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February 18 2014

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January 31 2014


Greg Atkinson on 4 Keys to Creating an Irresistible Church | unSeminary

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadPodcast (video): Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe to the unSeminary Podcast: [iTunes] [RSS] [Stitcher] [TuneIn] // [VIDEO iTunes] [VIDEO RSS]On today’s podcast we have church consultant, author and pastor Greg Atkinson. We’re talking about four areas that every church should work on to become more irresistible in the coming year. This episode is overflowing with helpful thoughts on how to make your church the kind of church that people will want to attend and to tell their friends about. We based this conversation around a chapter of Greg’s book “Church Leadership Essentials“. Listen in on this episode for some practical insights on things you could improve at your church in the coming weeks and months.Greg Atkinson // [Website] [twitter] [Church Leadership Essentials: What Every Pastor Needs to Know]Interview Highlights00:30 // Greg’s ministry experience01:10 // Greg is the editor of an online magazine02:00 // Greg’s new book, ‘Church Leadership Essentials’02:20 // Becoming a more irresistible church in 201402:45 // Becoming more irresistible in the area of First Impressions03:16 // First Impressions begin online before a guest has attended your church03:20 // Guests should know that they matter to us before they hear that they matter to God03:49 // The fastest growing churches in America expect guests05:30 // Greg asks ‘is the pastor approachable, accessible?”06:02 // Rich recalls a time when he was mislead to an empty new comer room08:25 // How humbling that the pastor of one of the largest churches in America is still available to speak with after each service10:06 // Walking slowly through the pews11:00 // Becoming more irresistible in the area of Children’s Ministry12:16 // Kids environments must always be Clean, Safe and Secure16:40 // Paint goes a long way17:17 // Impact of impressive Kid’s environments is greater on parents than kids19:52 // Becoming more irresistible in the area of Security20:11 // A mega church that Greg failed in the security area25:59 // What’s involved in good ushering28:57 // Becoming more irresistible in the area of Attractional Worship29:55 // Church success is dependent upon people inviting their friends31:56 // Greg reminds us that we don’t want to offend a guest by anything that is within our control33:59 // Greg’s book – Church Leadership Insights: What Every pastor Needs to KnowLightning Round HighlightsHelpful Online Resource // Gmail, Google HangoutBooks That are Having an Impact // Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry, Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp, What the Plus by Guy KawasakiInspiring Ministries // Crosspoint, North Point, NewSpring, SeacoastInspiring Leader // John MaxwellWhat does he do for fun? // Date nights with his wife, hanging with his kids, movies, guys night outCheck This Out // 8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your ChurchInterview Transcript //Rich – Well, welcome to the unSeminary Podcast. Rich Birch here, your host. We have got a real treat here to kick off the new year today. We have got speaker, writer, consultant, Greg Atkinson with us. Greg is a 20 year veteran of church work. He’s a real expert in so many different areas and a gift for us as we kick off the new year. He’s actually left the local church environment to make himself more broadly available to serve churches all across the country, ultimately around the world. Also is working with an online magazine right now. Greg welcome to the show. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the online magazine you are working with these days.Greg – Thank you for having me. I am in a season right now where I am speaking, and writing and doing some freelance writing. Working on some book projects that will be coming out in 2014, 2015. And I am the editor of Christian Media Magazine. It’s an online magazine and we are going in a new direction. We just have a whole new look. A whole new feel. We went through a rebranding process and are coming out in the new year going strong trying to reach church leaders of all types to get them to read the magazine, to learn about media resources for them.Rich – Nice. Very cool. We will link to that in the show notes so people can get a sense of that and learn more about that. It’s obviously a great resource for people to get plugged into. Well one of the things you wrote, you have written a number of books and we will talk about your book a little bit later. One of the books you wrote recently, I have it on my kindle so I apologize to those who can’t see that….’Church Leadership Essentials”. It’s a fantastic resource you should check out. If you over the holiday season got your new Kindle, you should buy this book. It’s only $5, common! One of the chapters in there we what to really drill into for churches, because I think a lot of churches can benefit from this, is How to be Irresistible. How to be more irresistible as a church. You actually talk about 4 different things in there and I think that’s a great for all of us. It would be great if in 2014 our churches were more irresistible than they were in 2013. So let’s talk about those 4 areas. What’s the first area churches should think about when they want to be more irresistible?Greg – Well in the book, and in my writing and my teaching I talk about 4 areas and the first area is First Impressions. And that, as you know, starts before they come to the actual campus. I include online presence in that. I Include your use of social media, your website. Most people nowadays will check out your church online before they ever come to it physically. Once they get there, Mark Waltz from Granger has a great quote in his book where he talks about how you’ve got 10 minutes somewhere between the parking lot and the children’s center 10 minutes will pass. They should know they matter to us before they hear about how they matter to God. So I like to focus on those first 10 minutes and letting people know that they are welcome, they are loved and that we were expecting them. One of the things I found when I work doing my consulting is that the fastest growing churches in the country actually expect guests, they aren’t surprised when they show up.Rich – Oh wow. That’s good.Greg – It’s like they gear everything towards the first time guest. Everything from Welcome Centers to Children’s check in, to signage, to parking lot greeters, everything is geared towards that first time guest. So they are ready and waiting for that first time guest to show up. Just having that good first impression in that first 10 minutes.Rich – Ya that’s good. Is there something that you’ve come across that some church has done on that first impression stuff that has been particularly intriguing to you? Wow, that’s something I’ve never seen before. To kind of make those first time guests feel extra special and welcome as they arrive.Greg – A lot of churches that I have worked with will do some kind of either a VIP room after the service, or a Guest Central after the service, or a meet the pastor. Some kind of opportunity where you go into a separate room, decorated like a party atmosphere, I love the VIP rooms that churches do and they have the little giveaways, maybe a little bag with goodies in it with stuff about the church to welcome people. And then you get to actually physically shake the pastors hand and some of the other key leaders at the church. Some kind of way that they get to actually make that connection on the first visit. Actually, when I consult with churches, one of the things I look at in my report is ‘Is the pastor approachable, accessible?” And that’s something that visitors are looking for, are they going to get a chance to talk with him, to hug him, to pray with him. So that’s something that I like to see is at the end of the service, to have some kind of guest central or visitors spot where people can come in and meet key leaders.Rich – That’s amazing. That’s a great tip. My wife Christine and I, when we were first married, it was within the first year. We were looking for a new church. We had moved into a new community. And we went and visited, it was kind of one of those churches that was going and blowing in town, it was doing a great job. And during the service the church said ‘we’ve got this new comer room, we’d love for you to be there’ You probably see where this is going. And they had some signage out in the foyer saying here’s where the newcomer room is. And it was a little bit weird because it was downstairs and kind of off in a corner but we were like, oh this is fine. So we go and we stand and there’s sure enough a big sign, ‘new comers’ in front of the door. And we go in there, and we just stand there. And there’s no one there in the room. And I was like, and I’m like a Christ Follower. I love Jesus, big-time. And we are standing there feeling so awkward, what’s going to happen next, and no body came in. So we just kind of slinked back out the door.Greg – That’s poor execution.Rich – We slink back out to the parking lot. You know, that’s a great church. I’ve often thought of that with the guest services stuff at our church, because that’s a great church. They do a great job and are doing a lot of fantastic things. And there are are weekends when things go wrong and your normal system doesn’t happen. But you know what, the reality of it is, there are people that visit every weekend so you have to nail that stuff 52 weeks of the year, or however many weeks of the year you do services.Greg – You gotta give it attention. You’ve gotta give it your presence. You’ve got to make it a priority. One thing I like to help churches do as a resource is to brainstorm creative names. I mentioned you could call it a VIP room, a Guest Central, a New Comers Welcome. One of my favorites is Erwin McManis in LA calls it the After Party. And so they have a party after each service and you can meet each pastor, and Erwin if he is there live. Love to throw out different ideas.Rich – That’s fantastic. On that front, still to this day, Bill Hybels, you know I find this humbling, after all these years he will hang our at the front and talk to every person and shake a hand and interact. I think there are a lot of pastors of churches that aren’t 30 thousand people, or however many Willow has gotten to these days, who are like “i’ve got things to do, I’m a busy person.” I commend Bill on that! He’s willing to stand around. I had brought a friend to Willow in the last year and we were at their last service, we did the tour thing and poked around and popped into the auditorium at the end and sure enough, this is now an hour after the last service and Bill is still hanging around, shaking hands, talking to people. And I was like, hmmm, that’s a humbling sign for me because I think I am often just rushed on Sundays.Greg – It speaks volumes. When I consulted with 12Stones in Atlanta, their pastor Kevin Myers, they were just recently named the fastest growing church in the nation, but he’s down front praying with people, hugging people, crying with people, counseling with people after each and every service. We all have that potential to be rushed, like you talked about, it’s human nature. I wrote a chapter in the book about walking slowly through the pews. That is something that I learned many years ago, nearly 20 years ago from my veteran uncle who had been a minister for many years. He came up to me after one of the services and I said, ‘What did you think?’ I was a worship leader and I thought I had done a good job leading and I thought that was all that mattered. And he said “Greg, walk slowly through the pews. You rushed right by people, you just rushed down the aisle, and you were always in a hurry to get places, and you didn’t make eye contact and shake hands and speak to people.” And so I never forgot that, and we always have to be intentional about walking slowly through the pews.Rich – That’s a good bit of wisdom for sure. So first impressions, that’s the first area. What’s the second area we should be worrying about in 2014 if we want our church to be more irresistible than last year?Greg – In Childrens Ministry, we as evangelical modern churches we are often trying to reach parents with young kids. And how you welcome kids when they come, how your rooms are decorated, all that speaks volumes, what they learn, is it just babysitting or do they actually learn stuff about the Bible and about God. Great churches send kids home with devotional material, or homework to go over with their parents. I love the ORANGE philosophy and the thought of partnering with parents where we send resources home, at my church, with the kids for them to show their parents, and the parents bring it up over dinner. ‘Ok, this Sunday you talked about Daniel. What did Daniel do? Then the discussion. Actually in some ways it’s like a reverse discipleship because a lot of the parents aren’t strong Christians at all. But the big three that I always talk about, and there’s a chapter in the book about this, is Clean, Safe and Secure. Clean: If a parents drops off a child and it is a wreck. it’s not clean, it’s not sanitized, presentable, it’s not nice neat and tidy. It’s going to give a negative first impression. Again, they are going to feel like you weren’t expecting guests and they’re going to get a negative impression, and you don’t want anything negative in the first 10 minutes. Clean, Safe and Secure. Safe means that there’s nothing dangerous in the room, there’s no jagged corners or corners sticking off the edge of some rusty table that a kid could fall and cut their eye open on. It’s got to be safe. And last, secure. It’s got to be secure. How you get in, how you get out, how a child get’s checked in. That’s why so many churches use database systems like Fellowship One, where you get the name badges, and you have to have a matching number to check the child out. And also secure meaning there’s not a back door that’s unattended in the children’s facility where the kid could wander out into the street and get kidnapped or picked up. In my church there’s one way in and one way out of the children’s part of the facility and those were monitored by security guards. We had a great security team. And you didn’t get out with a child unless you had a matching sticker. It was very secure. Clean, Safe and Secure.Rich – Very cool. On the children’s ministry front are there some common low hanging fruit that churches could implement even in these first months of the year. I think a lot of times people get overwhelmed when they go to a church like North Point or Mariners out west and be like ‘oh my goodness, this is Disney World, we are not going to be able to do this.” But are there some low hanging fruit that, people could do, even right away to help improve their children’s ministry.Greg – Ya, we recently, the church where I was most recently the campus pastor, we were a multisite church and we moved into a new facility. I wanted to do something like North Point, Mariners, kind of a wacky world theme. Where Wacky World comes in and decks out the walls but we couldn’t afford it so we hired a local designer, a local print shop to make us those appliqués that stick to the walls, that look like Wacky World. So it was done very economical, very cost effective, but it looks professional. It looked like something I’d seen because my old church I was pastor at in Dallas, they had used Wacky World so I was familiar with what their stuff looked like, and it looked like it, but it was done by a local print shop so it was very economical. My thing is excellence in all things, so if you can shoot for excellence, it doesn’t have to be Wacky World if they are not in your budget and you can’t afford it, but if you can try to, you know I was looking at a church…I visited a church two weeks ago and they are a great church, a large church, a mega church, but walking down the halls to their children’s facilities, they were just bland. It was like khaki, or cream walls, just walking all down the hallways. There was no vibrant color, nothing inviting, nothing exciting letting me know that I was in the children’s wing of the building. Just real drab and bland.Rich – Absolutely. Ya, the environment piece is a huge deal. It’s amazing. Even if you are a church listening here today and you are thinking I’m not even sure we can afford to get some printing done, well you should look into it because it’s not as expensive as you think it is. But even if you can’t afford that, you would be amazed by what you can do with paint.Greg – That’s what I was going to say, paint will do it.Rich – Absolutely. You can paint some walls. We just went through a renovation of a facility and people are blown away by the kids environments but when you step back and look at it, it’s mostly paint. There’s some environment stuff too but mostly what you are impacted by. There was a study done recently, I believe it was by Cogun I need to go back and check the reference on that, where they basically went in a studied and asked kids and parents and families in these church environments where they’ve had the kind of Wacky World environment pieces and the impact that it’s had on them, and what they feel about the church, if it’s the kind of place that they can invite their friends. It’s interesting, what they found is, the kids…those environments, very quickly, within a couple of weeks, they just become paint on the walls. It just becomes kind of expected. They think of course I go through a slide to get into my kids environments. But listen, for parents, it almost lasts for years.Greg – It’s the parents. It speaks volumes to the parents.Rich – Absolutely, years later you are thinking ‘oh my goodness, I can’t believe my kids get to go down a slide to the kids environment!’Greg – That’s what I wish church leaders would realize. They think, ‘they are a 3 year old, what do they care, let’s give them some crayons and let them color.’ They don’t realize we are trying to reach the 20-30 something parents that the kids are precious to them, their pride and joy, and when they come to a church that is inviting and welcoming to kids and has that Disney Land kind of feel, colors and attractive, compelling looking appearance, it just speaks volumes to the parents. And that is included in that first 10 minutes. Making that first impression when they think my kids are happy, I am happy, and because it is clean safe and secure and I am not going to worry about their safety so I can worship and actually pay attention to the message and pay attention to what God wants to do in the service. I can allow God to speak to me. I am not worried if my child is going to go out that back door, or hit is head on that rough corner of the table. They are not worried when it’s clean, safe and secure and they can focus on what God wants to do on their hearts in the worship service.Rich – Absolutely. That’s a huge lesson. That’s one of those things I wish more church leaders would take to heart when it comes to their physical facility. OK first impressions, children’s ministry. What’s another area that we can invest in this coming year to make our church more irresistible?Greg – Yes, the third area is security. A lot of churches don’t think about this. That clean, safe and secure, the word secure there, that applies to adults as well. They want to feel secure. I worked with, I’m not going to say which church it was, but it is a well known giga church, mega church with a well known worship leader and pastor. Amazing church. And I worked with them as a secret shopper and I did my report and the last question says would I return to this church. Would I come back as a guest and I said no. And they were stunned and shocked but they were also pleased that someone was honest with them. That someone would shoot straight with them. And that’s what a consultant is supposed to do. I’m not just supposed to tell you what you want to hear. And they said ‘tell us more about this. Why wouldn’t you come back? We have some of the best worship in the country?” And I said but you’re not secure, and I didn’t see any security present. I didn’t see any people with ear pieces in. I didn’t see any police officers roaming around which should happen in mega churches. I didn’t see anything around to let me know that I was safe. We live in a world now…I’m a movie guy, I love movies. And just the other week at my local theatre there was a shooting that I was almost there and I would have saw it and it would have wrecked my life for the rest of my life to have seen it. But a guys wife went out on a date with another guy, and the husband came and gunned down, the guy shot him 5 times in the movie theatre parking lot, and everybody around that was going to a movie saw it and I was this close to being there and seeing it. You know, there has been a number of church shootings. There’s been kidnappings and disgruntled parents coming in and grabbing their kids out of kid classes. A divorced dad taking their kids without their mom knowing. So security, if you want tour church to be irresistible, and if you want it to be welcoming and inviting and again that God factor. You want people to focus on Christ and the worship service, you don’t want them worrying about are their lives in danger. You gotta have security measures in place. So when I work with churches, and I only work with very large churches, but I’m looking for the people with ear pieces in their ears. I’m looking for people with the walkie talkies. I’m looking for the people with guns on them. I’m looking for the people that give me a dirty look if I try to go somewhere that I am not supposed to go. Because I’ll try to get into children’s ministry areas that I am not supposed to get into as a secret shopper. And I’m looking for people to stop me and say ‘whoa, where do you think you are aging?” and I’m testing that security as a secret shopper. It’s just something that in this day and age, as much as a I hate to say it, now we are in 2014, you got to be secure and you have to take security seriously. We had an incident about 2 months ago at my church where I was campus pastor where a guy came in drunk. And he was known, he was a guy I had been counseling about alcoholism, and had been trying to get him into AA, and he was too proud to get into AA. He said he could beat it all on his own. He needed to be in AA and he had a reputation for being very violent when he got drunk and