After The Dust Settles: Confessions of a Newsboys Advance Man
by Jason Kaat
I want to care about more than putting “butts in seats.”
As a 20-year local church youth ministry veteran, I have seen, more times than I can count, traveling ministries that care more about filling venues for their events than truly partnering with the local church. Many show complete disregard for how their ministry impacts the people who are the gatekeepers in the community.
But now I have been on the flipside of the coin, working for Life Promotions, partnering with the Newsboys for their “God’s Not Dead” tour. My job was to network communities throughout the US at each tour stop, to make sure those who responded to the gospel would be plugged into a local church.
I am deeply convicted that we do our best to respect and honor the local churches where we tour. We must seek to make sure students get plugged into local ministries for discipleship after they respond to the gospel.
Life Promotions’ founder, Bob Lenz, turned to me with the signature gleam in his eye and said, “The Newsboys tour will either be a networking dream job or a networker’s nightmare.”
But after I completed my final advancement meeting with Life Promotions for the Newsboys “God’s Not Dead” tour in April, I can honestly say this tour has been much closer to a sweet dream than a nightmare!
It has been humbling to see the number of pastors, youth workers and lay people who were responsive to our desire to partner with them to reach young people. In city after city, all who responded to the gospel were to be shared with, prayed over, and cared for long after we left the building.
While there are many stories to share about the success and fruit from the networking that took place because of the tour, I wanted to highlight one unique situation in which two cities not only influenced their own area, but also partnered across a state line to make sure students received follow-up.
I had a conversation with Rob Townshend, youth pastor and NNYM Vermont state coordinator; Trey Cates, a pastor in Northfield Vt.; Shane Ross, regional rep for a Warren County, N.Y. radio station; and Todd Cochran, a youth group volunteer in Glens Falls, N.Y.
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Jason: Rob, what was it about the Newsboys tour that inspired you?
Rob: Vermont is a state that is not easy to network in because of its fiercely independent reputation. But the Newsboys and Life Promotions helped us build relationships with youth workers all around the state in order to do evangelism follow up. It was a chance for us to be a part of a ministry effort that could potentially lead to even greater things for the community. We also posed the question: “How can we start to dream together to advance ministry for the kingdom of God? How can we build teams that go beyond a one-night event to allow us to have the opportunity to reach deeper into the people around us and bring Christ to a spiritually dark state?” It was exciting to look down the road with Trey and Jason and say this could lead to partnerships and networks that will influence for years beyond the event. That’s my heartbeat; that’s what got me excited; that’s what I’m still excited about as I watch this thing come to fruition!
Jason: That’s what we value at Life Promotions: to rally people around a “point of unity” event, but to have relationships with state leaders like you at through the National Network of Youth Ministries so that we can play a small part in helping to build unity and sustainable impact in a local area.
Trey: Rob was able to cast that kind of vision for us. We bought into the idea that “God’s Not Dead” could serve as a springboard into doing more as united churches in our area. The state of Vermont is a rural state, and only 1.8% of Vermonters claim to be evangelical Christians. The fact that this is the least-churched state in the US speaks to the need for a united effort.
Jason: Could you share more about how folks got together to build a movement of unity for the Newsboys concert?
Trey: The concert promoter, Larry Morrison, uses the concerts as a fundraiser for the local Christian school. We had the initial meeting for our team of volunteers at a restaurant for any pastors, youth leaders, and volunteers, to share a free meal and hear the vision for the Newsboys concert. After that vision was cast, Rob shared about NNYM and how we could make this sustainable beyond the event. Then we focused on prayer for the concert.
Jason: As local event coordinators in Barre, Vermont and Glens Falls, N.Y., Trey and Todd have been working together. That was exciting to me: nowhere else on the 60-city tour did two separate cities work together like this. What led you guys to work together like that?
Trey: Rob was very much the bridge that helped make that happen with the Glens Falls team. Todd came from Glens Falls to hang out with us, learn from our mistakes, and see what we did right. We are looking to activate our local team again for some other upcoming events. We want to have a gospel response team ready to go into action for follow up after those events.
Jason: Could you talk about the interaction with the Newsboys tour and how a one-night concert event has impacted the Glens Falls area?
Shane: Our Sound of Life radio network had been looking for a concert to do something here in the north country region for over a year. Our mission is to be the air support for the local churches who serve as ground troops of the kingdom. We initially reached out to Todd Cochran and it grew from there.
Todd: It’s been cool to see a drastic move of God over all! At first, we felt a bit overwhelmed. However, when we got to hang out with Trey and Rob at the Newsboys concert in Barre, we saw what it would take to pull together a team to accomplish the same purposes. By working in the context of relationships, it triggered an outpouring of positive responses from multiple denominations for the sake of the gospel. After the Glens Falls Newsboys concert, we are planning an evaluation meeting and also to begin praying together to see what God has for us next. We are dreaming of holding some youth leadership summits and training for student leaders. This is all for the body of Christ as one bride, to set denominational differences aside so that we can help students know Christ. The highway that connects Rutland and Glens Falls together will serve as a conduit for unity – not just for the youth workers, but we hope to see pastors unite as well to serve one Jesus.
Jason: Do pastors meet out there already? Is there a Mission America or some sort of pastoral association?
Todd: In the Glens Falls area, we have “Adirondack Church of the Together;” and from that group there are 12 pastors get together to pray regularly. We would like to network those churches to establish church leadership first, but other churches are responding to the call. We hope to see pastors and youth pastors supporting one another in an effort to unify for the sake of the kingdom.
Jason: Rob, do you have any thoughts about sustainable results that resulted from the Newsboys “God’s Not Dead” tour?
Rob: I am excited because we had a new network started along the New York/Vermont border because of this effort. We also anticipate seeing two more networks in Vermont as a direct result of the tour. What I found is that most people aren’t even sure how to start a network. The Newsboys effort has helped me to create a starting place to dialogue about how to start a network. It’s not rocket science; it means connecting with other people and letting others know you are there.
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As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding!” When traveling ministries focus on what they do best, but genuinely work with local churches, the impact far exceeds what we could ever accomplish on our own. As I crisscrossed the country this past winter, I have found that most communities were excited to network together.
If you want to find out more about how you can network in your local area, I highly recommend picking up a copy of “QuickStart” by the National Network of Youth Ministries. You may also contact me and I will be happy to help you find resources!