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  1. George Mekhail on sexuality, inclusivity & the future of the church | unSeminary

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    Today I’m excited to have my friend George Mekhail from EastLake Church again. He’s talked with us before on opening multiple campuses, and today he’s back to talk with another topic his church has recently faced.

    About EastLake

    George is always thinking about what’s next in life, society, and church. He’s been with the team at EastLake for four years now and has helped the church face one of the biggest issues in today’s society—accepting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. EastLake was recently featured in an article in Time Magazine about this topic. Through this process, the church has strived to make themselves known as “church for the rest of us.” Everyone is welcome and you can come as you are. EastLake currently has five locations in the Seattle area.

    But this has not been an easy issue to face and George admits that the church has made a lot of mistakes. Here are some of the things they’ve learned along this path:

    Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. // The biggest question was how to get people connected to the message of Jesus? The wake up call for George came when a friend of his and member of EastLake told him that she was dating a woman. He could see the fear in her eyes as she told him this and he realized she was afraid to be herself at the church. The church was creating hurt and pain, and he felt the Holy Spirit telling him that they had to change this exclusive mindset. The Holy Spirit led them to move forward in letting people know they could come to EastLake and be who they were without hiding behind a mask.

    Church has to be a safe place. // Whether it’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” or exclusion, church has created a lot of baggage in people’s lives. At EastLake, they felt that wasn’t part of Jesus’s message of love.

    It is a very polarizing topic. // During his experiences with EastLake, George has seen how divisive the topic on sexuality is within the church. Once they came out with their stance on being open and loving to everyone regardless of sexuality, there was a lot of feedback both positive and negative. The major point that EastLake has tried to spread is that people aren’t allowed to be hateful, even if they disagree with homosexuality.

    There is no formula. // George admits that EastLake made some mistakes in how they moved forward in this topic. He’s also talked with other church leaders whose churches have also gone through this and heard about their mistakes. They’ve learned that there is no perfect formula to follow. The church can make their own expectations about how they want everyone to react, but nothing is going to go as you think it should. Through it all, just keep moving forward and follow where the Holy Spirit is leading you.

    It will be painful. // This isn’t an easy subject to face. As George tells us, you don’t know how deep rooted this issue is until you start facing it head on. People will walk away, friendships will be broken, and churches will lose membership and money at first. But George believes that in the end, churches that are exclusive will be the ones that get hurt the most. And Jesus taught love, not hate, so that’s the message we need to follow within the church as well.

    For pastors or other church leaders wondering how to move forward in spreading Jesus’s message and opening the hearts of their church, visit EastLake’s website on this subject at, which contains helpful videos and resources. You can also reach George by email at or visit EastLake Church’s website.

    Episode Highlights

    00:33 // Rich introduces George and welcomes him to the show.

    01:08 // George introduces himself and talks about EastLake Church.

    02:38 // George tells us the average attendance at the church’s locations.

    04:36 // George talks about the church’s journey in relation to the Time Magazine’s article.

    11:18 // George talks about the resources available – Together In This.

    12:38 // George talks about the process they went through to change as a community.

    16:15 // George talks about the challenges experienced during the changes.

    18:21 // George talks about expectations, learnings and the impact of the changes.

    21:07 // George encourages churches to act on their convictions.

    24:03 // George talks about the impact these changes had on their staff.

    26:06 // George advises church leaders to “Be in a relationship with people.”

    28:05 // Rich makes reference to Jonathan Merritt and his book A Faith of Our Own.

    29:16 // George offers his contact details.

    Episode Transcript

    Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host around these parts, I’m so glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today. We are in for a fascinating conversation, one that I’ve been looking forward to for a few months, super excited to have George, a friend of mine from EastLake Church on the left coast with us. George welcome to the show today.

    George – Hey thanks so much for having me again Rich, it’s good to see you.

    Rich – Yeah. George has been on the show in the past and recently, well I guess it’s not recently anymore, I saw their church popup in Time Magazine, in an interesting article and so I wanted to get George’s thought on that and here we are in the summertime talking about this. But George, before we jump in, I thought you could give us kind of, for people who haven’t listened before, a bit of a history of EastLake, kind of your story, what’s your piece in the puzzle and then give us a sense of who EastLake is.

    George – Yeah sure. So, let’s see, I’m married, I have two amazing children, one’s actually turned seven today and one’s five. So yes, most of my passion is spending time with them obviously but I’m a futurist at heart. I love to think about what’s next, what’s next for the church, what’s next for society, working, where is all of this going, what are we doing here? That’s where I spend a lot of my brain space, but I’m the Executive Pastor at EastLake, I’ve been on the team for about four years. My wife and I have been a part of the community for about nine years and it’s been an incredible place for us, it’s an unbelievable community. A lot of our friends we’ve met through EastLake and it’s just been a fun ride.

    So ten years now it’s existed. EastLake is a place where we like to say that it’s a church for the rest of us and it’s a place where everyone’s welcome. What we try to replicate is just an authentic place where you can be yourself in the truer sense and not have to put on your smiley church face on Sunday, but really just come as raw as you are and as broken and vulnerable and with all the mess of life. So that’s, I think, the best descriptor of what’s the essence of EastLake I guess.

    Rich – Nice. So you’re a multisite church, I know some people are always nickels and noses, they want to count all of that stuff, so give us a sense of the scope of your ministry, that kind of thing as well.

    George – Well, if you’re asking about current reality?

    Rich – Yes.

    George – We’re five locations all in the Seattle area. Combined, today we’re averaging 23, 24 hundred people combined at all locations. At our peak in 2013ish and even before we were multisite we were touching 5 thousand people on a Sunday itself.

    Rich – Nice.

    George – Things have changed quite a bit.

    Rich – Cool. Well this is going to be great. One of the things I love about EastLake and I said this last time you were on the show, I think Churches from across the country need to be learning from churches like yourself that are in communities like Seattle, around that part of the world, that are decidedly post-Christian in communities. Nobody wakes up… my impression, I feels a certain amount of kindred spirit because I feel the same thing here in Jersey, people don’t wake up on a Sunday morning feeling guilty that they’re not going to church, it’s just outside of their radar. It’s not even a category that they consider and so EastLake is one of those churches that for years I’ve been a fan from afar and said, “Hey you should really follow them, I think they’re doing a great job.” You’ve really been a welcoming community to folks and I’ve seen that and it’s been encouraging to see and so I’m excited to jump in today.

    Really recently I would say, in the last year or so, you’ve taken a stand as a church, a more overt stand, of welcoming people regardless of their sexual orientation and today I want to jump in and talk about that, because I think you’re one of the few kind of churches I would label evangelical, not in the like gun-toting, rightwing, evangelical sense but in the sense of people who want to tell others about Christ, who are passionate about, how do we get people connected to the message of Jesus. It’s been interesting to watch from afar, kind of that process as you’ve reached out, specifically to try to articulate being open to people regardless of where they’re at from a sexual orientation point of view. So tell us about that, give us a bit of the story of what’s happened at your church.

    George – Yeah I mean it has been a journey for sure and it’s a journey that continues I would say, as far as what we’re continuing to learn and what this topic means right now and then the church specifically. But ever since I’ve come on staff four years ago, this has been an unresolved, I would say, conversation among our team and our Senior Pastor Ryan, he’s been processing for like five plus years now.

    So it’s one of those things that has liked emerged out of who we are. I wouldn’t even describe it so much as like a decision point necessarily, as much as it was a revelation. We really do believe that we’ve been following and continue to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in this, not just in some like mythical weird way, but in an actual like, what’s unfolding right before us, the humanity that we’re seeing, the people who were called to pastor, the pain that we see that the church has caused that we’re not and haven’t been exempt from, just sort of came to a head in the last six months or so.

    So that’s been like the big picture journey, as far as what’s happened. Recently, so you mentioned the Time article came out in January and even before that, a couple of months before that, a gal at our team, who had become a very good friend, she let us know that she was dating a girl and I think that was the thing again. We’d had conversations years and years before but I think that was the moment of like, “Okay, this is over, this is done,” because really what it came down to was her having been a part of those conversations and having close friendships with myself and with Ryan and with a lot of our senior leaders, but when she came out to me specifically and her life, she was terrified, she was afraid that I was going to fire her.

