While the Conclave NextGen conference underwent a remodel back in 2018, this year’s event saw breakthroughs in both attendance and connection opportunities that Texas Baptists ministry leaders believe brought it to a whole new level.
“We had more children’s ministry workers than we have ever had. We tripled the number from 2021 to 2022 and then tripled again this year,” said Cory Liebrum, youth and family ministry specialist at Texas Baptists. “This is significant enough that we really feel Conclave can be one of the main trainings you can send your whole NextGen leadership to.”
Traditionally focused on training and fellowship for those in youth ministry, Conclave added breakout session tracks for those working in preschool ministry, children’s ministry and family ministry. The aim, Liebrum said, is to create a cohesive continuum of programs for young people from birth through college age and beyond. Jennifer Howington, childhood ministry specialist at Texas Baptists, partnered with Liebrum to lead these efforts.
“There has been a lot more focus in churches about reaching the family, and if you have different people doing those responsibilities, the ministry can start to operate in a silo. The family coming in might have an eighth-grader, a fourth-grader and one in pre-K, and those are in different areas of the church,” explained Liebrum of the shift. “If the leaders aren’t communicating and working together on the same page, it will just confuse and frustrate families. There are a lot of resources out there that can help do that for our churches.”
New additions to the 2023 event, held October 2-3 at Dallas Baptist University, included a pastor’s track that Liebrum said was comprised of more than 30 senior pastors. The event also featured a new networking luncheon for childhood ministry leaders and a luncheon for those new to childhood or youth ministry to network and hear from experienced leaders. The event also saw the “On Your Own” fellowship reprised, giving those who may be the only leader attending from their church a chance to connect and network as well.
“[Pastors] were able to hear from a few of our breakout and keynote speakers in a more intimate format to talk about leadership, family and NextGen ministry and how to approach that side of it in their churches,” Liebrum said, noting that the event also served a dual purpose for some attendees. “Most of our churches don’t have the resources to do some kind of staff leadership retreat, and we heard from a few churches that they use Conclave as a staff retreat of sorts. It gives them a few days away from the office to be together and experience some corporate worship together and then attend the breakouts most related to what they are dealing with. I think we’ll see that continue to grow.”
Keynote speakers for the two-day event included Doug Fields with Download Youth Ministry; Kara Powell from the Fuller (Seminary) Youth Institute; Shane Pruitt from the North American Mission Board; and Robert White, pastor at Freedom Church in Bedford. Nick Gainey of Rockwall led worship.
The event was a source of encouragement and education for one attendee, a brand-new volunteer youth director from Carrollton.
“I felt like I was being poured into for 8-plus hours straight each day. From the main session’s worship and speakers to the breakout sessions with everyday pastors and leaders, I did not once feel like I was the odd one out. I knew the person next to me in every room I was in knew how I felt,” said Josh Munoz of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana. “The Conclave experience left me feeling surrounded. Surrounded by like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ who also had the same desire for their youth. I left Conclave feeling seen. I left feeling heard.”
The experience was similar for Lori Brown, family pastor at First Baptist Church in Plainview, who attended the event alongside her husband Donnie – director of Spiritual Life at Wayland Baptist University – and son Josh, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Shallowater.
“I attended breakouts focused on family ministry. It was great to have so many options and I am so glad they addressed some topics that we are currently dealing with in our culture,” said Brown. “And it's always great to connect with other family ministers and share ideas!”
Liebrum said Conclave hit a home run in several areas.
“We just wanted to create a balanced atmosphere of education, training, challenging, learning for those who want to know what’s happening, and we have those in youth ministry that have been coming for years. There is a balance between that and taking care of their souls as well,” he said.
“We heard from a lot of leaders just how great it was to be in the worship and teaching and not be called out to care for others. This was a time for them to be served. If we can help challenge them, and they can be fed and replenished by worship and conversations, it’s a success.”
Save the date for the 2024 Conclave NextGen conference on Oct. 7-8 at First Baptist Church, San Antonio. Learn more and make plans to attend at conclavenextgen.org.
Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.
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