Despite tremendous challenges this summer, our Next Gen leaders pushed forward and provided space for kids and youth to encounter the presence of God. Every summer, kids and youth ministry volunteers across The Wesleyan Church lead various district camps, VBSs and mission trips that provide critical discipleship moments.

The challenges from this summer were significant; but God honored their hard work, creativity and grit. Camp is always fun but a deepening hunger for Jesus marked our kids and youth this summer.

All summer long, my inbox, phone and Facebook messenger dinged and pinged with stories of young people encountering Jesus.

Dustin Wilson, director of North Carolina East District’s kids’ camp, sent me a picture of over 50 commitment cards from children at camp.

Mike Oliver, district youth president of Florida, shared, “We had 17 first-time commitments to Christ, 23 teens who rededicated their lives to Christ! Plus, we baptized seven and another five we baptized at church on Sunday!”

Mandy Rhodes, children’s ministry pastor at Christ Wesleyan in Milton, Pennsylvania, reported that 81 children gave their lives to Christ at their VBS.

I could fill pages with the praise reports from across our Next Gen movement in North America. This is a summer we all needed. …one that would lift us up and breath new hope into our tired spirits. Why don’t we take a second right here and say, “Thank You, Jesus!”

As we give thanks for all the Lord has done, I want to highlight three main takeaways from this summer.

  1. Despite many Next Gen leaders being exhausted, they kept their eye on the mission of Jesus and set the table for the Holy Spirit to move. The grit of our leaders is inspiring and should motivate all of us to keep calling people to Jesus.

Through all the challenges of navigating COVID protocols, anxious parents and venue challenges, Next Gen workers did everything in their power to provide space for students to encounter Jesus.

  1. Our churches need our Next Gen leaders more than ever. I would argue that ministering to this generation is more complex and challenging than previous. I would have said this same sentiment before the pandemic and continue to shout it now.

Churches, your Next Gen leaders need love, encouragement and support. They need to know you are not only cheering them on but are willing to run with them into the many challenges they are facing. If you are not sure where to start, simply ask your Next Gen leader. I promise they will have ideas of how you can support them.

  1. If you want a thriving church, have a thriving youth and kids’ ministry. We all know this in theory but this summer spotlighted this truth all over again.

Thriving churches have thriving youth and kids’ ministries where these ministries are prioritized with finances, people and communication resources.

We give thanks to God for all the transformed lives we regularly see in our kids’ and youth ministries and for a summer packed with a harvest.

We give thanks to all our deeply committed Next Gen leaders who sacrifice time, energy and their whole hearts to provide space for our young people to encounter Jesus.

Executive Director Dr. Anita Eastlack says it well, “God is, was at work and intentional discipleship is happening in our next generation! I believe this heart-felt value is why we saw God’s special blessing on our summer camps and VBS. We all must carry a deep conviction that a child is never too young, and their grandparents are never too old, to be a disciple or to make disciples.”

Next Gen leaders, thank you for working so diligently and loving our students well. Your kingdom impact is shaping a generation that is impacting the kingdom now and for all eternity. The Wesleyan Church is grateful and proud of you.

Zach Coffin is the director of Next Gen Ministries for The Wesleyan Church.