    She leads music at one of our locations and this was a Saturday night that she came out to us and she literally thought in that conversation that she wasn’t going to be singing the next day and that broke my heart, that was a wakeup call for sure. If my friend doesn’t feel safe to be who she is here and knowing her and seeing the fruit of her life, it makes the issue pretty clear, I guess is the way to describe it. I know for people that come from a traditional background, like myself, I grew up Coptic Orthodox, which is about as traditional as you can get.

    Rich – That’s traditional with a capital T.

    George – Yeah exactly, it’s a hard thing, like you know, “What about the bible? What about these versus?” [Inaudible 00:07:20] and all those questions are important and they’re ones that we have worked through and come to a sufficient place of conviction and repentance really. I think that’s where the conversation really gets lost, there’s no one who really spends time talking about that piece. It’s not a matter of, “Okay I guess this is where culture’s going and this is what we needed to do as a church,” at all, we need to be really, really thinking about our biology between brothers and sisters, the harm that we’ve done, and be in a state of repentance right now and that’s where feel like we’re at.

    Now this isn’t something like, yeah we’re over that now and we have all the answers and this is the future, as much as it is like, no this is a problem, like we’re creating hurt and pain. So that’s where we’re at.

    Rich – Now before this would you describe… now I feel like there’s a position that a lot of churches are in where it’s almost like the old ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ kind of mentality, where there’s just a certain vagueness around what either our practice or our belief on this particular front. How would you describe before your took some steps, leading up to this day, obviously she knew, this is a perfect example of here’s a young woman or a woman in your leadership community who clearly saw up close the ministry of your church, knew that you were a grace filled community, a loving community, but there was something that was being articulated that got her to the spot of believing, “Now this could actually go really bad for me.” So how would you articulate kind of how you were before this shift?

    George – That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say don’t ask, don’t tell was our operative, though as a bummer as it is right now for me to admit that was a part of what existed. The way that it ended up playing out was case by case for us and frankly there just weren’t a ton of examples. There were a couple that I feel like we handled them gracefully in the sense like, we brought on an intern who identified as having same sex attraction prior to this, but yeah, it was always in conversation, it was always in relationships. There was no policy statements, there was nothing that was like articulated on our website about like our stance or whatever, so this shift was sort of confirmation of what’s always been there.

    I think that what’s important about it is that it’s not enough to not say anything, as far as we’re concerned. It has to be said that this is a safe place because people… there’s just so much baggage that the church carries, the unspokenness of like, “Hey you can lead, you can come here, we love you but here’s your lead and here’s how much you can do or you can’t work here, you can’t lead a group,” you know, all these sort of, whether it’s don’t ask, don’t tell or it’s, you know in some of the more conservative churches, more of just an exclusion. The opposite of that I guess is saying out loud the opposite, “You’re welcome here fully affirmed, you can lead just like anyone else can lead.” There’s no limitations on her leadership and so that was sort of the necessary next step that we saw, which is what lead to our first statement in January.

    Rich – Okay so now I’m sure there’s people who are listening in who are like, “Rich but you’ve got to ask about all of the theological distinctives,” and would love us to dive into that conversation.

    George – Sure.

    Rich – Today what I want to focus on is how you processed this change as a community, so what you did. This is a significant shift and kind of the impact from that, but if people want to dig into that conversation, is there a resource on your website or a particular message that you could point people towards? We’ll link this in the show notes, but where would I point people if they want to dig into that particular issue?

    George – Yeah, no it’s great. So after we made the announcement in January we hosted two different events called Together In This and we created a website that has all the resources, books, articles and even the video talks from both of those messages. It’s actually a phenomenal resource, it’s So if viewers want to go there I think they would be very well resourced.

    But specifically for church leaders, I guess if there’s a church leader who is sort of in the throes of this conversation, trying to figure out how to lead their community and there’s a lot of them is what we’re finding. One of the things that we’re learning is that there are a lot of pastors who are privately wrestling with this and trying to figure out sort of what’s next, but I would say to those guys or gals call me. I’d love to talk to you, it’s an important work that you’re embarking on and Iove to help however we can. Shoot me an email, give me a call and I’d love to have a chat.

    Rich – Very good. I hope people take George up on that, he’s a very generous guy for sure and I will link to that resource in the show notes so people can, you know, just to dig in a little bit deeper if they’d like to process that side of the equation, but let’s get back to what actually happened.

    So you have this, you know fairly dramatic kind of coming out experience with a key staff member, what happens next? How do you kind of… what steps did you walk through to process this change as a community?

    George – Yeah so it came really before that. I think in 2014 we did several messages just about a general theological shift. I mean, a lot of this frankly is centered around the bible and how you approach the bible and so we did several talks around, a lot on just how to view scripture through the lens of Jesus and the crucified Christ, being the ultimate revelation of the holy and loving God. God’s not angry with us, that God is for us, that God wants to see things renewed here on earth as they are in heaven.

    It seems subtle and it seems like Christian language, all that kind of stuff, but it’s a radical shift. When we start really, really thinking about the implications of that, what does that do about how we view war and violence and how we view the other and how we view even other religions.

    So that was a journey that was started in 2014, and even a little bit before that, but really sort of more directly in messages that we just put out in 2014.

    That was one thing, the other thing was we released a video, an ethos video that we started to play before every message on a Sunday in the Fall of last year, that had things like, you know, married, divorced or single here, it’s one family that [Inaudible 00:13:56] a beautiful ethos statement that we borrowed from a church in Denver called Highlands. But one of the lines in it is, “Gay or straight here, there’s no hate here.” So that was kind of the best subtle like indication of like, “Our leadership is sort of here and so on.” Then private conversations with key leaders that are in our community.

    So there’s a multifaceted approach to this, but I say all that and I guess I would cap it off with, we did not do it perfectly in every way, far from that. I mean the Time article, the way that ended up working, it’s like we put out a press release and then surrendered to do an article.

    Rich – Right.

    George – They called us and we gave the interview. After the interview it was like, “Hey this is going to go out on X date,” or whatever and it actually ended up getting ahead of us. So by the time our article ended up coming out, a week before we were able to do a message for our church.

    Rich – Oh well.

    George – So I probably wouldn’t do it that way again if I had to do it over but there’s a lot of second guessing and like, “Oh we should have done this,” and all that kind of stuff. But at the end of the day I think what we’re learning is that there’s people who care a lot about this topic specifically and it’s very polarizing and it’s actually one of the sad things that I’m seeing in all of this is just how intense it is and how dividing it is. I don’t think it has to be that way.

    We didn’t say to our churches, “Hey you either need to agree with us or you need to leave,” that would sort of be disciple to the point of inclusion. It’s like we need to include people that we disagree with and they’ll disagree with us too. So we’ve tried to make it a point that you’re welcome here regardless of how you view the bible, how you view scripture, what your opinion is on this specific topic. The only thing that you’re not going to do is be hateful, you know, we need to journey together and we need to have space and dialog and respectful conversations. So that’s been the shift.

    Rich – Now I would suspect that there was, and maybe I’m wrong, but I would suspect… So this Time article comes out and then Ryan ends up getting up, you know unfortunately sometimes it happens with the press right, you know, stuff can get away from you pretty quickly, but Ryan gets up and preaches, I’m assuming that there’s somewhat of a tsunami of feedback that comes into the church. Tell me about that process and how did you deal with it.

    George – That’s a good way to describe it, I would say it was definitely a tsunami of positive and negative. I think the people who are most supportive are really loud and the people who are most against it are really loud, then there’s this big subset of people on both sides, in the middle that just sort of don’t say much, you know, they leave quietly or they stay quietly. But the extremes are intense, that’s for sure, the feedback both from within our community and outside our community was at times overwhelming, I mean on both ends of the emotional spectrum.

