By Aaron Pazan
Imagine What’s NEXT is designed to facilitate a fertile ground for imaginative work, focused specifically on the spaces where church/world and present/future meet. The event is organized by a launch team of college students, campus ministers, and other creative disciples from across the United Methodist connection, and is sponsored by the Division of Higher Education of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
On November 7-9, 2014 over 600 college-aged people involved with campus ministries sponsored by The United Methodist Church gathered in Denver, Colo. to “Imagine What’s NEXT”. NEXT is all about reimagining the future and dreaming of ways we can radically change our local communities through the catchphrase “Dream. Go. Do.”
During the event, we had the opportunity to participate in the $5 dollar challenge around Denver. Each participant was given $5 for something that would benefit the community. My group decided to give out three $10 dollar Subway cards to the homeless on the street. When we gave them the Subway gift cards we prayed over them as well.
Doug Palmer, a young adult from the Rocky Mountain Conference had this to share about his experience at NEXT:
Young adults in the Church often feel like they are in a void where there are no specific places for them, so the programs that exist in the Church can be very comforting. Young people live their entire lives in a secular world that is constantly trying to distance itself from the Church, so talking about appropriate and effective ways to bring church into daily lives is powerful. But most importantly, NEXT gave young people the time and space to share their stories. It was a joy to see that there are many other young people going through the same struggles that I am (from my own faith journey, to finding my role in the Church, to building effective young adult ministries, etc.) and then to learn about how they deal with them. It was very was exciting.
Several difficulties came up during the first session on Saturday morning. I believe these areas can be worked on for future conferences of this sort. One of these difficulties was that of unexpected, sensitive material would be discussed. Proper staff was needed for such discussion. I feel these conferences are great for the connecting aspect, and for opening the eyes of college students to what is out there for them.
Lulu Sapigao, a young person from the California-Nevada Conference (but attending school in Washington State) had this to say about NEXT:
NEXT gave me time to connect with people from all over the country. The weekend gave me time to re-center myself and make me remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. I was glad to see that NEXT had several different types of worship music. Rev. Philip Ross’s sermon about making more Disciples of Christ and not more Christians was a great way to end the weekend.
As someone who has attended past NEXT conferences, I believe they contain great value and enrichment for those who can attend. My view on what church and ministry can do has changed greatly because of events like these.
Young people are always told that we are the future of the church. But, I’m here to tell you we are the church, now. Young people have the ability to help change and equip the church for success with the power to make radical change that the church is so desperately looking for.
and is also a member of Bellevue: Aldersgate UMC.
Special thanks to Doug Palmer, Alan Allis and Lulu Sapigao.