Fuel Networks Take Flight – A 2023 Year in Review
By Will Cumby, National Director of Fuel Network Partners
“Prepare the cabin for takeoff.” A voice across the plane’s PA system signaled the flight attendants to ready the aircraft as people adjusted their k95 masks, tightened their seatbelts, and said a private prayer. The plane and the Fuel Networks REFUEL Tour were taking off. We aimed to visit eight cities, sharing leadership and ministry best practices with urban leaders. Traveling to that many cities in a short window of time was audacious but necessary.
Urban communities were seeking support, and it had been too long since we connected in person. A myriad of thoughts sprinted through my mind as I glanced out the plane’s window.
Were urban youth leaders ready to attend workshops again? Had youth leaders become just as apathetic as their students? How did God want us to reach this generation of leaders and students?
Life was changing, and the global approach to urban ministry desperately needed a fresh outlook. Despite the pandemic pausing typical youth programming for nearly three years, people were slowly gathering again, and the church doors were officially open.
A few hours passed, and the plane began its descent. I was awed by the skyline of a city I had only heard about in songs or seen on television. But, as the famous lyrics go, “If I could make it there, I can make it anywhere.” Our first stop was New York.
2010, I wrote about networking and resourcing urban leaders in my DVULI breakthrough plan. Fast forward twelve years, and I am the National Director for the Fuel Networks. Now was the time to prove what I prayed for. The first stop of the Fuel Networks REFUEL Tour was fantastic! We had 188 people register for the event and received overwhelmingly positive feedback regarding the event’s necessity and the benefit of corporate fellowship.
The REFUEL Tour was a collaborative effort of UYWI, DVULI, and Flavor Fest. We picked cities for the REFUEL Tour based on our existing Fuel Networks, then partnered with Tommy Kyllonen and Flavor Fest for three of the cities.
We ministered in New York, Cleveland, Washington, DC, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. UYWI CEO Tommy Nixon featured DVULI alumni speakers, and I led workshops in each city.
“Much of what was shared resonated with me, especially Tommy’s point about ‘your why,'” noted one attendee. I had heard this concept before, but this time, it was more foundational than I expected. I appreciated this!”
The REFUEL Tour and ten Fuel Network cities are flying in the right direction. Every stop along the journey has helped us refine our leadership team, introduced new faces, and allowed us to grow as a network of urban leaders.
Another REFUEL Tour participant expressed, “We are not alone in ministry, nor should we be. So much of the content pointed toward abiding in Christ and our reliance on Him for ministry, which should be easy to remember, but going about the day-to-day, it’s easy to rely on our own strengths.”
Nearly 1,000 people registered for the REFUEL tour, and our Fuel Network members grew to 271!
We welcomed new Fuel Networks leaders in New York and Columbus while gaining Fuel Networks in Atlanta and Chicago.
Below are our new city leaders:
Kevin Lapierre (Brooklyn, New York)
Brandon Grant (Columbus, OH)
Eric Myhre (Atlanta, GA)
Jonathan Banks (Chicago, Il)
The 2023 tour plane landed, and every minute was an adventure. I’ll always remember sitting with leaders and helping them find hope after having their weekly attendance and volunteers whittled by a global pandemic and ministry burnout. Our goal for every city was to increase ministry collaboration, and when I witnessed leaders from the same city meeting for the first time and finding ways to partner, I knew our efforts were worth the work. A personal bonus was having the opportunity to teach alongside some of the best ministry practitioners in the country.
2024 is promising, and we are fueled to develop even more urban leaders nationwide! The Fuel Networks have great aspirations for growth nationally and internationally over the next five years. To learn more about the Fuel Networks, our network leaders, and how your city can become a Fuel Network City, visit FuelNetworkPartners.org and contact us!