Rich Birch discusses the Church Growth Flywheel
with your host, Adam McLaughlin
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada.
In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church – a 6 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact.
Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution. He has a weekly blog and podcast that helps with stuff you wish they taught in seminary at www.unSeminary.com. His latest best-selling book is “Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church” is an Amazon bestseller in the Church Leadership category. He lives with his wife, Christine and his two teenagers in Central Ontario.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Church Growth Flywheel by Rich Birch: https://amzn.to/338n44p (Affiliate link)
- The Meeting House Church: https://www.themeetinghouse.com
- Connexus Church: https://connexuschurch.com
- Liquid church: https://liquidchurch.com
- Unseminary: Unseminary.com
- Football Sunday: https://footballsunday.com
- ‘FOR’ by Jeff Henderson: https://amzn.to/2OwKICf
- Church of the Highlands Growth Track: https://www.churchofthehighlands.com/growth-track
Transcript from today’s show with Rich Birch and Adam McLaughlin
Adam: Hey Rich, thank you so much for hanging out with me today,
Rich Birch: Adam. So glad to be getting a chance to connect again. It’s been a while since we’ve talked and just so glad that we get to spend a few minutes together today.
Adam: Yeah, for sure. And both of us are a beautiful Ontario, Canada.
Rich Birch: Yeah. You know what, I, I meant to say this before we started recording, but there’s a funny thing with Canadian church or with church leaders who are also in Canada. Like there’s you, there’s me, there’s Brady shear, there’s you know, the CG, the church motions guys, Jeff, Carey Nieuwhof, and Danielle Strickland. There’s a bit of a, but you know, we’re all within batting distance of each other for some strange reason.
Adam: Yeah, we are. And it is really interesting. And then also I’ve had this conversation actually a few times with a few people. There’s a lot of incognito Canadians who live somewhere in the States who are very influential in our space as well. So it’s kinda cool.
Adam: Yeah, that’s very good. We won’t point them out.
Rich Birch: We need to know that’s part of their pack undercover. Exactly.
Adam: Hey, I’m so excited to be talking about your book, the church growth flywheel and I know it, when did it come out exactly?
Rich Birch: So, yeah, this book’s been out for two years now. And yeah, super proud of it. And you know, it really came out of this desire, the liquid church to church I was a part of, had been named one of the fastest-growing churches by what is it that God’s using. And so, and also as a little bit of a bugaboo, which we may, might get to about some of the stuff about church growth, that just bugs me that people kind of talk about online. And so in some ways it’s a reaction against frankly, you know, I see some negative stuff out there online. So those are, it’s kind of those two things came together and I was like, Oh, I’d love to kind of put this together, you know, book.
Adam: Yeah, for sure. And I, I’m, I’m, you know, typically when we’re interviewing somebody for a podcast where we’re talking about the newest book that’s launched or a book that’s about to launch, but I’m excited to chat with you about a book that’s been out for a couple of years because one of the things I want to ask about is the feedback that you’ve gotten from different people about the church growth flywheel system. But before we get there, I’d, I’d like to dig in a little bit to actually what the, the content of the book is the meat of the book. So start with just explaining what is a flywheel.
Rich Birch: Great. So I don’t know if you, you when you were a kid if at the park by you, they have these things and our neighborhood, they called the merry go rounds, and they called different things across the country. And what they were was a large flat metal disc, like really, really heavy. And then it had like usually had four posts on it and what you would, and it was kind of spinning on an axis. And what you would do is you put one foot on the disc and then one foot on the ground and you’d push that first time around and it was almost impossible to push it the first time. And then the second time was a little less you know, less work. And then the third time a little less and a little less, a little less. And finally what would happen is you would go from pushing hard to hardly pushing. Well, that’s a flywheel. It’s this idea that if we kind of apply effort in a consistent direction over a period of time, that, that, that effort gains momentum. And I think that’s kind of the core thesis of the book, that there isn’t anything, there’s not one silver bullet around church growth is really a series of things that if we do together consistently over time we’ll see some, some impact and some results.
Adam: Rich. I know that church growth flywheel is the final title of the book, but you were going to call it something else. What were you considering calling that book?
Rich Birch: That’s a good question. The question I was going to call the book a thousand thousands to a bigger church church, which we don’t know why buy that book. I didn’t want to, don’t want to let us out some days. Maybe the people who are [inaudible], they know that there’s no instantaneous results, but, but most people or most people know kind of know results. And so a big guy, the big idea is really this idea [inaudible].
Adam: Yeah, and I love it. And you’ve broken down into five systems that a church needs in order to sustain growth and create growth. And I know that you’ve been a part of a few like significant growth churches. So just give us a little bit of a bio so we know where this information is coming from. Then we’re going to dig into a few topics in the book.
