Over 200 next-generation leaders met on April 21-22 in Muncie, Indiana, for Fuel — a conference held by The Wesleyan Church (TWC) for church leaders working within next-gen ministries.

All ministries have faced new challenges in reaching, caring for and nourishing their communities; youth ministries and kids ministries have required another layer of creativity and care, as many young people have felt disoriented and fearful even as churches return to in-person gatherings. Fuel’s theme — “The Middle” — focused on providing insight and spiritual nourishment for ministry leaders working in congregations reckoning with those challenges.

Main speakers like Rev. Dr. Jim Lo, campus intercessor and professor of practical ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and Rev. Zach Coffin, director of Next Gen Multiplication and Discipleship at TWC, shared during these sessions with Jaye Thomas leading worship.

Breakout sessions offered practical tools for next-gen leaders, with topics ranging from “Partnering with parents in a pandemic” to “Finding real community while leading.” And while the content of the conference was actionable, innovative and helpful, some of the real moments of encouragement came during times of attendees prayerfully listening to the Holy Spirit.

“To see the faithfulness of our next-gen leaders and pastors gives me great hope for the church,” said Rev. Zach Coffin. “After an extremely long season where many next-gen leaders and pastors also become the tech pastor, online pastor and social media expert at their church, they have continued to serve God with passion and dedication. They are an incredible group of people who do whatever it takes to reach young people.”

Fuel concluded with an invitation from Dr. Lo for everyone in attendance to come forward to be anointed with oil, “sent” on mission from the conference into the contexts God sends them. The anointing came with a charge: a challenge to faithfully stay committed to Unleashing the next generation, pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and to encourage kids and students to share the gospel wherever the Lord sends them.

“We must do everything we can to Unleash Gen Z in our churches and be sent out as Holy Spirit filled missionaries to their school, teams, clubs and families,” said Rev. Coffin. “To follow Jesus in today’s culture costs Gen Z dearly and we must come alongside them with encouragement, discipleship and prayer. There is no junior Holy Spirit and Gen Z is hungry for a real encounter with God,” he continued.

During a time when church ministry can easily feel “effort-full,” Fuel encouraged leaders to be wise in using resources at their disposal, while (at the same time) humble in recognizing that fruitful ministry has much more to do with God’s invitation than with human effort.

To resource attendees (and the general culture of Next Gen ministry in TWC), the Fuel team is assembling a toolkit from the conference for local congregations to use. To sign up to receive that toolkit, click here.

In the meantime, content from the conference is posted online. To view this, click here

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s division of Education and Clergy Development.