Youth Leaders Day ignites shared learning, support for youth ministries

January 30, 2024 | | GNJ News, Next Generation Ministries

Post-pandemic youth ministry is hard. So hard, in fact, that the leadership of EPA&GNJ Next Gen Ministries recognized the folly of going about it alone. The United Methodist Church of West Chester in EPA became a hub of inspiration on January 27, as it welcomed more than two dozen youth leaders and volunteers for the first 2024 IGNITE Youth Leaders Day.

Focused on growth and connection, the event offered a platform for learning and networking among those dedicated to youth ministry.

Youth Leaders Day speakers (from left): Josh Good, Michael Nelson and Christian Johnson. Corbin Payne photo

The day was enriched by a session from EPA-based Next Gen Coordinator Mike Nelson, titled “Reigniting Your Faith.” Nelson emphasized the importance of self-care and personal investment for leaders, a crucial aspect for those guiding young people in faith and discipleship.

Josh Good from Christian Endeavor contributed to the day’s learning with his workshop: “Less Like Hippos More Like Honeybees.” This session focused on transforming youth from passive consumers to creative individuals, embracing their unique gifts and identities. 

Christian Johnson, of Purpose-Filled Life Coaching LLC & The Elevate I.T. Podcast, led a workshop on empowering young leaders. He encouraged attendees to follow their “Inner Tugging” (I.T), focusing on personal development and growth.

Many noted that the highlight of the day was the communal meal, providing an opportunity for the leaders to network and discuss various aspects of their ministries. They shared their experiences, discussing both the challenges and opportunities they face in their respective youth ministries. The networking fostered a sense of community and shared purpose that post-pandemic youth leaders have been especially craving.

The Rev. Dan Roth dialogues with other participants. Corbin Payne photo

The impact of the day was evident in the reflections of the participants. Brian Gaines, a volunteer youth leader from Philadelphia, shared, “It’s amazing to be in a room with like-minded people that have a passion for young people!” Echoing this sentiment, Mike Hardie from Grove UMC in West Chester noted the importance of focusing on “the impact of my ministry,” rather than just numbers.

While the IGNITE Youth Leaders Day couldn’t possibly address every query within the evolving realm of ministry for rising generations, participants departed with a “reignited” spark to explore, imagine, and innovate. Most importantly, they left knowing that in the rigorous but rewarding journey of youth ministry, they are not alone but accompanied by a supportive community of peers.

Looking ahead, the next IGNITE Youth Leaders Day–for both EPA and GNJ youth leaders–is scheduled for February 24, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Aldersgate UMC in East Brunswick, NJ, . Those interested in joining this growing community of passionate youth leaders can find the registration link here.