Rich Birch: Yeah, so a part of it. So a part of what’s weird about my background, which I live, you know, when you live in your own experience, it’s just, it’s, you’re on your own. You don’t really, I don’t really ever think it’s strange, you just kind of your life. But then I realized as I was putting this together and kind of my own background was a little bit unique. I’ve been a part of churches over the last 21 years. All of them have grown from two to three, four, five, 5,000 people. And it had been a couple of incidents, churches, people might’ve heard of the meeting house in Toronto. People probably haven’t heard of that church before. It’s a multisite church, so they’re I think 22 campuses now, all throughout the kind of greater Toronto area. And then the two they might’ve heard of one is Connexus church, which is another Canadian church North of Toronto, probably because of Carey Neiuwhof, the founding and teaching pastor. And then liquid church, which was the most recent church that I’ve been serving in or served in and it’s in New Jersey. So the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey, Tim is the pastor there.
Adam: Yeah. And so this is like hands-on practical experience. This isn’t something that you observed at else’s church or you saw could be happening and are all five of the pieces of the church growth flywheel, completely integral, like we need all five pieces to make this work?
Rich Birch: Oh, great question. Great questions. I think they are. They are. One of the things that I did with this book was I was really trying to look not only at our own experience, the thing that I’ve seen from front row, but I’m really trying to draw from other churches experience, really trying to let the data drive it and they’ll say, what are those things that we saw Tom [inaudible] seminary and kind of the dirty see that that is where, I don’t know. I think we’re 500 episodes and most of those, our interview was the executive pastors of some of the Fastest growing churches in the country. It’s literally hundreds of hours of conversations with executive pastors. Really what I noticed was, was my own experience. Things that he sees seems to be using in other churches as well. I think they’re, they’re critical for all factors. One of them that I see a missed opportunity. So absolutely I think they’re all important. I think that they work together. I think there is a cumulative effect back to the flywheel. They kind of feed off each other. And over time you kind of see the impact of all of them,
Adam: Right? So we’re going to talk about the five pieces of the church growth flywheel and for our listeners, some of you might recognize that you have some of these pieces in place and so really would encourage you to pick up Rich’s book and learn about the other pieces of that puzzle. So all five of these pieces are working for your church to build trust and impact your community. So the first piece rich or the first part of the flywheel is that big days are a big deal. So talk to me a little bit about what qualifies as a big day.
Rich Birch: So your church has three or four days every year where two things happen. One, your friends, their friends are more likely to attend. That’s just true. This is one of those things that like you can in fact that for years I resisted, it was a Sunday, Sunday, perfect Sunday to invite people to our church, to our church. You know, what actual why are there are a few Sundays are more likely or more likely. One of the things that we’ll come back to time again time and again the church growth is that wheel is that the difference, really the difference of growing church and the fast-growing church is that growing churches have figured out how drive invitability. That is the key. At the end of the day, your church will grow when your people tell their friends about it. And so big days are a big deal because people are more likely to tell their friends about what’s going on in your church.
Rich Birch: So some of these are obvious, the, you know, Christmas and Easter, you know, you typically see those. Again, we could get into the nuance of all this, but those are two big days really to the interesting ones are the third and fourth. And so that could be in some churches it’s mother’s day. I don’t for years illiquid mother’s day wasn’t one of them. Partly because one of our slogans, we used to say all your tea all the time is, you know, we ain’t your momma’s church. And so people don’t usually come to your church on Mother’s day when you say. “We Ain’t your momma’s church a lot of churches do see Mothers day. Another one, another one that’s kind of funny is time-change Sunday, you, you know, in the fall, because you know people are getting an extra hour’s sleep. This past year when we went through that time change, I had a church that I’m coaching, which they texted me and they were like, man, it was, it was our biggest day of biggest nonholiday day every year. And they had done some stuff that we talked about the big days are basically kind of built around rattle day. We were lamenting a little bit, ’cause it’s a little bit telling me, okay, so get an extra hour of sleep. They’ll come, they’ll come. But we talked when we talked about a bunch of [inaudible] do around big days to kind of make them two things, make them more invitable and then, and then sure that your people are fully aware that they should be inviting friends, it’s kind of both bonafide sides.
