Kids, student, next generation and family ministry leaders gathered recently at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, for Lifeway Christian Resource’s annual Next Gen Ministry Conference — ETCH.
The ETCH (Equipping the Church and Home) Conference focuses on pouring into and investing in ministry leaders, according to organizers. This year’s theme, “Next,” was based on Psalm 145:4, “One generation will declare your works to the next and will proclaim your mighty acts” (CSB).
As 800 ministry leaders spent three days (Oct. 9–11) remembering and reflecting on their calling to pass along the faith to the next generations, they also explored methods and ideas for ministry in the next season. In main sessions and breakouts, ministry leaders unpacked research and discovered strategies, resources and tools for reaching and discipling the next generation.
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Chuck Peters, director of Lifeway Kids, described the conference as a family reunion. Ministry teams, individuals, families and couples in ministry connected, challenging and encouraging one another in their ministries. As ministry leaders gathered from throughout the country, some were attending ETCH for the first time while others have been attending for years because this community equips them for ever-changing ministry.
Charting what’s next
Peters shared data from Lifeway Research’s latest next-generation ministry research released in the book, “Flip the Script.” This data is critical for knowing the next generation and being able to minister to them, Peters said. Based on this research, Peters identified two big cultural markers of kids and students today: They are longing for belonging and searching for identity. So, Peters said, the next generation needs leaders who are connected, consistent, committed and who care about them.
Pointing leaders to Luke 15 and the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Peters challenged them to be willing to go find the lost kid or student. “Every child in your church needs a champion in your church,” Peters said. “My prayer is we would be the ones who see the ‘ones.’”
Also looking to the future and planning how to serve the next generation, Ben Trueblood, director of Lifeway Students, pointed to the prevalence of influencers. Referencing Matthew 5, Trueblood said every follower of Jesus is meant to be an influence. So, leaders must develop kids and students to engage the culture.
Trueblood helped ministry leaders consider how they can lead kids and students to not conform to the world but to be transformed (Romans 12:2).
Using Daniel and his friends as an Old Testament example, Trueblood emphasized the necessity of teaching Scripture to the next generation so they can spot where the culture is going against God’s Word and know when to take a stand.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Marissa Postell Sullivan and originally published by Lifeway.