getting into a lot of bar fights and beating people unconscious. He was like a MMA fighter, lethal. He could really hurt people. And so he came up to me on a Sunday morning and said ‘Man, I’m sorry, I failed. I went out to a concert last night and I have been drinking all night and I’m so sorry.” And he was just wreaking of alcohol and I patted him on the back and said ‘I love you man, maybe God will speak to you today.” And he went into the service. As campus pastor I went to all our security guys, we have two police officers, off duty police officers who just always carry guns with them. And then we have ushers and security folk and some ex-military guys and I just went to each of them and I pointed the guy out. And I said he’s drunk and if he makes a move for the stage, tackle him, don’t let him get to the stage. And I just had to point it out. And that’s just me doing my job to keep our church secure and safe. Thankfully nothing happened. He left, he cried after the service, he said that God was speaking to his heart and he left but who knows how many drunk people show up to churches on a given Sunday. But I had every eye in there on him security-wise, trained on him just watching him to see if he made any sudden moves to rush the stage and so just gotta take precautions.Rich – That’s obviously, pardon the put, but that’s a sobering thing to talk about. It’s the kind of thing that we don’t think about a lot but it’s the kind of thing that a lot of us go back and loop back on our security procedures for this coming year and say what is it that we need to improve on this front. Maybe we need to be a bit proactive.Greg – This is something that doesn’t get talked about all that often. Some of it is just within your first impression ministry you have parking lot, you have greeters, you have people that attend a welcome center or information center or guest central. But you also have ushers and you don’t want to forget the art of good ushering or good ushers that not only seat people, but are active and attentive during a service. We had a situation, it was a year ago last January, where we were, I’ll never forget it because it was our last service in our old facility before we moved campuses. We were getting ready the very next week to move to our new facility as a campus and this was our very last service in our old building and it was a very special, meaningful service and I shared memories from people because we had met in that building for 5 years and I shared stories. And as I’m talking, I’m up front sitting on a stool sharing stories form people having a very powerful meaningful moment, this women with dementia started walking up to the front started screaming and yelling at the congregation, and talking about her husband thinking she was cheating on him and her husband had been dead for years, he wasn’t even alive. Her husband thought that she had done something with her husbands brother and she talked about people climbing through her window and she was just talking out of her mind and in my mind I was thinking where are the ushers ushering this women our of here. I didn’t want to be the mean bad pastor that tells this woman to be quiet. So I was patting her on the back saying ‘ok, ok, ok’ and I’m just patting her on the back and thankfully she wasn’t mic’d. I didn’t hand her a microphone so most of the people couldn’t hear what she was saying it was just gibberish, but I was hearing the nonsense that she was saying. So we had a meeting after that where we said, ‘if something like that happens, if you see anyone like that come up to the stage that shouldn’t be coming up to the stage you need to just grab a hold of them and say please come with me we need to usher you out. Just ushering, just basic ushering. I’ve seen, I remember in college seeing someone rush the stage and try to take a swing at the pastor as he was preaching. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my days. Twenty years of ministry, so security is important. You want people to feel safe at church. If somebody tries to run a the pastor and try to take a swing at him, you remember years ago Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley’s dad got punched in the face. So when stuff like that happens people don’t feel secure and safe so we just have got to take precautions. That’s all I’m saying is take precautions.Rich – That’s good. That’s a good one. Alright so First Impressions, Children’s Ministry, Security which we just talked about. And what’s the fourth area that we could be looking at this coming year.Greg – That would be excellence in attractional worship. And that means that you put everything you’ve got into that. Whether you meet on Saturday night or Sunday morning or Sunday night into that worship experience, or worship experiences…giving it everything you’ve got from worship flow, song selection, authenticity, your communication, preaching, teaching, sound, video and lights, making services memorable and powerful. I think of that passage where it says go out and compel them to come in. Things are done in such a way, and we really had this at my last church, it was such an amazing worship experience that people wanted to tell their friends about it. And I remember years ago attending the evangelism conference at Willow Creek and hearing Bill Hybels talk about the success at Willow Creek has always been and will always be people inviting people. And that was hard for me to hear because I am a marketing guy, I am big into marketing. I could market with the best of them. I’m big into marketing. But I needed to hear it’s about people inviting people. At the end of the day it’s about word of mouth. Word of mouth will always be the best form of marketing. So when you craft services where people can encounter the living God and where they are guest friendly and you don’t use churchy talk, you don’t say anything in which you would have to explain and get into the Greek and get into theological reasons of why you would have to use that word. We try to avoid all churchy lingo and try to talk just like you and I are talking right now, just common, casual conversational language. And make it where our people feel safe. So you have your core there, where your people are attending and they trust you and love you. And trust is that key word, they have to trust you. They have to feel comfortable. They have that person that they have been building a relationship with at work or at school and they say ‘hey, why don’t you come check out our church. I think you would really like it. It’s not like any other church. Come give it a shot.’ And then everybody tells those stories of the week that their guest that they have been inviting for so long finally shows up and they have that cringe factor. They are thinking oh I hope everything goes all right. I hope the pastor say something stupid. I hope he doesn’t preach on money today. They have that cringe factor and they see that the stakes are high and they want it to be a great service for their guest that they have been praying for. So we as pastors, as worship leader, as service programmers, we are always aware and sensitive to the fact that it is somebody’s first time at our church. And that happens every Sunday, it is somebody’s first time at our church and we want to make sure that they are not offended by anything that is out of our control. If they get offended by anything Gospel, we can’t help that. The Gospel can be offensive. But if they are offending by bad lighting, or poor communication, or music that’s not done with excellence and you have an off day musically it just turns people off. So just doing your best when it comes to the actual worship experience.Rich – Absolutely, that’s one of those lessons to let just soak in. There’s a lot there. There’s a lot to unpack but continuing to invest in what happens Sunday from your own teaching, to what happens in the musical piece in the morning and all those individual elements. Maybe you take one or two of those and say ‘I am going to spend three months with our musicians so say ‘how can we bring this up? How can we bring up the quality from there?’ Then we take another 3-6 months and work just on teaching, on that piece. Work your way through the service to bring the quality up so it does have that attractional outsider focus. This has been an incredible conversation. I want people to understand, today we, this is a bit awkward, but this whole conversation has been based on one chapter of Greg’s book. Now, I’m not a book sales guy, but you really should pick up this book. Today we’ve been talking just about one piece of this and we’ve pulled a lot out, it’s been like a 1/2 hour conversation and the thing I love about this particular book ‘Church Leadership Insights: What Every Pastor Needs to Know, it’s similar to the kind of content that we do at UnSeminary. It’s really practical and it’s stuff that they just don’t teach you in seminary. They are not wrestling through this kind of content. I think it’s the kind of thing you could pull apart, you could use it for training with your team, buy a bunch of copies and use it in that environment. Or just walk through it and say what difference does this chapter make in our church and how do we just go out and apply that. Is there anteing else on this content that you want us to wrestle through before we move onto the lightening round?Greg – I was just going to say, when I first came to my campus they were in decline and they were struggling and I was actually the third campus pastor in three years and they had dropped down to a very low number of people and were really struggling and so I just went into evaluation and assessment mode. I had been a consultant before I came to the church so I looked at the weak links and they were first impressions, children’s ministry and worship. Those were the weak links at the church. So I hired a part time children’s minister and if money is an issue don’t let it because I could have had a lay leader do it, a lay leader be the children’s minister but I hired a very part time kids pastor to oversee kids and take that to the next level. And then we had a transition with our worship. We had an interim worship guy. We had a transition and then did a nationwide search to find a worship guys and it was great. We found a guy who was from a North Point Strategic Partner Church, one of Andy Stanley’s strategic partners church. And he did a great job. He got our concept of church for unchurched people and reaching the lost and he took our worship to a whole new level so we started slowing turning things around. And then honestly, first impressions was always a work in progress. We doubled or tripled our team in size but we kept adding greeters, we added a parking lot team, we added two people to the information center and started expanding the role of ushers and just started putting a lot of beef and emphasis into those areas. So it was, when I write about this, this is what I was dealt when I came to this campus as campus pastor, these were the week links that I had to address. So all of my writing is born out of experience. And like you said, it’s not stuff they teach you in seminary, it’s not stuff they teach you in BIble College. This is just stuff you learn the hard way so I hope it helps people. http://www.unseminary.com/gregatkinson/