Adam: Yeah. So one of the things that we experienced at the church that I served at, or one of the churches that I served at [inaudible] was September or whenever school season starts seem to be everybody who’s coming back from vacation. Right? And so everybody’s kind of resetting their year and get back into the rhythm and church is one of those things. And the other one that we’ve found specifically at the church that I served at in the United States was super bowl Sunday because you are no longer doing playoff games that could interfere with service times because Superbowl Sundays later in the day, right? So everybody’s so used to like having to work around playoff times and then they don’t have to on super bowl Sunday. So that was always a big day. And
Rich Birch: That’s a great, great, you know, you know, Sunday, Sunday is an interesting one and there’s a real growing and people have been leveraging super bowl Sunday for all time. But the guys, Hey guys, good job. Good job around actually around taking this idea of let’s actually levage that because what you’re seeing And this is why, and this is what I encourage in the book is just let the data drive what the three or four Sunday back off or however going five years, 10 years, figure out what do we have historically. And there is usually the third or fourth is usually a surprise like that. There’s usually somewhere in there one that you’re like, Oh, why is it that the third weekend, January is always our biggest is always our third biggest day of the year. And then you take it back in and figure out, well it’s because our senior pastor always takes the first few weeks of the year off. And then he always starts a new series on that. And that seems to be combining with new year near you thing. And so yeah, there are areas, we know that those are the big days. So then what are we, what are we, I build a strategy around them?
Adam: And one thing before we get into the next piece is that I think we really need to define growth. And one the interesting things that you talk about in your masterclass is 94% of churches, even ones that are, you know, by the books, seeing more numbers are actually not outpacing the growth of their communities. So how do we measure those things so that we actually find out if community growth is by fault growing our church, where if we’re actually gaining momentum.
Rich Birch: Yeah. So a dirty secret of the church growth movement was, is that, you know, back in the 80s and 99 and it’s still really popular today in church planting movements particularly, we would deliberately put churches in fast-growing communities. So communities that, you know, if your community in the next 10 years is going to grow, I have a friend of mine who, you know, there’s literally 10,000 homes being built about two miles from his church. Wow. That’s a huge opportunity, right? Like that, you know, they’re, you know, if they don’t grow, something’s going wrong. But the problem with this, so you quoted this stat, 94% of all churches in the states are not growing as quickly as the communities they serve. So usually you hear the more encouraging statistic is that 80% of churches are plateaued or decline, but it’s actually far worse than that. More than 50% of churches that are growing aren’t growing as quickly as their community. So you know, you can go and find those statistics. You know, in fact if you just, even just, just Wikipedia your town or your County, that’s actually actually a really standard statistic that lots, lots of places track that drives all kinds of economic behavior.
Rich Birch: And so the question for you to me is that that’s the baseline growth target your church needs to have. If your church is not outpacing the growth of the community they’re in then you’re doing something wrong over time, the message of Jesus, we’ll lose it as influencing communities if all of our churches together aren’t growing as quickly as the community use. Right? And so we’re seeing that. So between 1990 and 2050, the absolute attendance in the church is head to go to be in half. Now, if we don’t see a turnaround in that, that’s kind of where the trend is. It’s going. While, during that same time, the population will double. So actually we’ll get at our churches and feel like, well, it’s not that big a deal. We went from a church of 300 to a church of 150 the problem with that is double in that, in that time, so I think too often, we peg our growth in year over year against ourselves rather than communities we’re in. And that’s a problem. That’s a big problem for the church in general. We’ve got keep our eye on.
Adam: Yeah. And the comparison trap that we talk about, not getting obsessed with the comparison travel. What I would encourage churches and everybody who’s listening to consider don’t peg your growth compared to the next church down the street. But you do need to understand the
Adam: Growth of your community and if your growth is actually making progress. So before you think to yourself, Hey, we’re a growing church, so maybe we’ll glaze over this book. No, no, no, no. You still need to be reading those numbers and finding out if, if how this book can help you.
Rich Birch: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s all I’m trying to say. I know I ended up doing a lot of work with, it’s a super small target, but churches that are trying to get over 2000, which I realize for most people that are listening are like thinking why would it be amazing to get to that day? But, and that’s an interesting psychological mindset kind of barrier to get over. I found in churches and actually a part of what it is is I find is actually this issue because what some complacency can fit in. You know, your church gets to a thousand, 1500, 2000 people. You’ve got everything that you need. Like you could pay all the bills, you can, you know, you can do the big Christmas thing.
Rich Birch: You could convince yourself, you can fund a bunch of missions stuff you’re using to do ministry has enough money for fireworks and there are events, you know, and you get to this point where you’re actually feeling a little bit complacent. You’re like, Oh, like it’s fine, everything is fine. But actually I find particularly if a church that size has started to slow a part of getting them to think more clearly is, Hey, like you just to grow at the same rate as your community. Like that’s actually in most cases a fairly aggressive growth pattern. You’ve got to actually think strategically, but how are we going to ultimately drive your people to invite more friends?
Adam: Right? And then the next piece of that is leveraging series rollout. So tell us a little bit about why that can correlate directly to church growth.
