NextGen Ministries Launches New Place for New People
“Some time ago, NextGen Ministries team identified Springfield as an open mission field for college-age ministry,” said Rev. Ron Watts, NextGen Ministries team chairperson. “We have been patiently awaiting the right person and we are pleased that the Bishop and Cabinet has chosen Tracey for this appointment.”
Wolff’s work will be focused on the college campuses in Springfield, particularly Missouri State University, Drury University and Ozark Technical College. This is the first time the Missouri Conference has launched a conference-funded campus ministry in recent memory. In 2007, following the work of the Pathways task force, the Conference shifted how it funded Wesley Foundations at several state universities and charged local churches with connecting with campuses in their neighborhood.
“At the time, it was the right decision to defund Wesley Foundations as we looked toward a new way of connecting with next generations of Christians,” said Jeff Baker, Director of Next Generation Ministries. “In some places, we’ve seen local churches take seriously a call to connect and disciple young people, but the Conference has struggled in some areas to connect with campuses and college-age persons. With this place for new people, we’re trying something new.”
This won’t be a Wesley Foundation, however. The leadership team is approaching this ministry like many new places for new people – with a period of visioning and the assembling of a launch team. Those will be Wolff’s primary objectives in the first months of her appointment.
Campus life has been formative for Wolff’s career. She walked onto the Missouri State’s women’s basketball team in the mid-1980s as a sophomore before becoming a full scholarship student athlete by her senior year. Following graduation, she spent two years as a graduate coaching assistant for the Lady Bears before leaving for Milwaukee in 1991 to serve as Marquette University’s assistant women’s basketball coach, a post she held for 10 years. After Marquette, she worked as Director of Women's Basketball with Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru Ministries, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Her experience working with students helped her realize a call to ministry to that age group that has persisted through the years.
“I want to create a space where college-age persons can ask the questions they want about what it is to be faithful,” said Wolff.
Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke couldn’t be happier to see the possibilities of connecting with Missouri State University, which has experienced 20 percent growth in enrollment over the past two decades. The Office of Next Generation Ministries will be working with the Ozarks District and Springfield-based local churches to identify the best location for the administrative functions of the ministry hub.
“There are 40,000-plus students at Springfield-based campuses,” said Dyke. “As a denomination, we are not reaching this critical mission field. Launching a new place for new college-age people in the Ozarks District will be important to raising up new missional leaders for the purpose of connecting Christ to the world.”
The Office of Next Generation Ministries is responsible for children and youth discipleship ministries, camping, campus-based ministries, Next Generation Ministries team, Crossroads college-age internships, youth ministry and youth leadership team.