    So it’s been a very challenging but fruitful and rewarding season, you know. One that I don’t regret, I wouldn’t trade for anything. I wouldn’t want to do it again, I would want to like start from the beginning and do it again but I think it’s been the most life giving season of my life and of my ministry and I think our leadership team would echo that.

    So has it been difficult and challenging? Absolutely, it’s been trialing, there’s been times when we’ve been like wanting to give up and throw in the towel or whatever, but it’s definitely worth it and where we’re headed and the church, the people that are still here and the people that want to continue to build this community with us are what motivates us to keep going.

    What we didn’t do is put out a rainbow flag out front and become a gay church, right because our gay friends don’t want that either, they just want a church what they can go to and be normal and be with other people worshipping and trying to figure out what it looks like to join in the renewal of all things here and now. So we’re excited to build that community with these people and hopefully be able to partner with other pastors who are trying to do the same. So it’s a beautiful time, we’re excited.

    Rich – So if there were a few things, you know two or three things that you would say, “Okay there’s maybe some stuff I would do different next time,” obviously thinking there’s probably people listening in today that are trying to think about what they would do in this scenario, what would you have done different?

    George – Yeah, it’s hard to say because through this journey we’ve gotten a chance to meet a couple of other great leaders who have gone through this process and sort of exchanged notes with them and the things that we said, “Hey we would have done this differently,” we actually did but the result was the same.

    Rich – Okay.

    George – I think the biggest thing that comes out of the lesson there is that there is no formula really to this that’s clean.

    Rich – Right.

    George – I think that’s how you know that it comes from a place of conviction versus strategy right? The big accusation is, “Hey you’re just capitulating the culture,” or “You’re trying to be politically correct,” or whatever and it’s like that’s dumb, because first of all, in order to be politically correct there has to be a benefit to you right? Politicians don’t flip flop on issues because of any reason other than they’re going to get more votes or they’re able to raise more money.

    So it’s not like by doing this we’ve made a ton more money and we’re growing, no the opposite in fact, the church is down about 35%-37% budget wise and around the same number attendance wise. So there’s no direct benefit to this other than it’s right, other than we believe like we’re following our convictions.

    So I think by the very nature of that truth, there is a just a realization that there’s no formula. So I think I would have done that differently in that I think we tried to sort of control it, the outcomes and have certain expectations at the organizational level, the staff level and even at the congregational individual levels, like there’s certain people you know that, it’s like, “Hey I think this guy will do,” or whatever.

    Rich – Oh right, right, right.

    George – So I would say having those expectation of anyone or anything to fall into place or not fall into place was probably the biggest mistake, because you’re just going to be let down, because you just don’t know how deep seated this is for a lot of people and people will surprise you.

    Rich – Yes so you kind of hinted on there a little bit, it sounds like you’ve had a bit of erosion of attendance and finances and you talked through that piece. I think we can live and I can be accused of this, you know I sometimes wonder, I think when I get before Jesus he’s going to sit me down and say, “Hey so you spent a lot of time worrying about getting more people to attend your church,” and you know, I think there’s going to be part of it, I can picture him saying in my imagination, “You know there’s a part of that that was really good, I appreciate you trying to reach people and then there’s some of them that maybe wasn’t so good.”

    So I have the humility to realize that but I think there’s some church leaders that are listening in, they hear that, they hear you throw out that stat and for that alone they would say it’s just not worth the risk. So could you talk through that a little bit for us?

    George – Yeah and this is something that I think about a lot because it is such a bummer because it is a reality and it is a hesitation for a lot of the folks that we talk to and the intension and the motivation behind it is pure right? Like these guys are thinking about their livelihood, their families, their staff and their families and the implications and the stakes, the stakes are high. So on one hand I get it, I understand that it’s a huge risk.

    So on one hand it’s like how deep is the conviction, what is the motivation and how well are you pastored to sort of weather a storm that will come? Because a storm is going to come, you’re not going to grow, you’re budget’s not going to grow, certainly not immediately. What’s going to happen immediately is that it will be painful and people will lock away and people will accuse you of things that you didn’t do and people will speak poorly of you and you’ll friends and you’ll lose money and all that and that sounds terrible right? Like on the surface it’s not a very attractive… which is again why the whole notion of political correctness is hilarious.

    Rich – Right.

    George – But if there is conviction there, I think first of all that has to trump, which isn’t to say, “Hey just shoot from the hip and be like, “Oh I’m convicted, I’m going to go,” it’s to say still figure out what strategically you can control at some level, you know, have money in the bank and make sure that you’re staffed appropriately as is, all that kind of stuff. They’re all practical things that you can do to prepare for this and I think and I think it’s optimistic view and a long vision, I said I’m a futurist. So looking ahead I think that eventually churches that are exclusive will be harming themselves more, it will cost more essentially to be exclusive than less versus. So there will be a tipping point right, and actually after that tipping point happens I think it will be a lot easier to accuse churches that have come out as affirming after the fact of cultural capitulation because it will actually be beneficial at that time.

    Rich – Right.

    George – So I guess I would say, don’t wait for that. If it’s conviction it’s conviction and at some level, if you have good leaders around you and you have people who are doing their best to follow Jesus, they’ll come. That’s been one of the most encouraging things about this, is our incredible team and how inspiring it’s been to sort of watch them lead in this season.

    Rich – Yeah just on the practical side, one of the things that’s so… This comes a bit from an Executor Pastor point of view what I’m about to say, because I had heard that there was maybe a bit of contraction there. So I went on your website and looked at your staff listing and I’m like, it seems like they still employing a lot of people.

    George – Yeah.

    Rich – Did you end up having to contract a little bit or where you able to kind of weather the storm financially so far?

    George – Yeah, so we’ve had to cut in a lot of different places. One of the big implications of this, just on a practical level for us is that we’ve had to close one of our campuses in Monroe and for a couple of different reason.

    One, it was already sort of in our most rural remote communities, a beautiful community, amazing people were a part of it, but it represented an asset that we had equity in and so we are in the process of selling that, so that we have a little bit of cash to function with and our campus pastor at that location was transitioning.

    So it was sort of in the midst of this season, where we were trying to hire someone and sort of reboot any sort or energy and that just seemed untenable. So as a result of that our… a couple of other things, two or three other staff, who were either offered other positions or I think one of the positions ended up being eliminated. So that was really the most negative staff implication that we’ve had to move through, through this transition.

    Other than that though, things have a little bit self-corrected. We’ve had just like random things. A couple of members of our team got opportunities in other places, other states, just sort of disconnected from this issue. So things kind of worked out in that sense from a staff perspective where we’ve been able to [Inaudible 00:25:29] amazing people on our team came forward and took voluntary pay cuts to weather this, which is just unbelievable. It’s really, really inspiring to be around these people. So we really feel like we’re doing this together.

    Rich – Right. Well just two last questions. What would you say to another church leader, we’ve kind of talked a bunch about this, who is maybe wanting to be more open but is feeling caught in that zone? You know, I’d say reach out to you, that’s a great thing to do, listen to your story. Anything else you’d say to a church leader that’s out there today who’s thinking that?

    George – I think the more that you get this “issue” out of the clouds and out of hypothetical and out of like the talking about it or them, even worse and the more you can humanize and just be in relationship with people and ask them their stories, that’s really where the change happens, that’s more than any like book or video that you watch on that Together In This website or whatever, those are going to be helpful resources and tools and they’ll give you handles. But the relationships that you have with real humans, who are doing their best to follow Jesus and to look them in the eye and sort of, I guess, decide what as a human, what do you do with this person? The answer becomes pretty clear as a follower of Jesus, it’s you love them and what does that actually mean, how does that play itself out?

    So for me, I guess the moment in which that reality came to a head was when, I think the perceived decision, like in hindsight, as my friend tells the story, is that she was feeling like she was going to be fired and that didn’t even cross my mind, like I was going to fire her, it’s ridiculous to think about, but the fact that she was thinking about it shows that there is an impasse there right?