Rich Birch: So this is the part of the church growth flywheel that we’ve seen has the kind of greatest impact. And so if, if you’re going to get the book, literally you just jumped to page 79 and read this and started with this. You probably, what we seem to be seeing is this is the part that you asked about what impacted. We’ve seen this, this one seems to be the one that we see. You know, having to kind of biggest impact really. So most churches, not ultra cause I realize, but most churches that I seem to interact with and that would read a book like this, they’ve packaged their teaching up into series. What does a series for people that, that don’t know. A series is really just a way to help people understand the content that we’re presenting. So, obviously we’re trying to present the entire, you know, Bible. We’re trying to present the entire, you know, counsel of scripture. But, but you don’t typically just preach from Genesis to revelation.
Rich Birch: Now I know there’s some churches that do that, but most churches aren’t doing that. They’re finding some way to kind of break it down. Even if they’re saying, Hey, we’re going to do a series, you know, on the book of John for the next 12 weeks or for the next 20 weeks. You know, they’re still finding a way, break it down. Now what we’re finding is churches that are growing use this, the change from series to series, they use that as a way to, to encourage their people, to invite new friends. It’s really the, I like to call it the Netflix effect. So or maybe the Disney plus effect would be a more app apropos example. You know, when you scroll through Netflix, if you ever found yourself doing this, you scroll through Netflix and you’re looking for something, but you spent 45 minutes just scrolling through it and, and you’re looking and you’re, you’re like, well, maybe this or maybe that.
Rich Birch: Why are you doing that? Because the human mind is built to not want to just know what’s on. But why do you want to know what else is on what kind of, what’s coming up next? And so series, we are too many churches I think go from series to series and they don’t really talk about what’s coming up next. They just kind of stop one thing and start the next. So what we talk about in this chapter is really breakdown. Here are some things you should be doing. There’s eight things that we talk about that are, you know, that I think are critical for every church to do that really, really helped the church really get out in front of people and promote the next the next series. Again, I think this is critically important and, and you could see it, it’s, it’s really at the heart of the flywheel because churches that have seen kind of this will pay dividends.
Rich Birch: They really see it a year or two years later, they look back and say, Oh, now I see the impact of that over time. And it was really this, that got me thinking about flywheel at liquid. One of the things I would say that was different about us in the years leading up to us being tagged as one of the fastest-growing churches in the country is 30 series before. So three years before we had said no, these are the eight things we’re going to do every time we launch a new series and we’re going to do it every time. And we’re not going to debate, is this the one we’re going to do invite cards for or not? We’re going to make invite cards over time, or are we going to do as a video, are we going to do social media? Are we going to, you know, no, no, we’re going to do those things every single time. That we’re just going to spend our creative energy on thinking not we’re going to debate what we’re doing. We’re just going to go ahead. We’re going to do, go and do it every time. So yeah, that this is really is the heart of our, I would say the nub, the core of the church growth flywheel is this chapter.
Adam: And one of the ways to roll out a series is obviously social media. But not only is it a, one of the ways to roll out a series, but it’s also one of the pieces of the flywheel. So tell me a little bit about how that integrates specifically or the way to use social media specifically to see growth.
Rich Birch: Yeah, great question. So we all know, and particularly people who are reading or listening to this podcast this chapter or this part, we’re talking about social media. You know, I, there are people that are listening in, they’re like, duh. Of course, social media is important. But again, talking to most church leaders, there are still a lot of people who aren’t sure whether, you know, they should be on Facebook or not. Like, you know, I read a statistic that one in four churches do not have a website, which is shocking to me, let alone, you know. So I think sometimes there’s a little bit of an echo chamber, you know, we can get in these circles and, and be thinking about like, well, should your church be on tictok? And we’re talking about like, what’s the latest tiktok strategy where actually most churches aren’t.
Rich Birch: Like, they’re nowhere near that. And so I think social media is critically important. The way I talk about it in the book is to imagine in your town if there was something that 60% of the people in your town did this week. So like you know, we’re recording this just before there’s a big parade coming up in my town of this coming weekend and, and nowhere near 60% of our town is going to go to this parade. But imagine if 60% of our town was going to be standing on the sidelines of that parade. You know, as a church leader, I would be thinking, how do I get something in the parade? Because, you know, 60% of our people are there. Now the difference was social media, it’s specifically that status. Facebook, 60% of American adults are on Facebook daily. Think about that. If 60% of the people in your town, we’re not just doing something every week, but they were doing it every day, you would think after a few days you’d be like, nah, maybe we should go do something over there and maybe we should at least go check it out.