Mei Ling Starkey of The Rock Church: Episode 72 » Social Media Church podcast

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:40 — 12.7MB) Mei Ling Starkey is the Media Relations/Social Media Director at The Rock Church in San Diego, California, founded & led by Pastor Miles McPherson. She connected with us on the Social Media Church podcast while en route between one thing and another; we talk about Rock Church’s approach to communicating through social media, how to integrate volunteers into the flow of their church’s social media, engaging people on their online campus, a newly-launched video devotional app, and more. Show Notes Connect with Mei Ling Starkey on Twitter @mlstarkey The Rock Church is on Twitter @therocksandiego, Facebook fb.com/therocksandiego, Instagram instagram.com/therocksandiego, YouTube youtube.com/therocksandiego Rock Live – Watch The Rock Church services live online Miles A Minute – The 60 Second Daily Video Devotional app – Every day for a year with Miles McPherson #new Real-time dashboard of the most popular church Facebook pages @djchuang something that I did that you did not mention on the podcast (and Josh on his blog) was set-lists. https://t.co/oQJbIgq3Xm — Brian Alexander (@brianfalexander) January 21, 2014 Brian Alexander on @brianfalexander + on Instagram http://instagram.com/brianalexand3r + he’s at Forest Hill Church (Charlotte NC) Share this:FacebookTwitterGoogleTumblrPinterestEmail http://socialmediachurch.net/2014/01/mei-ling-starkey-of-the-rock-church-episode-72/

