NextGen Ministries – Better Together by Dave Hammond

When I first started as the Director of NextGen ministries at Elmwood this past fall, there was an incredible amount of enthusiasm to reach the Next Generation with the Gospel, there was a core of committed volunteers who were trying to see that enthusiasm see the light of day, and there were very few nailed down plans for how we were going to serve the youth in our congregation. One of the quickest realizations we came to was that there was no way for us to create a warm and inviting Youth Ministry on our own. We had “floundering and frantic” in spades… but we wanted more for our youth.

It was then we turned to our family of churches and found that Centennial Evangelical Free Church and Cornerstone Church of Blaine were also in places where partnering with other churches to create a vibrant youth ministry was a good option. Successfully pulling youth and leaders together from three different churches to create one youth group wasn’t something I was considering when I first started, but God had better plans. This year partnering with these churches has been incredible! We meet up at Centennial’s youth building dubbed, “The Edge” and it is great to see how our youth have grown from skeptical to now inviting their friends to see what is happening in our quirky little group!

As we thought about the schedule for the year, it was relatively easy to find big fall and spring events with Fall Fling and District Blitz filling those slots. While I thought Winter Wipeout would be a great winter event, as a group of leaders we decided to do something that was more local and financially available in hopes that more youth would be able to attend and invite their friends. When a Lock-In was proposed, I thought it would be a blast for our 15 youth. Elmwood could be the hosting location because our Fellowship Hall could easily double as a gym, and we had enough space to host students all night AND let some students sleep if that is what they wanted. But when we opened up online registration, it became clear that this wasn’t going to just be an overgrown slumber party.

Our students started inviting friends from all walks of life. Through a family connection, a fourth church in our district, Antioch Community Church in Minneapolis, joined in the fun. When all was said and done, we ended up with 44 youth registered online, and a handful more showed up the night of the Lock-In. Volunteers poured in from all of the churches to cover different shifts during the night, the youth all showed up with snacks to share, and there were smiles on so many faces. Dodgeball, pizzas, skits-in-a-box, an inflatable bungee cord basketball thing, door prizes, “A Week Away,” basketball, Church Clap, and one gospel presentation later: a few people slept, there were some activities that could have been better, but much fun was had.

When I first dreamed about what it would look like to be the Director of NextGen Ministries at Elmwood, I didn’t think a Lock-In like this was in the cards. But I am so thankful to be a part of this family of churches that believes that we are better together, because I saw it I action that January night.


Dave Hammond – Director of NextGen Ministries
Elmwood Evangelical Free Church