    So I guess most people don’t have to come to that place of decision, they can have a theological idea about something that doesn’t have any practical implications in their real life. So for those people it’s a lot easier to sort of have a traditional view on this, but it gets really messy once you’re in a real loving relationship with people.

    Rich – Well George I really appreciate you coming on the show today and talking through all this. It’s been super helpful and hopeful insightful to people who have been listening in. A couple of years ago we have Jonathan Merritt, he’s an author, come and speak at Liquid, it was a great day and we got talking about this particular… he wrote a great book, A Faith of Our Own which is a fantastic book, if you haven’t read it you should read that.

    One of the things he said that stuck with me from that day, because he’s kind of a polestar, he is kind of a cultural, he’s trying to kind of take temperature of the culture and one of the things he had said when asked about this particular issue is he said, “You know, in 30 years from now people are going to look back at exclusionary churches in the same way that people look back at folks on the side of the civil rights argument that didn’t end up prevailing in the end and saying why were those people even there? Where there were Christians that actually didn’t want civil rights to pass through, who are those people and what were they thinking?”

    That stuck with me where I’m like, that is something we need to wrestle with for sure. So my hope in today’s interview, as people have been listening in, that it’s been thought provoking and you know, even just what you said there at the end, that we would put a face on this issue even if it’s just, “Here’s another church leader who’s trying to wrestle with this.” So George I really appreciate you being on today.

    If people want to get in touch with you or with EastLake, how can they do that?

    George – Yeah, shoot me an email, and I’ll do my best to get back to you and support you. So if you’re on that journey definitely don’t hesitate to reach out, I know it can feel lonely in that place, so we’d love to be a resource if we can.

    Rich – Thanks so much, I appreciate that.

    George – Thanks for having me Rich.

    —Huffduffed by theprd

  2. Chris Vacher on Nurturing a New Worship Venue at Your Church | unSeminary

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    Welcome to this Thursday’s edition of the unSeminary podcast. This week I’m super-excited to be talking to Chris Vacher, also known as Chris from Canada, who is an excellent leader at C4 Church, east of Toronto.

    Chris got this week’s session started by filling us in on his ministry at C4. The church was founded 30 years ago and has changed locations twice, both times moving eastward, or more into the suburbs. What that means, is that C4 is now deeply entrenched in the Durham, Pickering, Ajax area. There are about 500,000 people in that location.

    Those of you who are familiar with suburban ministry know what that means: Most people who live in this area are commuting into the city of Toronto. That translates into crazy schedules and not a ton of “community” focus.

    C4 has been in their current location since 1999, and Chris was brought on staff as the Worship Pastor about 18 months ago, and then last summer became the Creative Arts Pastor. That means he oversees almost everything that happens on Sundays: the music, the creative communication, all of the design, video, film, and all the production.

    C4 has about 2,000 people, which is a BIG number for a church in Canada! Not many churches of this size exist in Canada, so C4 looks for people to learn from, both within and outside the Canadian borders.

    This background information brings you up to speed on the topic for today:

    How do you deal with such tremendous growth?

    Toronto is a huge city, which sometimes surprises people. It is, in fact, the third largest metro area in North America, so when the Vachers moved from the West side to the East side of the city, it wasn’t like moving across town. Chris and his family found themselves having to learn how to “do life” and how to lead ministry in a whole new way.

    One of the first things on Chris’ plate was helping to decide what to do when a church building is maxed-out. Chris explains:

    We were having one service in our main auditorium (about 900 seats) and we were full!

    C4 has a God-given vision to be a regional church of 10,000 people, and it’s impossible to be that church meeting in one service in one location. They had already decided to be multiple services church in multiple locations, but when Chris arrived, a year and a half ago, they had already hit the first barrier to that vision. What were they going to do?

    Hold multiple services?

    Open another location for services?

    Start another venue in their current location?

    C4 made the decision to do multiple venues in their current location. Here’s how they narrowed down the three options and arrived at that decision.

    Three options: One decision

    Multiple Services: C4 was currently holding a 10 am service. Should they add an 11:30 service or an 8:30 worship time? And if so, typically you would replicate everything. You would offer kids programming twice, the pastor would preach twice, etc. Or you could offer two different styles of worship: Traditional and contemporary or café-style, but basically still the same content repeated twice.

    Second Location: This may be a more common and more effective way to reach more people. Worship could be set up in a school or other church building.


    C4 had a fellowship hall in their building, not huge, but they used it for wedding receptions, Junior High ministry events, etc. They considered converting that area into space that could be used on Sunday mornings at the same time as the main service, offering a second venue.

    The reasons that drove C4 to decide on the multi-venue service were this option was much less risky than opening a new venue off-site. They could control the content that was offered, they would not have to pay rent on a second location or buy lots of new equipment. They would not have to ask people to leave an environment they were comfortable in.

    Also, C4 felt they were not ready, volunteer-wise, to duplicate services to add a second service. To do that would take a lot of volunteers, and they simply were not prepared to staff two services with volunteers, mostly in the areas of kid’s ministry and hospitality and connections.

    Auditorium B: Not Amateur Hour

    Chris was very quick to point out that what went on in Auditorium B was in no way “less than” what happened in the main auditorium on any Sunday. The praise band was live and not “Junior Varsity.” The worship leader was “live.” The welcome and transitions out of worship, the announcements, the offering, congregational prayers and close of service were all “live.” The teaching was live by video.

    C4 asked people to volunteer to attend worship via RSVP in Auditorium B for 10 weeks. They made the ask vision-driven by announcing, “We’re full. There’s lots of people coming and we have to make room.” Baptisms, Communion, Easter were all held in the multi-venue site just as in the main auditorium.

    Auditorium B ran for ten weeks: March through the spring. In the summer, they went back to just the main auditorium, as attendance was down. In September, C4 reopened the multi-venue, but by October, both venues were full! In December, they had to launch a second service in the main auditorium, so they are currently at 2 services in one location, instead of 1 service in 2 locations. But! They are starting to get full again!

    C4 is starting to talk about off-site venues, but they still have Auditorium B as an option.

    What about you?

    If you are thinking about the need to add additional service times, an off-site venue or adding an on-site venue, here are some things to consider:

    How do you feel about video teaching?

    Estimate your costs

    Estimate your risks

    If you’re interested in knowing more about C4 church and their exciting growth and ministry, visit them online at or you can find Chris at

    Episode Highlights

    00:36 // Rich introduces Chris Vacher to the show.

    01:09 // Chris introduces himself and talks about C4 Church.

    02:58 // Chris talks about the growth of C4 Church and their decision to go multisite.

    06:31 // Chris talks about electing a multi-venue as opposed to a second service.

    08:54 // Chris talks about C4’s second venue, auditorium B.

    12:56 // Chris talks about the process of transitioning people from the main auditorium to auditorium B.

    15:05 // Chris talks about the initial issues with space in auditorium B.

    16:22 // Chris talks about C4’s process for learning.

    17:26 // Chris tells how seasons impact the venues.

    19:01 // Chris talks about the impact of the Add and Multiply campaign.

    20:43 // Chris highlights the attendance split for the two services.

    21:37 // Chris and Rich discuss video training.

    24:49 // Chris talks about being a chicken owner.

    26:11 // Chris offers contact details.

    Episode Transcript

    Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in, I hope you’re having a great Thursday as we count down to this weekend at your church. I know you’re super busy, there’s a lot of things you could be spending your time on today and I’m just privileged that you would take some time, honored that you’d take some time to spend with us today.

    I’m super excited to have Chris Vacher with us today. He’s from C4 Church, a friend of the podcast, he’s been on before, east of Toronto, welcome to the show Chris.

    Chris – Hey man, it’s great to connect, always fun talking with you, whether it’s in person or over the internet or podcast, however it is, to spend time with you.

    Rich – Nice, well it’s going to be good to talk to a Canadian today. Chris’s handle is chrisfromcanada, all over the place, so it’s always fun to interact with Chris. Chris is a great guy, a great leader and so why don’t you give us a sense of C4? Tell us a little bit about your ministry.