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December 27 2013


Above All - Head of Church - 12-15-13

December 20 2013


Frank Bealer on Ensuring Alignment in Multisite Churches | unSeminary

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadPodcast (video): Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe to the unSeminary Podcast: [iTunes] [RSS] [Stitcher] [TuneIn] // [VIDEO iTunes] [VIDEO RSS]Only 15% of multisite churches make it beyond 3 campuses … Elevation Church has 9 locations! Today’s podcast is with Frank Bealer, the Family Ministry pastor from Elevation Church. He provides some proven mindsets, tactics and approaches for developing a cohesive ministry across many locations. This interview is full of insider information about what it’s like leading one of the fastest growing multisite churches in the country. Frank has lots of insights in this episode!Frank Bealer // [Website] [twitter]Interview Highlights01:52 // Franks role and the history of Elevation02:28 // Rich shares a stat that makes Elevation unique02:52 // Elevations biggest felt tension04:00 // First Question: What’s an excellent experience?04:48 // Even at 9 campuses in two countries, Elevation still meets weekly 05:47 // How Frank can be in 9 places at once08:21 // Reproducibility in portable and permanent locations08:45 // Frank explains the use of digital media in environments10:15 // Elevation now has more people in portable campuses than permanent11:49 // Common Leadership Pipeline across all areas14:06 // Rich raves about how Elevation develops and releases volunteer leaders15:19 // Excellence first, transferability second.Lightning Round HighlightsHelpful Online Resource // Evernote, Scoop.itBooks That are Having an Impact // ”Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work“ by Chip & Dan HeathInspiring Ministries // LifeChurch.tvInspiring Leader // Tom PetersWhat does he do for fun? // Malcolm GladwellCheck This Out // Elevation Family Ministry Evaluation Forms: Overview // Detailed, Over 50 Articles on the Multisite Church Interview Transcript //Rich – Alright well welcome to the unSeminary podcast. I am excited for today’s podcast. This is one of those I have been looking forward to for a couple of weeks. We’ve got Frank Bealer on the line. Frank’s from Elevation Church, really one of the leading churches in the country. God’s doing some incredible things there. And I’m just excited to have Frank on the show. Thanks for being here Frank!Frank – Thanks Rich. We love what you are doing at unSeminary. We follow it regularly and we are learning a lot from you. So thanks for what you are doing!Rich – Appreciate that! Why don’t you tell us a little about Elevation and your role there?Frank – Sure, so I am the Family Ministries Pastor at Elevation. So we have 9 campuses. Of those, 7 are portable and 2 are permanent. We are a young church, only 8 years old. Our pastor, Pastor Steven Furtick, amazing man of God, He has great vision for our church. It’s a little unique for you to have us on the show because we feel like we are still learning everything about ministry but we have seen some things work. So hopefully we can share those things today and that will be helpful. We’ve got about 14 thousand people on the weekends right now and we are excited about what God’s doing and look forward to sharing some stuff with you!Rich – Cool. Well you guys are a rare air for a multisite movement. You are probably aware of this, but 85% of all multisite churches don’t get beyond 3 locations and you guys are at 9 with more coming. What’s that like? We would love to peel that back a little bit. There’s a lot of churches out there, I know that a lot of the churches that listen in are multisite or are thinking about going multisite down the road. There must be some tension you feel as you lead in that environment.Frank – Well one of the biggest tensions we feel is that we are moving so fast. Our last campus we launched, we launched in 4 weeks from idea, conception, to execution of a campus and that one launched just a few weeks ago. It was fun. It was a little crazy. But it launched successfully and we are pleased with that. But this whole idea of the tension of excellence and trying to maintain vision, and high standards and quality over and over again…this reproducibility. So we’ve got to create something that we think is awesome and great and that people, and unchurched people want to attend and learn from, but we’ve got to do it over and over and over again. So there’s this limitation there that there’s somethings you can do in one location or maybe even a couple, but when you are trying to do it 9 times or even in just an area, it’s a little overwhelming.Rich – So now let’s try to dig into that a little bit. When you are trying, within your ministry department, you obviously have people across all those different locations, how do you, on the proactive side, let’s say you’ve got something you want to roll out in your area, how do you actually do that communication with those people in all those locations?Frank – So the big thing for us is to start with “What’s an excellent experience? What could we do once?” We program something out and this would be incredible and then we look back in and say “How do we make this transferable?” And so we found that if we try to start transferable first the quality of the ideas get lessened along the way so we really want to push this ideas of what’s excellent experience? What conveys the idea and presents the message in my area of family ministry? How do I really connect parents to what the kids are doing? What’s an awesome way to do that? And once we figure that out, then we try to figure that out, how do we continue to communicate, make sure the visions right at all the locations, how do we make sure everybody’s on the same page? Obviously that’s a lot of emails, video messages and some meetings. We still rally the troops from every single campus, every single week in once case. We pull everyone together, except for one campus that’s in Toronto, Canada, they are a little far away so they Skype in. But we have a meeting every single week discussing execution for that weekend and the coming couple of weeks to really make sure these staff are on the same page first. What we are going to do, why we are doing it, why we are pushing this, why we are cranking something out on a Saturday afternoon for that weekend? Believe in it, get some vision behind it, and then along the way making sure that translates down to the volunteers and making sure the execution happens.Rich – OK. What about on the, you are kind of doing for lack of a better word, check-ins? How do you make sure from your perspective, you’ve rolled something out, you want to make sure you are providing some sort of quality experience across the various locations…. what does your feedback process look like? How do you understand what’s happening? How can you be at 9 places at once?Frank – That’s great. So obviously I can’t be at 9 places at once. I would love to be able to do that, wish I could. We are still trying to find the technology to be able to replicate people at Elevation…but until we figure that out, we have a couple things. We have a central team we try to get around to all campuses. They rotate among the campuses. And their job is to oversee the excellence without becoming that enforcer. ‘Oh know, corporate’s here and we have to watch what we do.” We kind of have this check list of what we are watching for. And one of the great things we have is that because we are continuing to launch campuses, what we see if that the things that we learn that we execute at a new campus, not only is that campus better off because we learned how to launch in a school better or a YMCA better….so we do it better next time. But we take those practices and apply them back to some of the original campuses. Many people don’t know this but the very first campus that we launched is still one of our schools. We still occupy one of the schools that we kicked it all off in. And we are having to improve that. We can’t leave it where it was 7 years ago, even though we’ve launched all these other campuses. It’s not our broadcasting location or anything. But as we learn new ideas in new schools, we are coming back full circle to apply those things. So it’s always pushing our level of excellence to say, alright “we did it this way in this environment, are we still doing the same standard?” And so the speed of launching is helping ensure those levels of excellence, because it’s causing us to look back at where we are and are those campuses really operating at the same level as we plan our new campus to operate at?Rich – One of the things that struck me when I visited Elevation, probably 18 months ago, was that original location, so many times churches launch, they start in a school that sort of thing and then they graduate up to some sort of facility. You guys have done that a couple times with your broadcast campuses. But those campuses, not only to they continue, some of that permanent stuff but that’s fun to see. You guys have a mixed environment where you have both portable (set-up, tear-down) locations, and also permanent locations. What kind of tension has that created in trying to create excellent experiences and this sort of reproducibility issue. How have you sorted that out?Frank – That’s great. Let’s talk Family Ministry for a second. In Family Ministry we talk a lot about environments. In fact I’ve read some posts on your site about environments and making those excellent, where you should invest money. right? Environments for us, we are never going to be we love it, we’ll…the great robust environments because we don’t know how to reproduce that over and over again. And we know that we don’t want a permanent facility to be drastically different from a portable. So we lean heavily on digital media and things like that to create those environments. So we lean heavily on music, videos, graphics and things like that. Things that can be translated across multiple locations. Both print pieces and the screen. And so we lean on that to carry across. And then for us it’s like how to we make equal safely, equal ratios, good clean environments when some of those environments we don’t get to clean during the week, so how do we give parents confidence in where they drop their kids off, but at the same time, making it a cool environment. And so we literally have kids, that on any different weekend, they serve at one campus but then they attend another campus with their family and they are ok going to both even though one’s permanent, and one’s portable. And so we are really trying to make it so that it’s ok, and they don’t feel like it’s a downgrade to go to the portable facility where there’s a lot of pipe and drape. So even the color choices of the pipe and drape, the flooring that we lay down in every classroom. We just switched to a puzzle flooring in all of our toddler age rooms that’s all wood grain so it’s just looks great. So that’s something that I can create at a permanent facility, but it’s really hard at a portable facility. So we are looking for ways to not be a downgrade. We have more people attending portable campuses than we do our permanent facility.Rich – Really!?!Frank – Yup, so right now, we just crossed that line with this new addition of more portable than permanent. We just crossed that line. So we are grateful for that, we love it. But that means that we need to be investing in those portables like the permanent.Rich – Ya, that’s amazing! And obviously if you are thinking about more campuses down the road that trend will just continue, because it’s hard to obviously keep up the permanent thing. It’s hard to build more. It’s not like moving. It’s hard to convert. I know New Spring, they are trying to convert their portable locations into permanent but that’s not the kind of thing you can do over night.Frank – That’s right, and for us, if we were doing that, by the time we had one converted to permanent, hopefully we’ve launched two more portables. Hopefully with what God’s doing, and with us trying to steward this well we are just going to keep running hard, and have some fun along the way and learn. So January we launch out 3rd permeant facility, so we are learning a lot through that, but then we are launching two portables immediately following that. So we are learning to be that constant tug of each one pushing the other in excellence.Rich – Cool. What about leadership? Give me a sense of what you do for leadership development because obviously a big part of trying to push toward accountability and excellence at all campuses is leadership development. So what does that look like for you in the Family Ministry department?Frank – Ya, so similarly in our department, but honestly across all departments, we have the same model for leadership development. We call it the Leadership Pipeline. So as we are raising up volunteer leaders and as you know Rich, we run really lean from a staff stand point. So a lot of what we do is raise up high level volunteers. So we want to make sure that we are consistent in that growing process. The Leadership Pipeline, it starts with strength finders and an application and some conversation about really how connected are they to the church. You know if someone shows up next week and it’s their second week and they are wanting to lead, and they haven’t given, they haven’t served, that makes us a little nervous. It creeps us out a little bit. Let’s show some legacy and willingness to get up at 5am and help us get a campus set up first. But those that start to build some relationships, some community in the church, we put them in this pipeline, once again strength finders. We start to have some conversations. We put them on a leadership development track based on initial interviews held by our campus pastors and they’ll develop from their areas that we think they need to improve on and basically give them a list of things to do and grow into before we will put them in leadership. So we will put those expectations out there clearly and this will be different per individual but I think it helps us ensure that we have the right leadership in place and we will, we are willing to launch a campus with an area in family ministry that doesn’t currently have a leader, the staff is having to oversee that area, in order not to put the wrong leader in place. We’ll go without a leader, where the staff is having to fill the gap with that. We are ok with that. Our leadership pipeline goes across Guest Services, Campus Support, everything you see. We are really intentional about that, and hopefully some of those leaders along the way become staff and help us to launch future campuses.Rich – I have had the privilege of visiting a lot of churches across the country, and Elevation really is a move of God. You can’t get it into a box. You can’t say, “if you do this, put this stuff on your spread sheet as a church, this will happen at your church.” But the thing I will say, because I think a lot of times at Elevation people will focus on Pastor Steven, his teaching ability, how God’s using his point leadership…that’s definitely part of what’s going on. But the thing I walked away with, deeply impressed, I’ve never seen a church as engaged on developing and releasing volunteers, volunteer leaders as a church. You guys do such a killer job on that. I’ve said to a lot of church leaders, and that includes everyone on that kind of pantheon of biggest churches in the country, I’ve never seen a church that does it as well as you guys. So I have said to tons of churches, you really should go and spend a weekend at Elevation and try to get into that culture because it’s unlike anything I have ever seed before. It’s breath taking, it’s amazing. So great job there Frank. Anything else when you think of this tension of how to we develop excellent environments and experiences and reproducibility?Frank – I think the biggest thing is let’s try to be intentional as we go through it. Let’s not try to rush through it, that’s not healthy in and of itself. So as we are launching a campus, let’s not go and do another until we get one healthy. Let’s wrestle with those things. Let’s make sure we are reproducing something that’s excellent, keep pushing through with that. Start with excellence then figure out how to make it transferable. I can’t say that enough. I think that’s a great way to look at multisite. http://www.unseminary.com/frankbealer/