Rich Birch: But that’s really what’s happening on social media and, and again, so there’s a whole thing there around how do we be helpful on social media. I think there are a lot of churches that are kind of doing this wrong and they’re there. What they’re doing is they’re just putting up advertisements. They’re just saying, come to our church, come to our church, come to our church. Which again, no one is going to share a piece, a graphic or any kind of post, a video that just says come to our church. What you want to do is share content that your people are more likely to share, their, they’re likely to use in the inviting process. And so I use some examples in their example I used from one of the churches as a part of the meeting house, which they did this long after I was there.
Adam: Bruxy Cavey, who’s the lead teaching pastor. There was a great guy and a core part of what he does is every Sunday at the end of his talks, he doesn’t open forum Q and. A. He does this every single week. Every time he teaches, he does it like, Hey, if anybody, any questions about anything I said or left unsaid June eight, as you can imagine, it’s kind of the emotional center of the talks like people are drawn in by that you’re in the, you know, yes. If you’re wondering yet and they’re unfiltered and just like, Hey, you over there, what do you think? And yeah, crazy. People ask questions sometimes, but, but he has a really good skill at that. So they’ve figured out a way to kind of package that. They do this thing called BBQ (Bruxy’s Bag of Questions) where every week, or maybe it’s every 10 days, they release these little videos where they’re three minutes long and it’s, and they tackle a kind of an UpToDate question, something that people should be thinking about, you know, should Christians be smoking marijuana or, you know, what do you know?
Rich Birch: And then they’ll do stuff about scripture or they do all different types of topics that and you know, at the time when I wrote the book, which again, this is two years ago, I think they had done maybe 70 of those videos and they were pushing over a hundred thousand views for a single church. That’s pretty amazing. That’s huge views. And, and, but again, the key to it is they’re trying to be helpful and they’re being consistent. They’re getting out in front of it all the time. And so I think there’s a lot we could, that could be said about social media. Again, I’m probably preaching to the choir a little bit with this kind of podcast, but but, but maybe you know, another way to think about it is maybe if you’re a church communications person and you are wondering what your tiktok strategy is and your senior pastor or your lead pastor is thinking, I don’t want to do anything on there.
Rich Birch: You know, give them this book or, or say Hey, suggest that they may read it. Cause that’s really who it’s targeted at cause and there’s a whole conversation there around you know, really us leveraging or encouraging pastors to leverage their own social media feeds rather than really just looking at, you know, they’re, they’re you know, the churches feed. You know, there’s a little bit of a, and this is a whole tangent, but you know, if your pastor isn’t sharing what you’re making at the church, like if you’re a church communications person and you’re developing content for any stream; facebook, let’s say as an example, and they’re not liking, commenting and sharing on what you’re doing, you should probably ask whether you’re doing the right thing. Because, if the pastor at your church isn’t excited to share what you’re making, then you’re probably not making the right stuff. And so again, share-ability is a huge issue. Try to be helpful, try to make content that people will actually share and use it as an invite tool. You know, don’t try to impress people, stop trying to make stuff viral that isn’t the goal. Mmm. Yeah, there’s a few things.
Adam: So I know that one of the keys to social media and one of the keys to get more exposure on social media is to be engaging and creating engaging kinds of content. And one of the pieces of the church growth flywheel is community engagement. So tell me a little bit about how those two pieces work together as far as people in your community or on social media and you’re engaging with them there versus other forms of community engagement and how those pieces function together.
Rich Birch: Great question. So, you know, it’s interesting this part of, if I was to redo the book, I’ll probably, this will end up becoming a part of the conversation because what is interesting to me as we continue to watch these trends is there’s some interesting feedback loops that happen in all of these areas. And you know, increasingly I, everywhere I go, I see growing organizations, the shorthand I would like to say it is, it’s like they’re working from Instagram backward. They’re working from how do we make an experience that people are more likely to share? I’m on Instagram and then, and then how do we then kind of roll that out? Last fall I went and visited, I’m a bit of a star Wars fan. I’m a huge Disney fan. I went and visited the new star Wars land called Galaxy’s edge and it’s $1 billion rumored to be $1 billion investment on both coasts.
Rich Birch: So they spent $2 billion in, in, in North America on these, these things. The thing that struck me as I was walking around was like, Oh, this is just a series of photo backdrops. These are places where people can standing at their pictures, taken like stand in front of this and get their picture taken, stand in front of that and get their picture taken. That’s what this thing is. So I’m going along route to get back to your community engagement issue. We have to be thinking about our content from that kind of angle. How are people going to use this content? How are they going to share this? What are they going to do? How are we including people in the conversation? Most recently or just recently, Carey Nieuwhof, again, a friend of mine and a guy used to work for, he was doing a series recently on so the series was called what happens when you die?
