A group of Canadian Next Gen ministry leaders in the Atlantic District of The Wesleyan Church meets regularly for networking, growth, learning and encouragement.

These Next Gen leaders in the greater Halifax, Nova Scotia, area meet on a quarterly basis in what they call a “huddle.” These men and women hail from a handful of Wesleyan churches in the area.

Rev. Marilyn Mansvelt, pastor of family care at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in Hammonds Plains, leads the group. In her tenth year in her current ministry position, she sees great value in this circle of colleagues and friends meeting together regularly.

“I began by emailing the children’s ministry leaders that I knew personally or the lead pastor if I was not sure who was in charge of their children’s ministry and invited them to come together for a Saturday afternoon to chat about all things kids’ ministry,” said Mansvelt, who has been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years. “Several leaders came together and from that initial meeting a few of us continued to meet once every three or four months to share ideas and challenges and to encourage each other in our respective ministries.”

Participants have taken turns hosting the group at their own churches, which has given everyone the ability to see other facilities. This practice has fostered good conversation about benefits and challenges that are present in various ministry settings. Group members share resources, offer encouragement, glean new ideas and tell what works and doesn’t work well in their churches. Ultimately, the Next Gen leaders help keep each other focused on the fact that “leading kids to Jesus is still the reason we are in ministry.”

The group may look different from year to year because of leadership changes. Mansvelt volunteers as the group’s leader because she sees the value and importance of its existence.

“One of the big blessings has been to come alongside new pastors who are just beginning their ministry and help encourage and mentor them to a certain degree,” said Mansvelt. “Children’s ministry leaders who have come to their new position from a non-pastoral background have benefited from the input of the group, the various backgrounds and levels of experience that we each bring to the group.”

Pastor Lauren Millington is one who benefits from meeting with the group. She serves as children’s pastor at New Hope Wesleyan Church in Kentville. Millington has been in that role for three years. And says her time spent networking with the group has been invaluable.

“Being able to network with other children’s ministry leaders in the district has been extremely valuable to me, especially as I am so new to children’s ministry,” said Millington. “I have benefited from the many leaders who have poured into me and answered the many questions I have.

Millington is, in turn, pouring into others the way Mansvelt has poured into her.

“I have had the opportunity to invest in the ministry of other churches,” said Millington. “I have really loved getting together to share trials and triumphs in ministry as well as the opportunity to learn together and from each other.”

Mansvelt is humbled and privileged to lead the group and is quick to note that this group existed long before her involvement. Several years ago, Linda Lamos, district director of children’s ministry, saw the need for children’s pastors to “stay relevant and not feel isolated.” Lamos created “Huddles,” a gathering of children’s ministry leaders, held a couple times a year in various locations across the district. Lamos asked certain leaders to “take the lead in initiating collaboration among children’s ministries” in the areas where those leaders lived. Mansvelt said Lamos’ ministry was her initial motivation to reach out to children’s leaders in her surrounding area.

Mansvelt and children’s leaders within the Atlantic District are just a small group of Next Gen leaders throughout North America who doing their part and “celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and a church multiplies itself until there is a transforming presence in every ZIP code.”

Join the Next Gen Multiplication and Discipleship Facebook Group to connect with other leaders across The Wesleyan Church.

Photo, from left to right: Deborah Gilbert, Marilyn Mansvelt, Fatima Whalen, Tracey Birtch and Lauren Millington