December 14 2013


Ben Stroup on Leveraging Content to Move People to Action | unSeminary

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadPodcast (video): Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe to the unSeminary Podcast: [iTunes] [RSS] [Stitcher] [TuneIn] // [VIDEO iTunes] [VIDEO RSS]Today’s interview is a first for the unSeminary Podcast … we have Ben Stroup joining us and he’s not a local church leader! Ben is an expert on leveraging content to move people towards action. Today’s podcast is perfect for church leaders who have ever thought about writing a book or putting together a content project to make an impact in their community. Like always … it’s packed full of information to help church leaders go further, faster!Ben Stroup // [Website] [twitter]Interview Highlights00: 59 // What is a Content Activist?01:40 // Churches are content publishers01:50 // Taking a message or platform to the next level02:15 // 3 phases of Ben’s work to share a message04:17 // Ben explains the ‘Concept Matrix’06:35 // What is a ‘jury box’?07:25 // Josh Webb’s ‘passion’08:25 // The 2nd phase: Development08:50 // Minimal interruption of leaders natural work flow09:55 // Thursday Night Gospel Hour11:00 // The jury is made of up real people12: 44 // Ben allows church leaders to share message without having to do it all on their own.15:00 // The Godfather in Hattiesburg, Mississippi15:40 // Self versus traditional publishing16:25 // Don’t wait until you are ready to write a book17:35 // Rich exclaims that churches sit on a content treasure trove18:30 // Current content is an asset waiting to be mined19:00 // Moleskin or Evernote….keep a notebookLightning Round HighlightsHelpful Online Resource // EvernoteBooks That are Having an Impact // “Necessary Endings” by Henry CloudInspiring Ministries // Sophia’s HeartInspiring Leader // Tom PetersWhat does he do for fun? // Eat great food, watch movies and go to the gun range.Check This Out // Ideas for churches leveraging back content. Interview Transcript //Rich – Well welcome to the UnSeminary podcast. We have got a treat today and a first for the UnSeminary podcast. We’ve got Ben Stroup. Ben is not a church leader but he’s one of those leaders that I want to make sure that church leaders, pastors, that listen to the podcast learn about. I think he’s got a lot to offer and some great service that I want to make sure you are aware of. So Ben, welcome to the show.Ben – Hey Rich, thanks for having me here. Excited!Rich – I love your title. Ben Stroup / Content Activist. What do you do here at Ben Stroup Industries International?Ben – That’s great! There’s really two worlds that I have lived in and that I am trying to merge together and that’s marketing and publishing. Publishing is all about ideas and systems and marketing is all about calling people to action. And so I thought that was a really great way to describe what I do. I try to help leaders, high capacity leaders create messages that inspire people to take sometime of measurable action. And so that’s it, plus people ask me all the time what I want to do when I grow up. I say I want to start a social movement I just haven’t figured out which one yet.Rich – Nice, very cool. Well I know one of the things, I’ve worked at multiple churches, and it seems like this whole idea of content publishing, obviously the church can be looked at in one way as kind of a content publisher, every weekend cranking out content. A lot of pastors come to the point and say I want to take it to the next level. I wanna kind of extend my platform, or publish a book or that sort of thing. So those are the things I want to talk about today, which is this whole idea of book publishing. Tell me how have you kind of worked with other leaders, thought leaders in the kind of book space in the past.Ben – Absolutely, so I’m typically brought in to work with a key leader, such as pastor or an executive director of a nonprofit or a CEO of a company. Typically they already have a message or a platform and they are sharing it one on one, they’re sharing it at events. But what they’ve learned that to get to the next level is that sharing it one on one or at events is a very inefficient way to transmit ideas So they really need a piece to precede them at an event, something to follow up with somebody. They also learn that the people who are their biggest fans who want a souvenir to remember them by but then they also want something that they can pass onto someone else. So I work with them typically setting out from the very beginning with a concept, and some type of content plan, and the actual production process, and sometimes the execution of that process, getting the book printed. And that functions both in self funded ways but also in traditional ways, so publishers will come to me for part or the entire process depending on their workload.Rich – Ok, so let’s say you are going to sit down with a pastor and they have a core message, a lot of times teachers, pastors they have something that God put on their heart and we’ve got to tell the world this thing. What would you say, how would you help them start that process? Maybe they have a series of messages, some talks, what would be some of those initial steps that you would work them towards starting to package that up, to leverage that in other environments.Ben – Absolutely. So the process is divided up into three different phases. First is the concept phase. Then the development phase, and then the production phase. And the concept phase if very, very important. It’s really geared toward what I refer to as the concept matrix. And so the concept matrix is derived of three things: Context (Who it is that you are talking two? What questions are around them? How can you uniquely help them? And most importantly what are their unique content consumption habits? And then the second thing we talk about is messaging. What we know is that leaders are great at creating messages. The problem is there is often a huge lag between when the message is created and transmitted and the message actually makes an impact on the other end. So that’s why repetition is so important. Something that the traditional advertising world has really traded on and that is impressions. The idea that we need to hear things over and over again and we have to be exposed to something a number of times before we actually hear it so that’s important for us to really condense the number of messages that are created to where we really hit the white hot center of potential and the biggest ideas possible. And then the third part is what I call connections points or you could also call it distribution channels. And a book to me is one distribution channel. It’s one way to focus a message to a particular group, for that particular segment in a group. So even in a niche there are multiple segments that you are trying to reach and they are going to all have different consumption happiest. So going back to concept depending on what the consumption habit is, that’s where you want to make sure your messaging is going that way. Because unless you are the federal government or the IRS people are going to maintain their preferences. They are not all of a sudden going to switch their consumption channel just because you are there, and that’s the most efficient way. A great example, just in a church context, announcements form a platform. That’s a very efficient, organizationally efficient process. But what happens in a church when people are there 24-26 times year, instead of 50-52 times a year? Well that means that it is possible that you can say something once and half the congregation never here. And so while it’s efficient for the organization it’s not necessarily efficient when you are creating action. So the concept phase is very critical to the process. There are some specific exercises that I do with the leader to really hone in on. The first one of is what I call the jury box. So we actually sit in front of a big pad or white board and define 12 people that they know, that they could call by name and we go through those things. What questions are they asking? What problems are they facing? How can they uniquely benefit from this? Because when you are really focussing the message, it’s really hard to say, I want to say this to the world. But that’s what all leaders want to do, right? The whole world isn’t going to be plugged into what you want to say. You want to hit the people that embody or personify, are the people who want to gain from what you have to offer. So then it becomes much easier in the development phase to ask ‘How would I say this to Suzy? Or how would I say this to Sam? Whatever those names are? The second part, and I totally stole this from a friend of mine, Josh Webb, who leads a group called Route Radius. He calls it passion vomit. He actually wrote an ebook about that on Amazon. When you talk to a leader they are often so excited about what they are doing, if you ask the right question, they will literally vomit every idea they have on it. You have had those conversations right? So it doesn’t necessarily make sense. It doesn’t necessarily follow a logical pattern and there are a lot of assumptions to be made, but they are just unloading. So once we figure out who we are talking to, I just let them unload. And that is really for me to let them do two things. One, it’s to let them unpack. Make sure everything is on the table that needs to be on table. The other thing is, it helps me to see the world through their eyes. And that’s just one of those unique gifts that God has given me to get inside of someone’s head. If I can figure what you’ll do, and how you think and what values you have, then I can anticipate how you will say something which is going to be very important for the development phase. So then at the end of that, there’s 2-3 days that we spend together, I come back with a concept paper and that is your game plan, it’s your business plan. It’s kind of half book proposal, half marketing plan, half business plan on who we are talking to, how’s the piece going to be used, how is it going to be organized. And then every one knows what that’s going to look like from beginning to end. So many of the people that I work with are so busy, and the reason that I am there is because they are busy. And so if I created them a process that required them to be involved in a big way, it would never get done. So the way I describe it is, this process is designed to have the biggest amount of impact with the least amount of interruption to the natural work flow of the leader. So once that’s done, and agreed to, everybody in the