    Chris – Sure, so C4, we are in the eastern suburbs of Toronto and the church was founded about 30 years ago. We’ve moved locations a couple of times and both times we moved we moved eastwards, so more into the suburbs. So we are deeply entrenched in… So Durham region, Pickering, Ajax would be Oshawa foresees about 500 thousand people in this region. Most people would be commuting into the city of Toronto and so a lot of people who do suburban ministry familiar with just crazy schedules and not a ton of community. So we’re kind of right in the middle of that.

    We’ve been in this location since 1999 and I’ve been on staff here for a year and a half. I was hired here as the Worship Pastor and then last summer became the Creative Arts Pastor. So overseeing all of our worship, everything on Sunday, our music and then all of our creative communications, all of our design, video, film, anything anyone would see and then also our production as well.

    We’re a church of about two thousand people, which people who know ministry in Canada, 2 thousand’s a big number for a church in Canada, there’s not a lot of churches of that size. So we look as hard as we can for people to learn from me that are in Canada or other places, because we know there’s people ahead of us making some really good decisions and we want to learn from them as we just… and do everything we can to reach more people for Jesus in this region and see God do some amazing, amazing things.

    Rich – Absolutely, C4 is a great church. If you’re not tracking along with it you really should. They’re doing all kinds of really interesting things and I think are great communicators and just doing good stuff for sure.

    So now you guys, as you’ve been growing, which is a great problem to have, it’s a gold-plated problem, why don’t you describe some of the bumps along the way? How have you dealt with that growth?

    Chris – Yeah, so I came here a year and a half ago and we were new to this region, new to this area and if you don’t know Toronto people are often surprised when they find out how big Toronto is. Toronto is the third largest metro area in North America, we just passed Chicago last year I think. So it’s a huge city and we moved from the west side of Toronto to the east side of Toronto, which is not really like moving across town, it really is moving across the province.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So we came to a new area, a new place, meeting all kinds of new people, learning how to do ministry in a new way. I personally had to like get up to speed real quick and figure out how to do life and do ministry in a new context with new people, leading in a new kind of church and one of the things that was on our plate, sort of right as soon as we came here, was we were doing one service in our main auditorium, about 900 seats, and we were full, maxed out. We have a vision here at our church, we really believe God’s promised lots of things to our church. One of the things that we’re going to be a regional church of ten thousand people. It’s very unCanadian to say to put a number on it.

    Rich – Yeah very unCanadian.

    Chris – But we really believe, we’re speaking to our elders and to our leadership in lots of different, very specific ways around that number of ten thousand. So obviously we can’t be a church of ten thousand meeting in one service and one location.

    Rich – Yeah right.

    Chris – So we had already decided, a while ago, that we were going to be multiple services and multiple locations. So I came here a year and a half ago and we were sort of already up against that first barrier; what are we going to do? Are we going to do multiple services, are we going to launch another location or are we going to do something different, maybe another venue, you know, a building?

    I guess this is what we’re going to talk about today, so what we decided is, we decided to do multiple venues. So I’m sitting in what we call our auditorium B, this is our stage drop behind us.

    I guess the three options on the table were, do we do a second service? We were doing a 10 o’clock service time, so do we add an 11:30 service or do we add an 8:30 service, which basically for people who don’t do multiple services, the typical way would be you just sort of replicate everything.

    Rich – Yes.

    Chris – And you offer kids’ programming twice and it’s the same service content twice and the preacher preaches twice or you would do different styles; traditional and contemporary or café style or something. But basically the same content repeated twice or do we launch a second location and you guys are pros at that, multi-site churches becoming, I think, a more common way and a more effective way to reach more people. So do we launch a second location and then meet in a school somewhere or use another church building and we [Inaudible 00:05:46] for another spot? Or do we do multi-venue, which we had in our building a fellowship hall, you know, which is a room, it’s not a huge room, it’s a room that we actually used it for our junior high ministry on Sunday morning and for alpha and for wedding reception dinners, there’s a dance floor in the middle of the…

    Rich – Nice, that’s fantastic.

    Chris – But could we convert that into a space that could be on Sunday morning at the same time as our main service, on Sunday morning, a second venue?

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So we made the decision to do that.

    Rich – What drove that because I think the kind of more traditional route would be, let’s just add a second service? What was it that led you guys to elect, okay no, actually let’s do it in a second venue? Then we’ll talk about what the venue actually is.

    Chris – Yeah, well there would be lots of things and people have, if it’s a new concept they get freaked out, “We’re not going to be one church anymore. We’re not going to see people anymore. How is the pastor going to go back and forth from room to room? What about worship?” But at the core, and these wouldn’t be the only ones, but I would say these would be the two things. One pro multiple venues and one against multiple services.

    Rich – Okay.

    Chris – So the pro for multiple venues was vision driven because we knew to be a regional church of ten thousand people, we were not going to be one service in one location. We had already made that decision.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So it was just like, at some point we have to do multiple venues.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – Man if we did a venue onsite, that’s way less risky than doing a venue offsite. I don’t know what the percentage would be of offsite campuses that fail at a first shot, but we thought, man if we did an onsite venue, we can control the experience, we’re not paying for rent, we don’t have to pay for a ton of equipment, we did have some startup cost, we’re not going into a new neighborhood or a new location, we’re not asking people to leave what they’re familiar with. So that was the first thing, it was really vision driven, onsite, safe venue.

    The second one which is sort of against multiple services is, we weren’t ready at the time to duplicate some of our volunteer teams and that would be mostly in kids and in hospitality or connections.

    Rich – Okay.

    Chris – So to take our full kids’ offering, we do from birth from up to grade four for kids and then grade five up to grade eight is for junior high in the morning. That takes a lot of volunteers on Sunday morning. Greeters, ushers, all that stuff and we felt to ask people to serve two services on a Sunday with three year olds, it’s not going to work out.

    Rich – Yeah exactly.

    Chris – So those two things, where we felt at the point we were at we weren’t ready to double our serving teams and we knew we were going to eventually be multiple venue. So those two things working together were sort of like, “Man let’s try this.”

    Rich – Let’s do it. So what does it look like? Can you kind of describe what’s happening when you say multi-venue? Obviously it’s a smaller room, what is the experience like if I came to that venue?

    Chris – Yeah, so our main auditorium, about 900 seats, about 200 in the balcony, so a good sized room. We put a ton of energy into our Sunday morning. Sunday morning is our main event for us. We say like every Sunday is the Super Bowl, it’s a big deal for us. We didn’t want our second venue, or auditorium B to be amateur hour. So what we talked about is we have live worship, live hosts, live teaching by video.

    Rich – Okay.

    Chris – Live worship, live hosts, live teaching by video. Our auditorium B seats about 220 people.

    Rich – Wow that’s good.

    Chris – We spent some money, like we put in this black curtain, there’s a TV above my shoulder here.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – There’s two screens, you can see the ‘Kingdom King’ that’s a neon sign, it’s turned off right now.

    Rich – Nice.

    Chris – We love neon and Kingdom King is our annual theme. It’s a stage element that was present in our main auditorium that we brought over to auditorium B, we found that was really important.

    So we have a live host, a host for us on Sunday morning does our welcome, does our transitions out of worship, announcements, offering, congregational prayer. They also do the close of the service, so there’s three segments for the host.

    So we have a live host in the main auditorium and in auditorium B. A live worship, that was really important for us, that’s sort of a key part of the C4 worship experience, it’s not coffee house, it’s not acoustic. We were actually really careful, it’s actually not the quiet venue, it’s still loud in here, in this room. So one week I might be leading or one of our worship leaders will be leading in the main auditorium with their team, the next Sunday they’d be leading in auditorium B. It wasn’t the junior varsity team.

    Rich – Right, right, right, right.

    Chris – That was really… because we were asking people to give up their seat in the main auditorium and come to auditorium B to make more room for new people in the main auditorium.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So we didn’t want to dumb down the experience and say like, “Oh you know, sorry we couldn’t give you the real deal, here’s the leftovers.”

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – Then live teaching by video.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – That was a language decision where we didn’t say video teaching but we said live teaching by video and we did it, I mean literally as easily as we could.

