November 1st, 2014 Never The Same was officially 5 years old! Allow me to reflect on what God can do in 5 years…
THE FIRST DAY
November 1st, 2009, I was coming off of 40 days of rest and preparation for the assignment ahead. Only a few shorts weeks before, I had left employment at Kentwood Community Church to walk into the unknown.
Rewind one year to the day, November 1st 2008 I was in Pittsburgh at a conference when God tapped me on the shoulder and downloaded the calling of starting what would become “Never The Same” the organization. I announced my resignation 5 months later on May 31st, 2009. By that following November on my first day of work, all I had was a 501c3 tax exempt status, a borrowed office, a home made desk, and a gifted computer and office chair. I had no idea how we were to be funded, but had a deep sense of God’s future provision. God clearly spoke to me as I was working on my desk during my Sabbatical. “Don’t raise funds” were the words I heard. That’s all I knew.
It’s hard to believe what I’ve seen since.
HOW IT BEGAN
Never The Same began with 2 objectives: Claim Your Campus & NTS Camp.
The goal at the beginning was to go after the vision of Claim Your Campus (CYC). The vision of CYC is MS & HS students meeting for prayer on every campus in America. I didn’t even know how many campuses there were at the time! (For the record there are 67,000 in the US.) CYC began in 2003 with me in Grand Rapids, MI and a friend Matt Lockett (in Denver at the time) challenging our students in our churches to pray on their campus. Within a few years there was a smattering of student-led CYC prayer groups across the country, but only a handful at best.
CYC was why I left my job. God had called me to lay the groundwork for 1 million students praying on their campus. My intention at the beginning in 2009 was to devote 2/3 of my time to this vision.
NTS Camp began back when me and a friend, Darren Campbell, had the idea of doing a camp together. Our first year was 2000, and due to growth we added a second week of NTS Camp in 2006.
NTS Camp was slowly growing but we weren’t prepared for what God was about to do.
God opened the doors for CYC immediately. Even before I had officially left my job at Kentwood, a connection was made with a national youth ministry organization that embraced this vision of CYC and student-led prayer. Before we knew it, we were in front of thousands of students across the US on their tour that coming spring of 2010. God was showing His favor and showing me that He would open the doors necessary for this vision to become a reality.
With faith, we decided to open our 2nd venue for camp in the Chicago area in 2010. And without much effort, focused on growing, but only to hang on for the ride! NTS Camp began to grow quite quickly. The result of this is that much of my time and our organization’s focus was spent on NTS Camp and keeping up with the growth.
CYC, while it continued to grow, didn’t get the attention I had wanted to give. Eventually, my sense from the LORD was “Just go with where I’m moving right now” and so I did.
SIXTY MONTHS LATER
In the last 5 years, we’ve been in front of 250,000 students across the US for CYC. I have personally trained over 10,000 students in becoming a prayer missionary on their school campus. Stories of campuses being changed through prayer are popping up across the US. We have reason to believe* that tens of thousands of students on thousands of campuses are meeting for prayer across the US.
We are coming off of our best year of camp ever. (This 2 minutes will show you why) Since 2009, we have grown by 650%, and up 12% from 2013. NTS Camp has gone from 1 venue in 2009 to 6 venues in 2015. Most importantly, 92% of students make specific spiritual decisions and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE students are connected to a local church and network of peers and adult leaders to follow up with them throughout the year.
What started off as me by myself, as the lone staff member, has now grown to 8 local staff in Grand Rapids, MI where our ministry is based. And God continues to miraculously provide all that we need to keep up with this growth. To date, we have generated 90% of our operating budget.
THERE IS NO WAY…
…I can describe the sense in my heart of what God has done in the last 5 years. THIS IS ALL ABOUT HIM. That’s our story. No one could have done this the way God has. Early on, God gave us the idea of doing a unique event to generate resources to help us achieve our goals to help students. And we went with it and saw God bless. God opened the door for Arianna and I to be a voice in the prayer movement in America as a part of the National Prayer Committee.
Along the way, I’ve encountered thousands of students, hundreds of youth workers, politicians, prayer leaders, pastors and parents. I’ve bent my knee with many of them asking God to change our hearts and give us His hope.
I’m more hopeful than ever before! The vision of Never The Same, investing in our future, held in the hands of young people, has never burned brighter in my heart than it does now. Recently, God has convicted me of where my worldview comes from. Too often I have seen the world through the lens of despair, the message the world and the media paints of a bleak future and bad news. No one knows what tomorrow brings, but God has reformed my thinking to see things more through His eyes. There is hope in the future. God has shown me over and over how young people are worth the pain of this assignment.
Join me in celebrating what God is doing in our world today. To Him alone be the praise!
Jeff Eckart, CEO
Never The Same
*PS We don’t know exactly how many students are praying, but we know there are many. Our vision is 1 million students meeting for weekly prayer on their MS/HS campus. And we’ve found a way to help track that vision. Over the past year we have developed a mobile app that will give us the ability to measure how many students are praying at their schools. We will be looking for partners in funding this app. Look for updates in a few weeks on how you can help make this possible. If you are interested and can’t wait, feel free to email me @ [email protected]
© 2014, Never The Same