Walk into Newday’s NXTGEN Connect, and you will find highly engaged student leaders who won’t be disassociating from the church anytime soon. Taking ownership of their relationship with Christ, students between the ages of 11-18 find purpose in the Newday NXTGEN community.

A 2019 study from American Perspectives Survey found that “Americans raised in homes with more robust religious experiences are less likely to disaffiliate from religion entirely.” Alternately, the Pew Research Center states that most Americans leave their childhood religion before they even turn 18. More survey data can be found here: americansurveycenter.org/research/generation-z-future-of-faith

At Newday, dedicated spaces for each age group remind students that they are not an afterthought; instead, youth are encouraged to participate in every aspect of church life. By providing a variety of worship experiences that help young people connect with God and one another, NXTGEN is a vibrant part of the Newday community.

Roam the halls and you will find students leading out in younger classes. At the drinks station, a couple of volunteers will offer up a hot drink on your way into church. Step into worship and you will see students helping with the audio/visual team. And don’t miss out on the Front Row Club—a dedicated and growing group of NXTGENs who choose to fill the front row for their personal worship experience.

It soon becomes apparent that at Newday, there is a true intergenerational collaboration. For instance, there’s the NXTGEN student pastor: Gwen Loney, a junior at Mile High Academy, who has been in the role for over a year. Gwen coordinates all NXTGEN’s events and helps the facilitator team build curriculum for NXTGEN weekly lessons.

Taking her leadership role seriously means she’s not relaxing even while she sits with her peers during the group lesson. However, she’s the first to tell you this is where she belongs: “I really enjoy it when I’m able to look around and see all of our youth having fun and playing around with one another. I also like it when I can take a moment and participate in events with my friends.”

From monthly Friday NVITE events to NXTGEN connect on Saturday mornings, there are plenty of ways for young people to develop their individual prayer and spiritual life. The hope is that this will be a generation that doesn’t become a statistic, but instead finds their own personal relationship with the church. It’s the one-on-one connections, with adults and students reaching out to each other, that are building true belonging in God’s family.

Agape Hammond is communication director at Newday Adventist Church in Parker, Colorado.