen ministry and how to approach that side of it in their churches,” Liebrum said, noting that the event also served a dual purpose for some attendees. “Most of our churches don’t have the resources to do some kind of staff leadership retreat, and we heard from a few churches that they use Conclave as a staff retreat of sorts. It gives them a few days away from the office to be together and experience some corporate worship together and then attend the breakouts most related to what they are dealing with. I think we’ll see that continue to grow.”
Keynote speakers for the two-day event included Doug Fields with Download Youth Ministry; Kara Powell from the Fuller (Seminary) Youth Institute; Shane Pruitt from the North American Mission Board; and Robert White, pastor at Freedom Church in Bedford. Nick Gainey of Rockwall led worship.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Teresa Young and originally published by Baptist General Convention of Texas.