Rich Birch: And it was based around this idea that actually one of the most search phrases on Google is what happens when you die? You know that and so people are out there and you can actually find the statistic relevance of that using Google trends in your community. There’s a ton of people who are searching that and so, so it was like a series on what happens when you die and heaven and hell and like it’s like old school preaching stuff but kind of wrapped in this interesting, really cool frame. But a part of what he did was he’s what everybody has done, which is Hey, we want to take your questions. But what they did was they leveraged Instagram to take the questions and then they feedback all those questions publicly. So he’s up on Sunday saying, send us your questions. The way we’re going to take your questions is through Instagram.
Rich Birch: Gave like a 30-second this is how you use Instagram lesson. People go and then they’re posting all those back now what a great kind of responsive and there’s crazy stuff in there. There is the like, dude, you know, do all dogs go to heaven? You know, what about cats? Like you know the, you know, there’s like constant combative stuff in there. Again, that draws people in. Do we have the risk to be engaged in our kind of dialogue with our people rather than seeing social media as a one way communication? It really should be two way. It’s about how do we engage and then, and then outside of all of that, and this actually is one of the aspects of the church with flywheel. We talk about, you know, just because this idea of moving people out of their seats and into the streets.
Rich Birch: And this I, the, one of the things that really struck me was, and I again, I keep seeing this time and again, fast-growing churches aren’t content with just having people come to their church and sit and just take in what they’re trying to do is mobilize their people to get out of their seats and industries to actually go and do something to kind of make a difference. And and we see this in all different ways. This is the church that you know, is at Thanksgiving. You know, we just went through a, you know, American Thanksgiving there late last year. And you know, there are, there are churches that are doing like huge Turkey giveaways where they’re like, you know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna give away a thousand turkeys to people this, you know, this Christmas or this, this Thanksgiving or, or it’s the community cleanups in the spring or it’s the, you know, at liquid, we did these all the time.
Rich Birch: It was the 5k for clean water or it’s the, you know, we’re going to do an extreme home makeover. We’re going to go to a battered women’s shelter and redo it in 24 hours. It’s that kind of thing. Now, interestingly, those are the right things to do. We think they’re the God thing. We think it’s like God calls us to do that. He’s called us to make a difference. He’s called us to, you know to care for the poor in our communities. We think it’s a good thing. We think it’s a God thing to do, but you know, our community sees it as a good thing to do and it relates to social media in this, you know, you put T-shirts on everybody and have some fun moments in that. I guarantee you people in your church are going to stop. They’re going to take a picture of themselves and some friends from church sharing and doing this and they’re going to share it on Facebook because people want to be seen as that kind of person.
Rich Birch: Now do you think that makes a difference in the growth of your church? Absolutely. You know, it’s this interesting nexus of it’s, it’s not only the right thing to do, but because your people will share it, it then ends up fueling church growth and social media is the kind of the plane upon which that flies. It’s kind of like the backbone of how that happens. That’s why like why are every one of those things built with like, okay, you’re going to get a free tee-shirt. Like is it because you want a free tee-shirt? Well, some people like free tee shirts, but it’s also because frankly, it makes a great picture. It looks really great. All the, it’s not just people cleaning a park, it’s everyone from our church cleaning a park. It’s, you know, it’s the Jeff Henderson hashtag for stuff. The reason why that has so much momentum to it is because of this kind of core idea of how do we invite people, you know, to how do we get our, encourage our people to invite people is all that connected. Does that make sense?
Rich Birch: Oh yeah. Yeah. And a couple of things we’ll link to in the show notes. I know that Instagram story from Connexus church, I’ve been watching it also and I was wondering how they got so many answers to the questions. So I love the thought of, rather than just in service, you know, handing out a mic and taking questions, although that’s a great way to do it. Actually using a social media channel that’s publicly facilitated and is going to create organic reach to create some engagement in a live setting. That’s, that’s a really great idea.
Rich Birch: Yeah. And I think on that kind of Instagram thing you know, how our, and I don’t know, I’m not on that team. But in similar environments I do know that a part of what we want to do is model for our people what you know, what we’re looking for. And so in the great kind of execution on that is, sure, get five people who are volunteers or your church to go in and ask a question and then post their stuff right away. A part of the beauty of the way Instagram works is when you repost those questions, it’s not telling you who posted them. So they could all be from the same person. Now I don’t, they aren’t in that case, but you could have people in there kind of preceding and then that, then people will say, Oh wow, that is crazy. Somebody asked, they asked about dogs. I’m actually kind of concerned about that. And so I, you know, I’ve got a different angle on the dog. Do dogs go to heaven question and you know, here, you know, here it is, that, that sort of thing.
