For those less familiar, NextGen is an annual leaders conference to train youth and children group leaders to be better handlers and teachers of the Bible. The training in broken up into three strands, exploring Basic Bible Study Preparation, Biblical Theology, and Systematic Theology (in recent years, the conference has included a ‘Rising Leaders’ strand and a MasterClass on preaching). Delegates complete three strands over three years and receive a pretty cool/funny certificate at the end.
My first NextGen was in 2009 when the conference was formally renamed from KYLC. I vividly remember Raj Gupta getting a piñata with KYLC written on it and invited the keynote speaker to beat it to shreds, probably trying to emphatically make the point that it’s ‘out with the old and in with the new’. In any case, I attended the conference for the next few years and finally completed Strand 3 in 2012 with my good friend Ben Lu with Peter Hughes as my strand leader (Peter is the youth pastor at Gracepoint and works on the desk behind me at church now).
Because I had finished, I naturally stopped going to NextGen. So while NextGen’s impact and influence was still on my mind, it became muddier through the years. I knew it was great but I had progressively forgotten why. But now that I’ve just spent a week back at this incredible conference, let me give you two reasons why I love and appreciate NextGen and why it’s about the greatest training conference you can attend as a leader (or send your leaders to).
i) They go back to the basics.
The very heartbeat of NextGen is the burning desire to teach the Scriptures well and to train others to teach the Scriptures well.
For those who have been in youth and children’s ministry for awhile (or any type of Christian ministry for that matter), you’ll know that God’s Word is the very foundation of what we do. In fact, the Holy Scripture is the reason these ministries exist.
So by putting the Bible as the front and center of the entire conference, I believe that NextGen has successfully demonstrated that the Word is not only the goal of their ministries but also the means towards that goal.
They go right back to basics, training and reminding leaders that the Word needs to be the driving force of our ministry.
ii) They go back to BaSiCs
That is, they bring together ‘Brothers and sisters in Christ’.
I don’t know the exact stats, but NextGen is attended by approximately 800 leaders over 2 weeks and is represented by a whole host of denominations, churches, and your groups. When one attend as a delegate, you are placed in a group with about 10 people from different churches (or different social and economic backgrounds, and from different parts of Sydney) led by leaders from different churches. That gives you incredible exposure to the work that God is doing all throughout Sydney (and other parts of Australia)!
This is cool because I’ve heard great stories about how some youth groups are thriving and how others are struggling. I remember one year hearing a guy share about how he is learning to play the keyboard because his church has no musicians so he wants to learn in order to play at church. Here’s a 19 year old guy with no music background wanting to learn music for the sole purpose of serving in church! How wonderful is that! I’ve also heard stories of churches struggling because of a lack of leadership, mismanagement, and a lost of vision for the gospel. These stories are often a reminder that healthy ministries are really a gift from God and they need to be treasured and guarded at all costs.
Put these things together and you’ve got a melting pot of leaders, making it a prime location for mutual encouragement, prayer, and edification. So NextGen is a great place to engage with brothers and sisters that you’ve never met before but are all on about the same mission and vision. It broadens your horizon to see that God is doing something much much bigger than you’ve imagined, and it may even open up opportunities to make deep friendships that will last for a very long time (love you Ivan).
So if you’ve never been, let me encourage you to check out their website and sign up. If you’ve finished a few strands but haven’t gotten yourself to finish the whole program, sign up and tie up some loose ends! They invite really great expositors to preach during the main sessions and host faithful strand leaders who teach groups of leaders how to lead their ministries by the Word. In fact, if you’ve received theological training and are involved in preaching/teaching ministry, get involved as a strand leader (please see KCC for formal requirements)! There’s nothing quite like investing in 10 or so leaders who will invest in 10 and many more. The impact is real and it’s a great privilege!
I hope and pray that God will continue to grow this ministry especially as it reaches countries that desperately need this type of training. I’m grateful for all that they do, so may God be glorified as hundreds of leaders are sent out this month to make an influence for the kingdom!