NextGen and Family ministry models are a rising trend in the world of ministry to children, youth, and families. We’ve recently made this shift ourselves. Previously, our children’s ministry, youth ministry, college and young adults ministry, and marriage and family ministries all operated with separate leadership, separate values and vision, and separate strategies and language. We’ve now merged them in a way that embraces common leadership, common values and vision, and common strategies and language.  It’s proving to be a valuable shift and I encourage anyone else out there to consider this as well.

It seems to me that there are two basic models you can choose from: the Family Ministry model or the NextGen model.

The Family Ministry model typically places all ministries, kids through high school as well as marriage and parenting under one umbrella. Sometimes, though rarely, it will include college aged young adults.

The NextGen model typically places all ministries, kids through high school and often times college and young adults under one umbrella. Marriage and parenting will usually fall under separate leadership, particularly some sort of adult ministry.

Our approach to NextGen and Family Ministries places ministries to everyone ages 0 to 25 under one pastor and ministries to parents and marriages under another pastor with the two of them working in close partnership under one common umbrella of shared vision, values, and strategies for ministry.

We’re not a huge church but we’re large enough that we need multiple staff. Currently, our NextGen Ministries includes six staff while Marriage and Family Ministries includes one. That’s primarily because NextGen Ministries are so program intensive. But in all reality, it’s a single team of seven staff.

I’m excited about this new model and can’t wait to see where God takes it.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

2 Replies to “The NextGen Way

  1. “Our approach to NextGen and Family Ministries places ministries to everyone ages 0 to 25 under one pastor and ministries to parents and marriages under another pastor…”

    I’ve read about and am interested in how churches minister to adult singles, especially ones who aren’t parents or who have grown children, who may or may not be widowed/divorced, who are not yet “seniors”. Your leadership seems very intentional in reaching out to all those under your care; I’m curious to know how you/your church’s leadership addresses the needs in this group who seem to frequently be left out of family-focused ministries?

    You may be interested in this blog post that speaks well to the topic:
    She has a well-written and loving series written on cultural-diversity in our churches; that post is 4th in her series.

    Enjoy reading your posts!

  2. That’s a really good post about caring for those who are single. Another resource we find valuable regarding singleness is this paper found on our church website (

    Unfortunately, we really aren’t very intentional about ministering to unmarried adults over 25 other than retaining a certain level of sensitivity to them.

    Here’s an attempt at providing a thoughtful understanding of why this is:

    We care deeply for those in our church who become widowed [7.5% of adults in our zip code]. We also care as much as we can for those who become divorced [13% of adults in our town]. Actually, we put a lot of energy into trying to prevent those divorces. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to communicate care and openness to embrace those who do divorce regardless of their new status, they tend to slip away because of their own sense of discomfort and awkwardness among their still-married friends.

    The reality is that approximately 70% of the adults over 25 in our zip code are married. The vast majority of our resources are invested in those adults, and their kids. Their combined population is 67% of our zip code. When we add to that the people who are widowed (and most likely elderly) and all the energy we put into those who eventually become divorced, about 80% of the people in our community fall within these traditional categories.

    In addition to these traditional categories, our pastoral and ministry staff people are constantly working at being more sensitive to other populations and related issues such as leadership equity for women, ministry with Native Americans, serving those with special needs, caring for those who have high risk behaviors, etc.

    A ministry geared toward unmarried adults over 25 would require some really high capacity, long-term committed lay leaders who have a strong vision and passion for building a community of unmarried adults and integrating them into the larger life of the church. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find those kind of leaders.

    Right now I’m trying to figure out how to better reach the 18-25 population in our community. Currently, they make up 15% of our zip code but less than 4.5% of our congregation. Even reaching this population takes an enormous amount of energy and resource.

    Unfortunately, I think the best we can do for unmarried adults over 25 is attempt to be as sensitive to them as we can.

    Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Back to you, now. What’s your response?

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