Jeff Eckart is a Jesus follower, truth seeker, and motorcycle adventurer. In 2009, he founded Never The Same, a national youth ministry organization. Learn more about him at neverthesame.org. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife and together they have 3 daughters. He is passionate about seeing new generations transformed in Christ to further the Kingdom of God.
Jeff was born and raised until college in Indianapolis, IN. Two pivotal formation moments for his faith in Christ were age 9 at a Billy Graham event and at age 14 at summer camp. After that, he allowed God and his faith to permeate every part of his life. His father Creston was a public high school teacher and pastor throughout his career. Jeff inherited his dad’s same passion for students and Christian vocational ministry. While in high school although he was initially hesitant he felt compelled to pursue a calling into ministry service. He went on to earn bachelor's and master’s degrees in ministry from Indiana Wesleyan University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church.
In college, he met the love of his life, Arianna, who also shared his calling to vocational ministry work. Since marriage, they have shared their work in ministry service. They have three lovely hazel-eyed daughters who look like their mother. The first phase of their marriage was in full-time local church ministry, serving in roles revolving primarily around student ministry as well as worship music. Jeff has served most recently in the local church as the high school and teaching pastor at Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI for 11 years. Although they still attend KCC, Jeff left his role with this congregation and in faith stepped out in 2009 to found Never The Same, a national youth ministry organization. This began phase 2 of their life and ministry together.
In the middle of the “Great Recession” with no financial backing but a firm sense of God’s direction, Never The Same began humbly with Jeff as the sole staff, along with a homemade desk, a gifted laptop, and a borrowed office room. Jeff’s previous entrepreneurial endeavors of NTS Camp (which Jeff founded in 2000) and Claim Your Campus (which he founded in 2003) were brought under the umbrella of the organization and it began to grow. Creative efforts like the Grand Rapids Mud Run (founded in 2010) helped Never The Same to expand its influence across the nation as it became an almost exclusively self-funded nonprofit organization. With a growing staff and ministry, Never The Same is emerging as a movement that is using biblical discipleship and spiritual disciplines using theology, community, and technology to change students’ lives.
Jeff is active nationally in efforts to help middle school and high school students emerge as a generation who knows the love of God, the Gospel and is devoted to the timeless truth of Scripture. His dream is to see 1 million students meeting weekly for prayer at middle schools and high schools across America. Jeff is on the Executive Board for the National Day of Prayer, and speaks locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to audiences of all types, sizes, and ages. He hosts a weekly podcast called the Thought Factory that speaks to adults about understanding and helping students.
Jeff is an adventure motorcyclist and enjoys long trips on his vintage BMW R1150 GSA dual sport. Whenever possible, you will find him out on the road on two wheels. He enjoys the outdoors and many of his hobbies include adventurous activities (He has bungee jumped in New Zealand and sky-dived from an airplane). Since beginning his own lawn mowing service out of the trunk of his ’75 Buick LeSabre, Jeff has had a lot of crazy jobs in his life, from animal service technician, book factory worker, morgue assistant, office cleaner, professor, national youth ministry director, and part time prankist while in college. He is driven by his love for God and his passion for change and people. He looks forward to hopefully meeting you one day if he hasn’t already.