NextGen coordinator to share wisdom with peers at Youth Leader Days

January 16, 2024 | | GNJ News, Next Generation Ministries

Register for IGNITE’s Youth Leader Days now: January 27 at West Chester UMC, in Eastern PA, and February 24 at Aldersgate UMC in East Brunswick, NJ.

Michael Nelson, a dynamic youth pastor at Norwood (PA) United Methodist Church and a NextGen youth ministries coordinator for EPA&GNJ, will keynote IGNITE’s Youth Leader Days on two Saturdays—January 27 at West Chester UMC, in Eastern PA, and February 24 at Aldersgate UMC in East Brunswick, NJ. He will share helpful insights with youth ministry leaders like himself about “Igniting the Leader Within.”

Nelson started Norwood’s growing, intentionally multiracial youth ministry from scratch in 2022. He was a Pentecostal, African American, energetic, young adult hired by a United Methodist, predominantly white, laid-back, older congregation with no active youth. When he met them for the interview, he knew they wouldn’t hire him. But they did.  Now he—or rather, they—have about 15 youth showing up and bringing friends to the church on Friday nights for Bible study, engrossing conversations, volleyball, Madden NFL and other games and more.

Nelson joined the EPA&GNJ staff last fall. Ordained in his home church, Mt. Calvary Family Worship Center in Philadelphia, he has a Master’s Degree in Urban Ministry, is studying for a Doctorate in Ministry at United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, and is an experienced youth minister, teacher, motivational speaker and author. (Yes, You Can: 7 Keys to Student Success has been used in curriculum and programs in schools.)

And he is already helping other EPA churches to explore creative ideas for growth in this important ministry arena. Many were introduced to him when he taught a youth ministry class at EPA’s South-East Region Tools for Ministry session in March 2023. Others heard him address the EPA Annual Conference Laity Session in May.

‘Get them, Grow them, Send them’

At IGNITE’s Youth Leader Days Nelson will help youth ministry leaders learn to use the “GGS framework” that Jesus used to help grow and build his ministry with disciples.

  • Get them.” Find youth where they are, and meet them on their terms, communicating in ways that can make youth ministry attractive to them.
  • Grow them.” Help youth grow in their faith with God, using effective gospel-centered messages that will help them look at their lives and decisions with the mind of Christ.
  • Send them.” Empower youth to take and spread the lessons they learn while sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ with others in their everyday lives.

Here is an example of his teaching tactics:

When Nelson talked with his youth at a recent Bible study about the importance of identifying and pursuing a mission and purpose in life, he showed a clip of the dramatic film “Taken.” He compared Liam Neeson’s character’s stubborn pursuit to save his kidnapped daughter from human traffickers to Noah’s single-minded effort to build God’s ark.

“We talked about how building the ark was also helping Noah to build character because it took so long and required so much,” he said in a recent interview. Nelson often uses “age-appropriate” film clips to dramatize discussions, an effective ploy to keep young minds engaged and to induce them to seek deeper messages in the media they watch.

“Because let’s just be honest,” he explained, “YouTube and smartphones and all that are not going away. So, I tell them, as you’re watching things for enjoyment, there may also be messages there if you can open yourself up to them, and say, ‘What else could I get from this beyond just entertainment? Can I see how this relates to God or how some principles here actually relate to my life?’”

In his presentation on “Igniting the Leader Within,” Nelson will help Youth Leaders Day attendees to consider how they can find and reach the youth they have been, or should be, searching for—youth who may even be waiting to be found—then ignite their interest and involvement in Christ’s salvation story, and then send them forth to find and invite their peers to share their experience—thus, igniting a flame that may never be extinguished.

Register for IGNITE’s Youth Leader Days now: January 27 at West Chester UMC, in Eastern PA, and February 24 at Aldersgate UMC in East Brunswick, NJ.