    We have one camera in our main auditorium. We already had it there because we had a one camera podcast where we just video the service. We had some tech guys, I’m not a tech guy, but I know what I want for a final product. There’s a cable that comes out of the camera that gets sent from the big room to the small room and then we use ProVideoServer, the guys that make ProPresenter. So if people are familiar with using ProPresenter from Renewed Vision, they have a sister product called ProVideoServer. We looked at all kinds of solutions like PVRs, security camera software, we scoured a way to do it on the cheap. ProVideoServer isn’t cheap but it’s not… you could spend a lot more money than what you’d spend on ProVideoServer but we found that it was the right solution.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So we have, in our tech booth and auditorium B, one Mac mini that runs ProPresenter, one Mac mini that runs ProVideoServer. So the teaching feed comes into the ProVideoServer, Mac Mini goes into our switcher and out to our projectors. We don’t get tricky with multi cameras, all that stuff, it’s literally just one camera feed being sent over from the big room to the small room.

    Rich – So what happens? So obviously you invested a bunch of time, effort and energy. I love the language stuff there, I’m sure people picked up on that, because I think you can… I’ve stubbed my toe on that stuff in the past, if you don’t think that stuff through, there’s unintended consequences when you use, you know, language like video teaching or whatever you can end up there. So what ended up taking place? Did it work? Did people..? Because that’s going from the main room, even though it’s only… I’ve been in your building, it’s probably 200 feet or 100 feet, it’s close but emotionally that’s a big difference, what happened?

    Chris – So what we did is we had the opportunity to make it visionary and to say, “We’re full, there’s lots of people coming.” You can feel it right? You can feel the pain. We had just gone through and Easter weekend where we were jammed out, we had people… sorry a Christmas where we had people in the isles, it was packed.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So we went to people early in the year and said, “It’s full, you know that there’s more people coming. We just have to make more room, we have to make more seats.” So we actually asked for 150 people to RSVP.

    Rich – Okay, nice.

    Chris – We used that language, you know, we said, “Just like you would make a reservation for a restaurant we want you to RSVP and we are asking for ten weeks.” We launched a trial and we told people, we invited people to help us learn. It goes back to this, you know, it’s better to fail onsite than offsite. “We know this is our future so please help us learn this. We need 150 of you in auditorium B every Sunday and here’s the first date.” We did a dry run the Sunday before. The dry run Sunday, we had our highest attendance ever.

    Rich – Oh my goodness, wow.

    Chris – Not a coincidence, we’d been planning for it and in talks for a long time and March 23rd 2014 we had our highest attendance ever and coincidentally March 30th was our first Sunday where we opened up a couple of hundred more seats.

    Rich – Wow.

    Chris – So we ran for ten weeks and numbers would have varied between 110 to maybe 230 up and down, it never felt empty at the service.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – The seasonal pattern followed the way it did in the main auditorium but essentially that’s what we did. We just asked people to step up and to say yes to make more room in our main auditorium.

    Rich – So if you only have 220 seats and you’re pushing up against 230 some weekends, what happened then? That seems like, okay it’s working, like it’s great, again it would be great if it was, “We averaged 150 and just kept going,” but it sounds like you were pushing up against that.

    Chris – Yeah so the first couple of weeks we setup we actually… I said we could seat 220, we actually setup about 250 chairs.

    Rich – Okay nice.

    Chris – So the first Sunday it was rammed in here, it was hot, people were squished in and we thought, “Man nobody’s going to come back if the experience is like this, so let’s actually take away chairs. We’re still opening up more seats than we need, so let’s take away some chairs, so that when this room is full, even people who want to be in auditorium B, they will feel good about that even if they have to sit in main auditorium.”

    We did baptisms in here, we did communion in here, we did Easter Sunday in auditorium B, we felt like everything that we would do in our main auditorium, we should replicate that in auditorium B and not have it feel like a secondary experience.

    Rich – Yeah I think this is a great. For churches out there that are thinking about, particularly you guys that are thinking about multisite and I know a part of the punchline is you’re going to end up launching another campus here.

    Chris – Yeah.

    Rich – But I think this is a great first step because you’re learning there, there is a part of it where even just whoever’s doing the teaching, being in front of a camera, learning what that’s like, you know, learning to kind of how, how do they deal with that, that’s all win all around.

    Chris – Yeah.

    Rich – That’s fantastic.

    Chris – And we didn’t just say that we wanted to learn, we actually, like we were really intentional about it. So every Sunday we had… we don’t do comic cards a lot here at C4, we did comic cards on the seats, every seat, every Sunday.

    Rich – Interesting.

    Chris – And the first five weeks it was literally just rate the experience.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – “Did you enjoy being in auditorium B for the service? Yes or no?”

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – “Did you enjoy watching the pastor onscreen?” The sort of valuations, some questions were one to ten, but basically it was the experience. The second half of those ten weeks, the last five weeks, we started asking missional questions. “Would you invite a friend with you to attend a C4 venue like this?”

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – “If there was a C4 venue like this closer to where you lived, would you choose to attend that venue rather than our main service?” It was really interesting but we were really intentional about asking for input and trying to learn and man we learned a ton.

    Rich – Very cool. Good so then does it continue to run today?

    Chris – No. So we ran it for that initial ten weeks, end of March until whatever, May.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – Then, like a lot of places do, summer attendance changes and so we went back, just to our main auditorium for the summer. September hit, we relaunched auditorium B and by September we were out of a learning mode. So now this is like a full-fledged venue for us. Please God we continue to grow so that by the time we got into October/November, we were staring to fill up again our main auditorium and then the question started to ramp up, “Okay now what? Now what do we do?”

    Rich – Right, right, right.

    Chris – So what we decided to do was in December we launched a second service and so we went from one service time in two locations to two service times in one location. So right now we do 9 o’clock and 11:15 in our main auditorium.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – We’ve been doing that since December, it’s now middle of April, it’s starting to get full.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – We’ve had record attendance multiple times.

    Rich – That’s great.

    Chris – We’ve done that, so we know we’ve got auditorium B as a release valve, as an option for us, even just for one service. We could do 9 o’clock in two venues, 11:15 in our main auditorium, maybe vice versa and then we’re also still in big conversations and planning about this offsite venue as well.

    Rich – Very cool. So was there anything that you learned from launching the venue that then you kind of took and applied that to going to multiple services?

    Chris – Oh yeah. Well I guess I said one of the reasons we didn’t do multiple services back in the spring was, part of the reason was our volunteer teams, we didn’t feel like we had capacity to double our teams in hospitality and kids. By the time we got through our ministry last year we felt like, “Okay maybe we can now ramp this up,” and so we did a big campaign that we called Add and Multiply and that was our lingo for going to two services. We told people we’ve added a venue and now we need to multiply and do a second service, because the communication around that always gets tricky.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – Especially because we were asking everyone to change. We had a 10 o’clock service time and we didn’t have a 10 o’clock service anymore, we were going 9:00 and 11:15. So we were asking everyone to change.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So, “Man don’t tell me what to do, I’ve been coming to church for 10 o’clock since…” “No you haven’t but…” So we use that Add and Multiply, we’ve added a venue, now we need to multiply into services and we use that same language for serving.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – We were asking people to add to their serving, you know, “You might serve occasionally, would you consider serving regularly?” Then we said we also need to multiply our teams. “If you have never served before”, like you might say, “this is the perfect time.”

    Rich – Yeah time to get in.

    Chris – Yeah it’s the perfect time to get in, and so we use the Add and Multiply for the venue and service time but also for our volunteer teams and man the response was massive, it was awesome.

    Rich – Nice, very cool. Well just for curiosity sake, how did the kind of attendance split out between the two; the 9:00 and the 11:15? Where did that land for you?

    Chris – Well I think everything… I think the general accepted is like you’ll see 60/40.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – So 60 at the earlier and 40… So we’ve been around there.

    Rich – So wait a second. 40 at the second? Your second service is smaller?