Adam: Yeah. And so the last piece of the church growth flywheel is probably the one that most churches are hesitant to tackle and address. And that last piece is internal communication. And the reason is because we anticipate that we’re going to go out and do a community event and that’s going to spread the word about our church. Internal communication. Nobody outside our church sees that or sees the, I mean they’ll probably going to see the symptoms of the results of that getting lined up. Right. So tell me about how that internal communication fosters growth.
Rich Birch: So one of the things when you talk with church leaders of fast-growing churches they reject the reach and keep uh dichotomy. They reject this idea of deep and wide. You know, they, they are caught in this idea of like, we’re just trying to get a whole bunch of people here or the like I’m just about growing disciples. They actually reject that dichotomy. It’s like a false dichotomy. It’s, it’s, you can’t be about just going out and doing all this kind of external stuff without also being concerned about internal. What are we doing with all these guests arrive? And so that’s really struck me over the years that those two are not seen in fast-growing churches are not seen as separate. Now ironically, actually in churches that aren’t growing, I think they are seen as separate. A lot of times their churches are struggling.
Rich Birch: They’re like, I will, you know, we’re going to really close that back door. We’re really kind of a closed the back door kind of church where we’re not so concerned about the front door. And that sort of language is, is actually we don’t see it evident in as much in Mmm. In fast-growing churches. What they’re saying is like, Hey, we see a lot of guests coming. We want to do what we can to get those guests connected. We’re trying to do both of those things at the same time. And so internal communication really is all about that. Primarily in the book and in the masterclass we really talk about, okay, what do you do? What is, what is the initial response when guests come to your church? Because it would, frankly, it would be like a real shame to get a bunch of new guests to come to your church and then to fumble at that point to say like, Oh, like we didn’t actually do anything with them.
Rich Birch: And so there are some common trends that we see on the communication front with fast-growing churches on the internal side, and particularly it’s around kind of the new guest experience. So this idea of like, okay, when people arrive are we offering them a gift in exchange for their contact information? What are we doing when we get their contact information, we’re typically offering them to come to one connection sort of thing that, you know, it’s a really, it’s some version. What we’re seeing consistently is some version of church of the Highlands growth track where it’s like a, it’s a consistent, once it’s, you know, a lot of it’s growth of the Highlands does it every week. So they have a four-part thing they do every week of the month that rotates through, you know that although there are some churches doing that, a lot of churches are seeing at least doing something monthly or every other week, that sort of thing.
Adam: So we’re consistently, the idea is a guest comes and we’re not saying come back to our new members class, which launches next fall. It’s saying, Hey, next Sunday or two weeks from now we’ve got this new here class that we would love to get you plugged in and that is your best next step. And then we’re going to send you a postcard. We’re going to send you an email, maybe going to call you, maybe we’re going to send someone over to your house with a cake. And all of those things point towards coming to this next step, this one, single next step. And, and really if you could fix, if most or just could fix that piece you would see growth. Like that it’s not rocket science. It’s like you’ve got guests coming to your church today. How are you getting them to stick and stay?
Rich Birch: What are you, and typically it’s because we’re confusing them. We’re, we’re saying here are eight different things you could do, like take this like any gram class or maybe you want to take this Myers-Briggs saying [inaudible] or get into a group or join a team or what we’re doing mission trips next summer or you maybe you could like this other thing and it’s just too much. Like you’ve got to actually reduce it down, simplify it, streamline it to this kind of one thing. And so we wrote about that in the book and talked about it in the masterclass because that area is, I find the highest leverage point, and I can tell you again, for leaders that have listened to this far end are about to get a nugget. So when I call up when, sure just call me and say, Hey, we’re looking for some help in the church growth area.
Rich Birch: I ask the I so we’re nice and all that. Tell me about your history and all that. But then really what we get to is that there’s one number I want to know and this is the number I say, okay, actually two numbers because it relate to each other. Tell me about what your average church attendance is and tell me about how many first time guests you had in this last year. So if a church says, Oh, we’re averaging 200 people. And they say, Oh, and we’ve had usually don’t know it. First of all, what most church leaders, and this is across the spectrum, this is the 200. This is multiple thousand churches per person. Churches, most people don’t know these two numbers. They know the average attendance number, they don’t know the first time guest number, which is a bit ironic. I’m like this whole thing, you’re trying to grow and you don’t know how many first time guests you have.
Adam: Obviously I don’t say that I, I’m kind of like, well why don’t we try to look that number up? But let’s say it’s 200 and 200 so there the church is average 200 a week and they’ve seen 200 guests in the last year. We would see that as an average benchmark. If you can attain the total number of first-time guests over an entire year is the same as an average attendance on any Sunday. Then that you have enough first time guests to grow your church. If you’re ahead of that number, then you’ve got some sort of communication problem and you’re not getting them streamlined in. You’re not, you’re not. If you’re, if you’re not growing, if you’re, if you have more than a number and you’re not seeing growth, then there’s a problem. We’ve got to work on this communication piece. If it’s lower than that, if your, let’s say your church is 200 and you had a hundred guests in the first last year then, then there are two things.
