When families get together for a special meal, the young ones are often placed at a separate table so they don’t get in the way of the adults. But when the Foursquare family gathers in Dallas in May for Foursquare Connection 2014, activities for young people aren’t being arranged to quarantine them, but to make sure they are served well and get to celebrate to the full.

“It’s not just childcare,” says National NextGen Representative Ryan Brown of the Kids + Youth program, which will serve hundreds of children and teens taking part in Connection 2014 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, May 26–29, along with their parents in leadership, pastors and missionaries. Not only will they be well cared for physically, they will be enriched spiritually.

Indeed, this year’s theme of “Multiply” emphasizes the central role of the next generation in Foursquare’s future. Although the Dallas event will include important discussion and decision-making in regard to the Reimagine process Foursquare has been involved in during the past two years, it will be those who follow in the years to come that will carry the baton forward.

“We talk in Foursquare about the importance of people groups, and young people are perhaps one of the most strategic,” says Ryan, who is involved with the Kids + Youth program being led by Shawn Shoup, NextGen representative for the Gateway District, with a team from the MidSouth District.

“This young generation is a people group to be reached, and it’s the largest in history,” Ryan explains. “In just a few years, this generation will be making all the major decisions, locally and globally, for the next 40 years. We’re passionate about reaching them.”

With age-specific programs for Pre-K (3-5 years old), Kids (K-3rd grade), Tweens (4th-6th grades) and Youth (7th-12th grades), the convention ministry will parallel the topics and themes of the adult sessions.

“It will be tailored to their ages, but we want convention to truly be a family experience, so that when everyone gets together again at the end of the day, they have something to share and talk about together,” Ryan says.

The ministry is being shaped to recognize that young attendees are “different from a regular children’s or youth community in a local church,” Ryan notes. The program will meet:

  • Their Special Needs
    Growing up as a pastor’s kid or missionary’s kid can put a young person under particular scrutiny from others, bringing pressures to perform or conform. “We want to ensure that they have an authentic encounter with Jesus at convention,” says Ryan. “To know that He wants a relationship with them, for who they are themselves. Their lives aren’t just about following Mom and Dad around.”
  • Their Special Relationships
    Being with young people from similar backgrounds gives them an opportunity to connect with peers who really “get” them. And for some young people whose parents may be serving in foreign countries or other remote situations, the personal connection with others of a similar age and experience can be especially meaningful, Ryan notes.
  • Their Special Privilege
    Although it can be easy to focus on the cost and challenge of being part of a family in ministry, there’s a tremendous privilege to be celebrated, too. “They get a view of ministry that few others do,” says Ryan. “Some are part of families that have served the Lord in ministry for several generations—that’s a tremendous legacy to appreciate.”

In addition to encouraging young Foursquare attendees, the Kids + Youth team hopes to equip them for future ministry.

“We really want to help them understand that while they may be part of their parents’ ministries now, they also have a specific call on their own lives,” Ryan says. “That’s something that can be lost with our leaders’ kids, sometimes.”

With that in mind, there are hopes to incorporate some kind of service project into the Kids + Youth program so that the young visitors can leave something behind in Dallas, in terms of ministry.

After a decade’s involvement with young people at Foursquare conventions, Ryan remains excited about the opportunity the event provides to sow into the movement’s next generation. “It can be a great time to really make an impact,” he asserts.

In addition to the Kids + Youth program, Dallas provides an opportunity for Foursquare families to be enriched by their time away together. From arts to entertainment, the city offers a wide range of cultural and recreational opportunities for adults and children of all ages. You can find out more about some of the special attractions here.

Keynote speakers at Connection 2014 include bestselling author Francis Chan and Foursquare elder statesman Pastor Jack Hayford. They and others will address multiplying disciples, multiplying church ministry, multiplying community connections and multiplying spiritual impact.

Early bird registration runs through March 13. Individuals are $189 each; guest or spouse $169; children and youth $50 each; ForeRunners $99 each; and international guests $169 each. After March 13, the rates for ministers and guests or spouses go up $30 each, so it pays to register now.

By: Andy Butcher, a freelance writer in the Orlando, Fla., area