process, whether it’s the publisher or a self funded project or if there’s two or three other people involved, and myself and the author, we all know where we are going, how we are going to get there and how long it’s going to take. So then I disappear, and I come back with 30 thousand, 50 thousand, 75 thousand, whatever the amount of word count is. And then we toss it back and forth a few times and then it goes into the final phase production of the editing, interior design and the book cover and those kinds of things. And of course I always tell folks that a book is one distribution channel getting us something that hopefully creates a much more layered communication strategy.Rich – Very cool. Well there was a lot packed in there. Clearly you are in the content business. I was like, oh my goodness let’s stop and talk about that. It’s interesting what you said there about the jury box. One of the things at our church Tim Lucas our lead guy, and Tom Kang who is one of our campus pastor and also a secondary teacher. Every week they do something called Thursday Night Gospel Hour. And what that is is they go over the message on the weekend and whoever is preaching, preaches it. And they pull the whole thing apart and our graphics guys are there and they make up all the slides, graphics and all that. It’s a long process. It’s a 7-8 hour process that they go through. It’s amazing. But one of the things about that process, similar to the jury box is they talk through who is this message for and I think there’s something to that. It’s not just like this theoretical ‘I’m preaching to mom’s today’.' No, no, no, it’s like ‘there’s this woman Christine in our church and she’s really struggling with her kids and this has got to really connect with her today and we are really hoping this will…’ When you are thinking the jury box, are you moving towards actual people or are you thinking about theoretical constructs? What does that look like?Ben – Oh, no, no…actual people. Because leaders are so used to dealing with individuals, they know how in a conversation, it’s how God’s gifted them, intuition of how do I say this to a person in a way they will receive it, the way they intended to. So these have to be real people. And that’s where it really becomes sticky, it is hard sometimes and it’s probably the longest part of the process, to be honest with you. But it’s critical because if we are talking demographics or if we are talking to statistical analysis or that it’s really hard to overcome ending up sounding really impersonal and so you either sound like either…of course if you write something for everybody, it reaches nobody. And the same way from a preaching standpoint, so you want to preach to those people. It also personalizes the process. The leader who typically tends to be really strong orally, to translate that down onto paper is a completely different discipline. So when they try to do that themselves, they go from being highly personal and relational to highly impersonal. And so that jury box really becomes an accountability point…no, no, no, we are going to keep the conversation as personal as it would be as if you were having a cup of coffee with me across the table.Rich – Ah, that’s very good. Where have you seen the process, is there a common sticking point, again I am thinking of a church leader that might be thinking about writing a book, and they are like ok there is this one point in the deal where leaders seem to get stuck. Is there a piece of that that you see particularly?Ben – You know, I think where leaders get stuck, and particularly church leaders, is they feel like that the only way to get this done is to do this themselves. And when you add this layer on there, this is such a personal, one-on-one thing that’s really easy to shove off to the side because you’ve got hospital visits to make, you’ve got staff to lead, you’ve got vision to speak to and you’ve got all the practical realities of begin a leader of a growing, dynamic organization. And keep in mind, people that are typically going to engage with me are high capacity leaders who are leading in growing situations. Growth is not a time for a lot of leisurely activity. Growth is balls to the wall, right? I mean its just hunker down, go, make it happen. So time becomes an internal conflict of how much should I be doing this, and how much should I involved someone else? So once somebody realizes that it’s more important that this message gets out than it is that I am the one who puts every word and sentence on the page then all of a sudden they see a process as an assistance. A way for me to come along side and accelerate what they are doing, not a way for me to highjack what they are doing.Rich – Right, definitely. Sidebar, I think part of what I appreciate of what you said there is just the connection point, trying to find and use the distribution points that your people you are trying to reach are using. But a question around the traditional publisher, self publishing, all of that, obviously you work with whoever. When you think of your average pastor who is leading a growing ministry. The type of person you are talking about there, maybe not the average pastor but the pastor that is leading a growing ministry…which way would you steer the conversation with them?Ben – Well it really depends on what their goals are. So for intense, sometimes I work on a book project in advance of a fundraising campaign. So i am think about one I did last year for a church down in Hattiesburg Mississippi. 80% of the church going into the campaign was not part of some of the significant transitions that had been a part of the churches history. This is a church that went from a downtown stately church to moving, and by the way every pastor who tried to move this church before this particular pastor, disappeared or died. It’s really unbelievable, it’s The Godfather all over again. So they actually ended up moving the church, rebirthed it, now 80% of the people who are there, now it’s three times as big as it was downtown, 80% of the people who are there had no idea of what the common story was. And so this was a way to say, this is the story of us. We have been to the brink of impossible and God has brought us over it. So in that kind of context it makes sense to do it yourself because of speed, time and because you have more control over the process and it’s for a very specific niche. When you go with a traditional publisher, they are looking for a broad audience, and from a timeline perspective, you are probably looking from the time you sign the contract to the time it hits the book shelf, 12-18 months. And so when you have particular events that are driving the book, then you are going to want to have a little more control over the timing of the process. So I’d like to tell leaders to look at it both / and. Stop seeing it as either or, it’s both and. And the other thing I would say is don’t wait until you are ready to do a book, you are creating a mound of content every single week. Look for ways and systems to capture your ideas and to build on that, and what are those inflection points when you know you can take those. For instance the average pastor in one stream might be why not take a sermons series and at the end of that you have already developed the art the transcripts from the message if you haven’t done any writing on it and develop a small group study on it for your folks. Develop a personal study for your folks. Build up your own church digital library for your church of resources that fit the context of your church. Then based on that, see if you see some larger themes and see if you see some common themes and maybe do a series of ebooks. And then take the feed back that you get from that and see if you can print it and develop it into a book. So look at it as a commulative effect, not just one time, but many times which will help you. And then every once in a while you will find those opportunities where you will have some massive message that can be received by a mass audience. Not necessarily only event driven, but a traditional publisher might be interested in.Rich - Very cool. Again, a lot packed in there. I know we have talked about this in the past, I think there is this great shame in churches that we are sitting on this content treasure trove of past messages. My experience with a lot of the folks that preach that are gifted communicators is that they are always thinking about the next thing. They aren’t even thinking about current stuff, they are thinking about 2-3 series down the road, that’s where their creative energy is going. And so by the time they kind of land the series, they drop it out, land and they move on. And unfortunately I think there is a huge opportunity there for churches to say I think we should use that content…because it’s great content. People would love to interact with that for sure.Ben – Absolutely. I look at it like an investment account. So I think churches, bloggers, folks who are creating these mounds of content and what are we doing with that? And if we aren’t doing anything with it, we wasted it. And so it’s an asset waiting to be mined. What we need to do is take that latent content and figure out a system that will work for the leader and whether the leader is touching it or not, so it can be used on a continual basis, and get life from it.Rich – Before we jump into the lightening round, anything else you want to say a pastor who is maybe thinking I have a book in me, some stuff to think through? Anything you have got to say to them?Ben – One of the things I think is a great discipline is just keeping the habit of finding some space to record what you are thinking and process through it. As you have conversations with folks, you keep getting similar questions, write those down and periodically review that. Somewhere, somehow, whatever is convenient for you…if it’s writing it in a moleskin notebook, or putting it in an Evernote notebook. Looking for themes because sometimes it is very difficult…you know clarity never happens looking forward. Clarity always happens looking back. If you find a discipline of 10-15 minutes, and this is different from a journalling exercise, this is observations, what are questions, what are things that I am reading that are resonating with me, what are quotes? Find a way to collect that. Not only will it help focus your thoughts, but over time you will think, this is something I really need to speak to, this is something people are coming to me for so I should find a way to write about it or share about it so even more people can benefit from it. http://www.unseminary.com/benstroup/