    Chris – Yeah, our second service is smaller.

    Rich – Very interesting.

    Chris – Part of that I think is weather, we’ve had a brutal winter. So it’s now nicer weather, it’s starting to, it’s actually starting to even out in our adult numbers but our kid numbers are still 60/40 at the earlier.

    Rich – Okay, interesting.

    Chris – But our adult numbers are yeah, pretty even.

    Rich – Great, so you’ve created a bunch of space at that 11:15 service, which is great.

    Chris – Yeah.

    Rich – That’s fantastic.

    Chris – Yeah we’ve created a bunch of space but we’ve had some Sundays where we’ve been pretty full.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – It’s awesome.

    Rich – That’s incredible.

    Chris – Yeah.

    Rich – Nice, well is there anything else you want to share, just around all of this, around multiplying venues and service times before we move on?

    Chris – I guess to say like, if you’re thinking about it, go for it. There’s conversations you’ve got to have like, “How do we feel about video teaching?” I think pastorally you should wrestle through that so that you’ve got… if you’re in pastoral leadership you should wrestle through that, so you’ve got a handle on it, because people will ask.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – It cost less money than we were expecting it to, to do it well.

    Rich – Interesting.

    Chris – It costs money, it’s not free.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – You could do it for free or for really cheap, but it’s worth the investment because we had a couple of hundred people and they were choosing to be here. On Sunday morning, sleep in, work on the garden, go to kids’ soccer, whatever it is, they’re choosing, the least we can do is create a great environment and a great experience for them.

    Rich – Right.

    Chris – So invest in the experience for people when they come and it costs less than we thought and the other thing would be, and this has been proven but it was a good learning for us, like video teaching works.

    Rich – Right, right.

    Chris – It really works and the clincher for me, we had a Sunday, one of our first Sundays in auditorium B, our pastor, he loves to tell stories, he’s got little kids and suburban that’s great, he tells stories about his kids and the goofy things they do. He was talking about going to the grocery store and saying like, “You know the grocery store and my kids doing this…” and he says something like, you know, “Who’s ever been in that kind of situation before?” and in auditorium B…

    Rich – People put their hands up?

    Chris – Yeah people all across the room put their hands up and that for me was the clincher that they were watching on video but they were interacting the same as they would in a live experience.

    Rich – Yeah it’s so true. Yeah I’ve seen that in so many different venues where people assume if… everyone has a reason why it won’t work in their community, you know, like I’ve talked to folks in California and they’re like, “Well you know, this is the entertainment industry, it won’t work here.” They are like they’re in some part of the country where they perceive that they have a higher level of intellectuals, “I’m not sure this will work.” Or it’s the other way, it’s like, “Well this is like Bluegrass Country, it’s not going to work here.” But generally it works, it works as a strategy for sure.

    The other thing I love, I hope people just underline this as we kind of wrap up, is I love that, I think, so many churches get to the point where you got to and they get paralyzed and don’t find a way to multiply and actually that limits the work of God in your church right? Which I know is a scary thing to think about but it’s true right? If you don’t… there’s a part of this that’s like a faith step where it’s like, “We’re going to try this thing and see what happens,” but it is possible for us to slow things down, to slow down the momentum, you know, we’re feeling.

    Chris – Yeah.

    Rich – Well Chris, I really appreciate you being on the show today. Thanks for taking time out. We’ve come in about 25 minutes, so we’ve had a great conversation, but one thing I want to ask you about before we leave, is I follow you on Instagram and I’m following you on Twitter and what is this about chickens? What is happening in your life with chickens?

    Chris – So I have a wonderful wife, she’s amazing, we’ve been married for 12 years and she’s a country girl and we have four kids, we have two dogs and a cat, so it’s not like we’re looking for more things to do right?

    Rich – Oh my goodness.

    Chris – I don’t know, I mean chickens, it’s something we’ve been talking about for a few years. There’s something, I don’t know, there’s something kind of romantic about like…

    Rich – Raising some chickens.

    Chris – A little backyard, raising some chickens, having some eggs.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – Although we’re a suburban church, our house isn’t in a suburban neighborhood, we live a little bit out of town, we’ve got a little bit of property.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Chris – So we’ve been talking about it for a few years and the time was right and so yes, we are now officially chicken owners.

    Rich – Fantastic.

    Chris – 16 little chicken meatballs arrived at our house last week. The kids are fascinated, the dogs are fascinated, the cat, like she’s terrified.

    Rich – Right, right, right. Well particularly as they grow.

    Chris – So they’re in a big rubber container in our living room for a couple of weeks, then move to the basement for about a month, then we’ll kick them outside. You’ll love this because, I mean the real reason is so that my kids can have a job and sell eggs and make some money so that we can go back to Disney.

    Rich – Nice.

    Chris – That’s the real reason, I know you’re onboard for that.

    Rich – That’s great. Well Chris I really appreciate you being on the show today. If people want to get in touch with you or with C4 how can they do that?

    Chris – So me personally: chrisfromcanada everywhere, so chrisfromcanada on Twitter. chrisfromcanada on Instagram. Periscope, are you Periscoping?

    Rich – I haven’t, you know, I’m an android guy. I was looking for it but I don’t think they have that app yet.

    Chris – Ah, sorry to hear that, I’m sorry to hear that.

    Rich – I know.

    Chris – You can do a whole podcast on Periscope, it’s awesome.

    Rich – Yeah it’s cool.

    Chris – So people can track me that way and I love connecting with people all over the place, mostly because I learn so much from people who are doing stuff differently from me. So I love to connect that way. C4: is our main site and then on social media it’s c4churchdurham, we’re in Durham region, so c4churchdurham on social media. is our website.

    Rich – Nice, well thanks so much Chris, I really appreciate you being on the show, taking time out, I know you’ve got a lot going on but I really appreciate you taking time to be with us today.

    Chris – Anytime Rich, thanks man.

    Rich – Thanks, bye.

    —Huffduffed by theprd

  3. Mike Linch on Mobilizing Your Church To Impact Your Community | unSeminary

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    This week I was blessed to have Mike Linch share with me his take on the importance of churches forming relationships with and staying connected to the people in their communities.

    Mike is a pastor in Kennesaw, Georgia. His church, NorthStar started as a church plant a little more than 18 years ago. Like most churches that begin as “plants,” their goal was to reach people who were not attending church. He recalls being told at that time by Steve Sjogren, who launched Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio,

    “Don’t go to plant a church, go to reach a city.”

    Mike and his team made a commitment when NorthStar was planted that everyone in Kennesaw would know who they were. How have they accomplished their vision?

    Grass Root Model

    Mike reports that NorthStar chose to make their presence known in Kennesaw, not through great gorilla marketing and advertising, but through a “grassroots” model of serving their community. They made service part of the very fabric of who they are, even before they held their first worship service.

    In the early days of NorthStar, like many church plants, they had a limited budget to work with, but God opened the door for them to get started. The local high school, where NorthStar was to begin holding services, was hosting a Christmas basketball tournament. Mike and his team asked the school what their biggest need was, and they filled it. NorthStar ran the tournament hospitality room for the coaches, officials and visiting teams.

    What that initial act of service was all about was beginning a relationship. It taught NorthStar they exist not for themselves, but for others. And not just one time. All year. All the time.

    Over the years, NorthStar’s relationship with the schools of Kennesaw has continued to develop. Trust and friendship have grown. For each of the schools in the area, they have helped with hospitality-related events. Some examples:

    Football concession stands: Football is big in Georgia. Concession stands are typically staffed by parents of the band, cheerleaders and players. NorthStar volunteers run the concessions so parents can be in the stands, watching their kids.

    Special Needs: Kennesaw has a large population of special needs kids. Mike’s church has volunteers to sponsor these children and helps provide hospitality and supplies for dances and other events. They provide meals for bus drivers who help route the kids where they need to go.

    Volunteer Pastors: NorthStar provides pastors to serve as counselors on school campuses and on call for the schools.

