This report is calling us to use our collective imaginative hope for the next generation. The authors are leaders who are up close and personal with what is happening in the lives of our youth, young adults and churches today and they have a message for you. They invite us to reexamine what ministry, church and leadership can look like for the next generation. They long for us, together, to do whatever it takes to see this generation transformed by the Gospel. In this report you will see you and your church, and be given three actions steps to help you move forward in reaching the next generation.

The Canadian Baptist Youth & Family Team, a representative voice of Canadian Baptists from across the country for over 15 years, has a mission to serve as “leaders in the family of Canadian Baptists, to advocate and make possible national and global synergies in the areas of youth, family and young adult ministry.” One of the priorities in fulfilling this mission was to provide a national voice on ministry to
the next generation. 

To do this, we determined that there needed to be a broader gathering of youth and family ministry leaders to give shape to this voice. In April 2016, we brought together 50 influential Canadian Baptist leaders from across the country – representing the wide diversity in our churches –
to Niagara Falls for four days for the Canadian Baptist Youth & Family Ministry Forum. This gathering sought to reveal and address the obstacles and opportunities facing us as we engage and minister to 10-18 year olds in Canada. From the opening address by Dr. John H. Wilkinson, to the insights shared by our keynote facilitators – Dr. Dave Overholt, Dr. Anna Robbins, Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Gary Nelson– and the deep and honest discussions by participants in cluster groups, came the cumulative voice which we have titled The Imaginative Hope Report.

The Imaginative Hope Report: Revealing the Obstacles and Opportunities to Reaching and Engaging the Next Generation with the Gospel is a national voice on ministry to the next generation for Canadian Baptist churches. This voice is comprised of Canadian Baptist leaders who have a renewed love for their relationship with Jesus and the local church, along with a passion to see this emerging generation encounter the transformative work of Jesus in their lives. 

In recent years there has been significant research tackling one key question: Why are we losing our young people from the church? While this has been hugely beneficial, that is no longer the most crucial question we need to be asking. Why? It is because our young people –  those under 18 – are no longer the millennial generation, a generation that grew up in the church but left in droves. There is a new generation: Generation Z (ages 5-18). They are not leaving the church; they have simply never been in our churches to begin with. Therefore, the question we need to now be asking is: What must we do to reach and engage young people with the person and message of Jesus? 

Now is the time for a new era of evangelism, discipleship and empowerment of this generation as they relate to and understand the Church, the Body of Christ, and encounter the transformative power of Jesus Christ. To make the necessary shifts, we need to have a clear awareness of what is preventing the church from reaching youth, and what opportunities we can take advantage of in our current culture.

So now, as we interact with this post-Christendom and post-modern generation, there is great hope – a hope that is rooted in a new reality that we can imagine and desire to see come true throughout our churches. While there will be ongoing and significant opposition
to being a follower of Jesus, joining the local church and being united as the body of Christ in our country, there can also be a brighter future for our young people, their world and the Christian faith community as we take this call to The Imaginative Hope seriously. 

It is our desire that this report provide church leaders with insights and practical resources to be a church community that more effectively reaches and engages this next generation. It’s time to let this next generation lead, engage with the key cultural issues
of our time and give intentional focus to ministry for kids and youth in our churches and communities. 

This is the collective work of the people who participated in the Canadian Baptist Youth & Family Ministry Forum 2016 and it is endorsed by the Executive Ministers of the Canadian Baptist denominations and the Executive Director of Canadian Baptist Ministries. Their support stresses the importance of next generation ministry in all of our churches, emphasizing that we must do whatever it takes to reach young people with the Gospel and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit.