The Unofficial, Not Produced, Informal Gathering of NextGen Leaders

Last week, I spent three days with 80 of the best NextGen and Family Ministry leaders in the country learning from some of the top church and business leaders in the country. Hosted by Reggie Joiner and the Orange team (including Kenny & Elle Campbell, Sue Miller, Kristen Ivy, Kenny Conley, etc.) and held in their office / creative space in Cumming, GA, it was one of my favorite conferences yet. From what I can tell it’s a one-of-a-kind gathering that hasn’t ever taken place before.

It was great to meet and hear from some well seasoned and experienced presenters like Reggie Joiner, Jon Acuff, Jim Wideman, David Kinnaman, Joel Manby, David Salyers, Geoff Surratt, Jeff Henderson, Frank Bealer, Kristen Ivy, and a panel of Nina Smigdal, Allyson Evans, Pat Rowland, and Jeff Brodie (see bio links below).

All the topics discussed were super relevant to our role and ministry as NextGen and Family Ministry leaders.

Topics included:

The Role of the NextGen Pastor

Developing the Staff and Leadership Culture

Ministry with Millennials

Ministry with Parents/Families

The Pastor’s Family in Ministry

The New “Phases Project” from Orange. Kristen Ivy presented this and, judging from the responses in the room, this topic was the most exciting for everyone! We’re all looking forward to seeing this rolled out this spring at the Orange Conference.

Change Management and


Equally exciting was the opportunity to have round table discussions, eat lunch and dinner together, and just stand around talking during breaks with the other participants. Meeting others who are doing what I do, tackling the same issues I am, and moving toward the same goals was really quite exhilarating. I’m walking away with some great connections–ones I hope will continue for a long time.

So, what did I get out of it?

Here are a few of my takeaway action items.

  1. Develop leaders by cultivating our leadership culture. The key to developing good leaders is in the culture of the ministry’s leadership. Joel Manby challenged us to develop our “Be” goals just as well as our “do” goals, if not even more. He gave us insights as to the nature of these “Be” goals, and the value of a R.A.C.I. chart. David Salyer gave us a similar challenge to develop a “Remarkable” culture among our leadership on which to build successful ministries.
  2. Bring clarity to alignment. Leading the complexities of a NextGen or Family Ministry (or a large church) requires a clear Alignment of vision, goals, and culture as well as a clarity of roles and responsibilities.
  3. Provide clear and consistent “messaging” as a vital means of developing a healthy culture. This includes leveraging words, visual space, social media, and story to communicate a clear and consistent message.
  4. Partner with parents by doing more than just “cueing” them about our content/curriculum. We must reach out and walk with them through their family’s phases and reorganize to increase their connection with our small group leaders.
  5. As a NextGen Pastor, I must create a plan for developing my staff and leaders and build a budget to support it.
  6. Tackle the need for healthy age-group transitions and equipping parents for navigating the phases of a child’s life.

While I was there, I also realized that regardless of size of church, we’re all passionate about calling to serve Christ, his Church, and Families. I also realized that I’m not the only one still trying to figure this all out.

I asked several questions of numerous people. One of them was, “Do you have a sample of clearly defined wins for your small group leaders?” Most of them were in the same boat as me and were unable to articulate anymore than two or three. So, I decided to stop looking for what others have written and decided to write up a bunch of my own. They’ll come in another post later.

I also asked a few what it looks like to “partner with parents” in their ministries and the answers varied from person to person and even included some intense frustration.

There were a few time when I felt the presentations were a bit simplistic and elementary but overall, NEXT was a great experience! I’m thankful to Kenny Conley and the Orange Team for all the work they invested in putting this gathering together.

More about our presenters and panelists.

Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of Orange, author of “Think Orange” and co-authored “Seven Practices of Effective Ministries.”Jon Acuff, blogger, speaker, social media consultant and author of “Do Over

Jim Wideman, kidmin pioneer & guru, current Executive Pastor of Northstar Church in Pryor, OK, and author of “Beat the Clock

David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group and author of “You Lost Me

Joel Manby, President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment (think Harlem Globetrotters, Dollywood, and “Undercover Boss”, and author of “Love Works.”

David Salyers, VP of National and Regional Marketing for Chick-fil-A and author of “Remarkable.”

Geoff Surratt, Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian in Parker, Colorado, and author of “Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing” and “A Multi-Site Church Roadtrip.”

Jeff Henderson, Lead Pastor of Gwinnett Church, a campus of North Point Ministries

Frank Bealer, Family Pastor at Elevation Church

And a Q&A panel that also included Nina Smigdal (National Community Church), Alyson Evans (, Pat Rowland (Woodside Bible Church), Jeff Brodie (Connexxus)

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

One Reply to “NEXT: What I Learned from a Gathering of NextGen Leaders”

  1. Great article Mr. Murphy, it was extremely helpful. Quick question, can a NextGen Pastor be successful over children, youth, and college/career if he does not have any staff underneath him? So from your experience how successful is a NextGen ministry only having access volunteers?

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