For many years our sole focus had been on planning a national youth convention (YOUTHCON) that happened every four years. Then, following the 2019 convention, we began to expand our vision to include a move toward impacting the next generation of leaders. Our leadership team went from the “national youth conference planning team” to “USMB Youth” to better reflect what we felt called to do. This included the addition of a National Youth Worker Network to come alongside youth workers (full, part, and volunteer) to help encourage them between conventions. We also adjusted from the once every four years YOUTHCON to an annual summer camp called ASCENT. Unfortunately, COVID hit and delayed the launch of this new vision. While we have now been able to experience ASCENT on a national scale at ASCENT, like most churches, COVID forced us to evaluate further and adjust yet again.
We believe that a national camp and a youth worker network are great, but maybe not address a bigger need. We have seen leadership turnover in youth and other ministries across the nation and a lack of leaders equipped and ready to serve. So, perhaps the bigger need is finding, nurturing, and equipping the next generation of leaders to serve our churches. There seems to be a national trend toward a leadership shortage in the church across most denominations. We are seeing fewer and fewer people from within our denomination applying for staff and pastoral positions and the majority of our new pastors are from outside of the denomination. Thus, in 2022, we started the Leadership Pipeline to identify leaders, invest in them, and release them to make an impact for the Kingdom. With the launch of the Leadership Pipeline, we recognize that now two of the three ministry areas of USMB Youth are for leaders rather than youth. Our team realized that our branding no longer matches our mission. We still love and are for teenagers and our focus has shifted slightly to more intentionally come alongside our USMB churches to provide opportunities to further equip and invest in the leaders who are and will be impacting the teenagers and the entire local church body.
With that in mind, the leadership team has made the decision to rebrand from USMB Youth to USMB Next Gen. We feel it better fits what we are about, impacting the next generation of LEADERS and youth. The vision includes youth workers, as well as, those serving in the areas of worship, kids ministry, church planting, missionaries, service organizations, etc. The immediate focus of USMB Next Gen will continue to be on ASCENT, the National Youth Worker Network, and the Leadership Pipeline. The ministries and services don’t change, just our branding. We hope this helps us connect more accurately with youth ministry, post-high school ministries, educational institutes, and the greater church mission.
We represent each of the United States Mennonite Brethren Districts.
Chair: USMB Youth & Co-Dir.: Youthcon
Kyle has nearly 20 years of experience in youth ministry both in small and big churches. He currently serves as Student & Young Adult Pastor at Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, KS. He has been the Chairman of USMB Youth since 2012. His passions in life are Jesus, board games, movies, video games, most sports, and of course his family. With his lovely wife Katie, and two fun and energetic daughters Ever and Emmy.
Director of The Network
Russ Claassen is the District Youth Minister for the Southern District Conference, Youth Pastor at Koerner Heights Church, and point person for the USMB Youth Worker Network. He lives in Newton, Kansas, with his lovely wife, Chandelle, and their two sons, Sam & Dellen.
USMB Youth Member
Jon and Michele Fiester moved to Rapid City, SD in 2011. It was 5 years later (2016) while serving as Youth Pastor at Bible Fellowship Church, that the true need for Christ in this community was realized. If every seat in every church in Rapid City were filled, it wouldn't be enough. He needed more space to do it with. It became clear to them that God wanted to start a new church. In 2019 he planted Renewal MB Church in Rapid City, SD.
Wendell Loewen teaches at Tabor College in the areas of youth, church and culture. He also directs FaithFront – a leadership program for high school students. Wendell, a speaker and youth ministry consultant, has also co-chaired two National Mennonite Brethren Youth Conventions. His heartbeat is empowering a new generation of Christian leaders who are willing to follow Jesus Christ daily, radically, and totally in life. Wendell and his wife Shelly live in Hillsboro, Kansas.
I live in Birch Bay, Washington with my wife, Amy, and our current foster kiddos. I have worked in youth ministry for 13 year, the last 5 as the Youth Director at Birch Bay Bible Community Church. To my students I am “Mr. Director Sir,” and they know if they are not careful, there will be a nerf dart flying in their direction! I love connecting with people and want to see Youth Leaders come together and be in community with each other.
Network and Project:Serve
After 15 years as a pastor in the Southern and Central districts, Stephen is now a "mobilizer" with MB Mission. His team resources churches and individuals toward living on mission locally, nationally and globally. He and Mary K. live in Denver and have two grown children, Aby and Jacob.