December 10 2013


September 23 2013


Pope Francis Pushes For A Bigger Catholic Tent

A new kind of Pope. Pope Francis says let’s not obsess on gays and abortion. We look at where he may be taking the Catholic Church.


Manya Brachear-Pashman, religion reporter for the Chicago Tribune. (@tribseeker)

Damon Linker, contributing editor at The New Republic. Author of “The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege” and “The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders.” (@damonlinker)

R.R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine, a monthly journal of religion, culture and public life. He is a Catholic and a theological and political conservative. (@rr_reno)

From Tom’s Reading List

National Catholic Review: A Big Heart Open To God — “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.”

Washington Post: In Interview, Pope Sets A New Direction For the Church — “While Francis spoke with remarkable openness about religious doubt and uncertainty (‘If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.’), he said nothing that altered church teaching. Nonetheless, it was clear that he was setting a new direction for the church.  “He has not changed anything doctrinal,’ said Father James Martin, editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine that published the interview in English. ‘But he is encouraging us to shift our priorities from hot button issues to God’s mercy.’”

The Dish: The Rebirth of Catholicism – “Faith is not in the head; it is in the soul and heart and body. It is our acting in the world, not our debating the finer parts of infallible doctrine in an ‘inverted funnel’. And look how Francis uses the term ‘infallible.’ He uses it not to refer to the papacy, but to the people of God, you and me, and not in terms of possession of the truth, but rather the open search for it.”


August 26 2013

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