A Big Dream, Now A Reality

Shawn Michael —  May 9, 2014 — 1 Comment

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I had a big dream — maybe even a goal in life, you might say — that became a reality this week! I’ve been dreaming and pushing towards it for THIRTEEN YEARS…

I entered into the Foursquare family as a youth pastor at a local church in April of 2001. It was then that I started to notice that there really wasn’t much happening on a broad scale level to network, resource, disciple and care for NextGen leaders. At least in the way that I was hoping for — accessible and easy to share. I was a bit jealous of some of the care and support I was seeing happening in other denominations and wanted the same — selfishly, for myself, and also for our leaders.

It began with phone calls. I started asking questions. I worked my way up all the way to our national NextGen Rep of the time, who I highly respect to this day. I was immediately put on a national team to brainstorm and give vision to our movement’s calling to disciple and reach the next generation. It was there that the conversation started about launching a web site to give access to resources and tools to equip NextGen leaders.

I’ve been giving voice to this idea in some capacity since that time but it wasn’t until I stepped into the role of the Gateway NextGen Rep in the fall of 2010 that I was able to really do something about it. One of the first things I did in my new role was to establish GatewayNextGen.com as a place for NextGen leaders in our district to go to for networking, resourcing, training and encouragement. It was a big hit! Many days averaging as many as 100 unique visitors a day and on it’s biggest days, attracting more than 2,000. As I write this, my team of NextGen contributors has published 883 posts, we’ve had 330 comments/interactions and we’ve had 14,800 hits since launch — still averaging around 116 unique visits a day according to the latest stats. Pretty awesome for a start-up site. It was obvious that the site was reaching a need for NextGen leaders.

A couple years ago, conversations started churning again on a national level about doing something more for NextGen leaders. The web site idea was approached again and this time I was able to say, “Take a look at this… Look at the hits and engagement we’re getting in a district of just ~140 churches.” The idea was passionately embraced by our team and the rest, as they say, is history.

There have been countless man-hours put into this project from the beginning, including a graphics and logo redesign, importing and tagging posts, and retagging as we refined and shaped categories and streamlined the search system to make it as user friendly as feasible. It was just a very long process, and sometimes very tedious process, to get all the content and the site itself up to the standards we were hoping for – a very good thing, to be sure.

I’m very thankful for Tammy Dunahoo, our general supervisor, and Ryan Brown, our national NextGen representative for supporting this thing from the very beginning. They are champions for the NextGen movement in Foursquare! And they are, simply put, awesome.

It was Tuesday night… I got the email. It simply said, “You are good to go! Tammy signed off.”

I cried happy tears.

I can’t wait to see how God uses this! I think it’s gonna make a big difference in a lot of leader’s lives. I think it’s going to encourage and equip our leaders in a new and exciting way. I think it’s gonna be an amazing tool to help us touch and reach a generation for Christ. And I believe it will be an amazing resource to share NextGen leader’s stories and give inspiration and hope to a group of leaders that largely feel alone in facing a seemingly larger-than-life task.

I honestly couldn’t be more humbled.

God is good. I’m tearing up again…

Many, many thanks to all my friends, peers and family who helped this dream become realized.

If you want to tinker around on the site before any big official announcements are made, you can find it live now at FoursquareNextGen.org.

Shawn Michael

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