Rich Birch: One, you could be doing a really bad job on the new here guest process. Like you’re actually not collecting the data well. And so then I would drill into that and try to figure out, okay, what’s going on? And a lot of times there’s problems there. It’s like, well we don’t really have a process. We don’t really tell people what to do. Or if they’re doing that well and they’re kind of following, you know, some industry standards on that stuff, then I would say, Oh, you’ve got a front door problem. Like you literally have to work on all of this invite stuff and then what can we do from there? And so that, that’s a critical piece of the puzzle and really it points even just understanding that number for people who are listening in. If you understood those two numbers, that would give you a pathway to understand what should we be working on next? What areas should we be concentrating on?
Adam: That’s gold right there. So while I’m for the people that have been listening in, if you made it this long, that’s a, that’s your reward for, for hanging out with us. Nice. I’m glad you brought up the masterclass because I love that you’ve coupled this book with a masterclass. And so tell me a little bit about the masterclass and tell me what somebody will learn different than what they’ll learn reading.
Rich Birch: Great. So really the church growth flywheel masterclass is the book but presented in a video in a video format. So it’s a video class, but then it also includes, it does to two major differences. One is it reorders the book into what we’re seeing as kind of the step by step, do this, then do this, then do this, then do that. The book is presented more like a menu, Hey, here’s five different things you could do. Try them and see what works. What we do with the masterclasses. We get a little more pointed and are pushing more in like, okay, follow these steps through. But then it also isn’t, it’s, it’s more than because we’re constantly adding new content. So not only do you get the core content, but then we’re doing video calls. We’re trying to bring in you know, kind of w apply from other churches.
Rich Birch: People are learning and trying things and then we’re like, Hey, you know, let’s do this. There’s an interesting kind of conversation in today’s conversation, we were talking about big days and one of the things that I’ve been tracking is churches that make up big days. So they’ll like a lot of times these are around actual things happening in the calendar. So like we just said, mother’s day, father’s day you know, Christmas, Easter, even the back to school stuff. But that all is kind of related to a certain day. You know, what we’re finding is there are a whole bunch of churches out there. So there’s one tree which in Philadelphia called Epic church, they’ve been getting called Epic day, which just happens to happen in late January, early February every year. And it’s one of their biggest days of the year. And so we’ve got a call coming up where I pull on a church leader who, it’s unreal.
Rich Birch: They made up a big day last fall and it just, it literally was just a made up day in November. And they saw twice the attendance of the year before. On that same Sunday, they doubled their year over year attendance. And so I’m like, Hey, we need to learn more from you. Let’s talk that through. You know, what’s actually happening there. And so what we’re trying to do is add more content and then you know, and then there’s also, you know, there’s like a Facebook group and all this kind of stuff, so it’s not just kind of stale content. Now to be honest, you could buy the book and, and take that and be like, Hey, this is great. It’s a, it’s a lower price point. You know, it, it would give you what you need. And then really it’s for churches that are saying, Hey, we’re serious about this.
Rich Birch: We want to take it to another level. Frankly, we’re seeing a lot of churches when they go from like, maybe the, maybe one church leader reads it and is like, Oh, this is a good thing. And then they’re like, no, I actually want to push this to my entire you know, my entire, you know, whether it’s elders board or staff team. And so then they’ll buy the course because it has videos attached with it. And so then they use that in kind of a video training way. So, that’s really the difference between the two. Trying really to provide a way for it to be as helpful as possible for folks.
Adam: Sure. And outside the church growth masterclass, you have your podcast and you have your blog. So tell us how we can track you down rich. How can we learn more from you?
Rich Birch: Yeah, so the best ways to just drop by our website unseminary.com so on seminary, why is it called that? It’s not that it’s not anti seminary.com it’s unseminary.com you know, this idea that I really intrigued by this idea that the thing that is really pushing churches forward that are growing are, aren’t things that we, they taught in seminary. And so they’re, they’re really things that they don’t teach in seminary. And so if you go to unseminary.com you can track everything there. We’ve got a bunch of free resources and Oh, actually on the church growth thing, we’ve got a, you know, a free three-part video series. You just poke around in there, you’ll, you’ll find everything you need.
Adam: Sounds good. Well, rich, thank you so much for writing this book and helping churches understand the church growth flywheel, and also, thank you so much for hanging out today.
Adam: Lots. So glad to be here, Adam. Thanks for everything you do to help church leaders. For sure. We’ll talk again soon.