    Many, if not the majority of churches today, have enough trouble filling their own volunteer slots. Pastors may have enough to do just getting their weekly services off the ground. It most likely goes without saying that love for Jesus is the over-riding motivating factor in serving this way, but apart from that …


    Strategy: Mike explains that outreach and service are part of NorthStar’s strategy. It’s what makes them stand out. He puts it like this:

    If you’re not remarkable, you’re invisible.

    It used to be that churches could be set apart by other things. Maybe a contemporary style of worship made your church different. That’s no longer true. Most churches today offer praise bands and some sort of alternative worship. People don’t wake up on Sunday morning and decide to visit your church for reasons like that. We wanted to be remarkable in our service. We wanted to let people know we care.

    A.R.: This is part of NorthStar’s strategy. This is an acronym they borrowed from “Coke” and it means “within arm’s reach.” Mike sums it up like this:

    We wanted to throw down a flag and say,

    “We’re here until you need us and we’re staying until you do.”


    Mike is willing to bet if you take a gifts and talents survey of your members, 80% of them will have the gift of helps and service. Not everyone is able to teach or administrate, but many people can serve others and they truly want to channel their gifts in service to Jesus. This opens up a way for them to do that.

    A by-product of making a commitment like this is that you need to realize that you can’t be doing big events on your own church campus every day or maybe not even every month.

    For their bigger events, NorthStar advertises their need for volunteers in their services. Sometimes, the need for help is passed down through their small groups. All of the sign-ups are done on-line.

    Mike’s church is doing whatever they can to make their community the greatest place on earth to live. He paraphrases the words spoken by Jeremiah:

    “if the city prospers, we all prosper.”

    To learn more about NorthStar’s vision of serving in the Kingdom of God, visit or you can email Mike at or find him on Twitter @mikelinch.

    Episode Highlights

    00:33 // Rich introduces Mike Linch and welcomes him to the show.

    01:08 // Mike tells us how NorthStar Church began.

    03:31 // Mike gives examples of how NorthStar Church supports local schools.

    05:51 // Mike talks about NorthStar’s strategy.

    08:40 // Mike talks about the process of signing up volunteers.

    09:53 // Mike talks about other organizations NorthStar supports.

    12:23 // Mike talks about the vision of NorthStar – “The fiber of the community”.

    13:08 // Mike talks about the roles of the community pastors.

    14:53 // Rich shares his thoughts on community outreach work.

    16:03 // Mike and Rich discuss the impact of churches.

    17:36 // Mike advised people to start small and offers an example of a volunteer who started a ministry called HOG.

    20:12 // Mike offers contact details.

    Episode Transcript

    Rich – Hey happy Thursday everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Thanks so much for listening in, honored that you would take some time out as you prepare and get ready for this weekend at your church.

    We’re super privileged to have Mike Linch with us today, a pastor from NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Georgia. Mike welcome to the show.

    Mike – Thanks Rich, honored to be on here and glad to be back with you.

    Rich – No I’m so glad to have you here. Now one of the things I love about NorthStar is I think a lot of churches talk about kind of being engaged in the community but Mike and his team at NorthStar, really for their whole existence, really even before Mike was there, really has been so committed to connecting with their community. So we’re looking forward to digging into that today. Why don’t you give people a sense of NorthStar? Kind of tell us the story there, a little bit about your church.

    Mike – Sure absolutely. We began like most church plants, we began as a church that wanted to reach people who didn’t go to church and that’s sort of the mantra of all church planters and we’re embarking on the journey. We’re a little over 18 years old. When we started 18 years ago there weren’t a lot of guys out there doing it, but one of the things that was told to us early on by a guy named Steve Sjogren of the Cincinnati Vineyard, Steve said, “Don’t go to plant a church, go to reach a city,” and I’m telling you, we really sort of bought that heart and we made a commitment that nobody outside our [Inaudible00:01:40] Kennesaw [Inaudible 00:01:40] County Atlanta may know who we are but we’re committed that everybody there does know who we are.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – And we chose to do it, not through great grower marketing and advertiser, we chose to do it through serving, sort of a grassroots model of serving our community. So it’s something that we stuck with, even before our first worship service, we started doing it and it’s become part of the culture of who we are.

    Rich – So in those early days, what did that look like? Even before you started services or right when you were just starting out, what did it first look like and then obviously we’ll kind of talk about where we are today?

    Mike – Absolutely. Well you know back then, for all of us in church planting you have no money.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – So whatever you do you’ve got to have it built with zero cash.

    Rich – Yes.

    Mike – So we went to a local high school that we were going to be meeting in and just said… they were having a Christmas basketball tournament, I’ll never forget it and we went and said, “Listen, what’s your biggest need during the tournament?” They said, “We need somebody to run hospitality for us, the hospitality room for coaches and officials and visiting teams.” So we volunteered to run that and that was how we got in.

    Rich – Fantastic.

    Mike – At the end of it I remember them going, “Why would you guys do that?” and the answer was, “Well you said you needed help.”

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – It began a relationship that goes on 18 years later that’s much deeper and stronger now than running a Christmas basketball tournament, but it taught our people, we are not here for us, we’re really only here for other people and this isn’t something we’re going to do once a year, it’s going to be something we do all year, 365.

    Rich – Kind of keeping with that school example how has your relationship, because I know it’s grown and developed over the years, how has that grown from something simple as, “Hey we’ll help run the hospitality room,” how has that continued to develop over the years?

    Mike – It’s a great question Rich. It’s developed in big ways, it grows like a child. There’s trust developed, there’s friendship developed. Now for each of the schools we do things with hospitality, we’ll go in during football season, which is big in Georgia on Friday nights, we go in and run concession stands, so parents can go and watch the game.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – Usually it’s the football player, cheerleaders’ parents/grandparents that are running the concessions and they miss their kids’ performance. We go in and say, “Look we’ll take care of that, you guys go and enjoy the game.”

    Rich – Wow.

    Mike – It’s goodwill, it’s friendships that are built. That to hosting special needs dances for the local high school that we help raise resources with cookies and drinks and things like that for the school and they have about 600 special need students and we help sponsor that dance and we feed all the special needs bus drivers to mentoring to being on principal search committees to volunteering in classrooms to having a dedicated student pastor at each campus, we call them Tribe Leaders that serve that campus. Rather than just saying we do a bible study there, the school knows they can call that person as a person that can come in and come alongside to help them with events and projects and things going on.

    So whatever the school needs, like in a few weeks we’ll be hosting a fifth grade carnival because who works it? Fifth grade parents work it. Fifth grade parents want to be with their kids, so we provide all the volunteers to come in.

    We have the volunteers, they have the people in the community that may not go to church anywhere, so it’s a great bridge for us to go and meet people. We don’t hand out flyers, tracks, we’re there with a smile and serving until somebody asks why. When they ask why we get to give them a great answer.

    Rich – Now, so this is the cynical side of me and there is someone else thinking this, I don’t actually think this, but why would you do all of that? That’s a tremendous amount of external work. I know a lot of church leaders are listening in and they’re like, “Gosh I’m having a hard time running weekend services, the thought of running a fifth grade party at a local middle school, I’m not sure I could do that, why would you keep doing that?” I understand because we love Jesus…

    Mike – Right.

    Rich – But tactically or outside of that how have you seen that impact your ministry?

    Mike – Well I totally understand that and we wonder the same things sometimes. So I think we would all follow that boat.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Mike – I would say it’s a strategy for us and it’s our strategy to reach our community. Everybody hits mailboxes with flyers. We’ve got a church in every school in Kennesaw, Acworth, Northwest [Inaudible 00:06:09] there’s a church in every school.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – So the question becomes, it’s a Simon Sinek question or a thought. He said, “What makes you remarkable…” His statement was, “If you’re not remarkable you’re invisible.” For us it’s our remarkable. It’s what makes us stand out because we realize what most other church leaders realize, people don’t get up on Sunday morning and go, “God I think we might try a new church today.” They usually try a new church when their life hits a wall.

    Rich – That’s so true.

    Mike – When their life hits a wall we want to be the church that they go, “You know, I don’t know much about them but I know this, I ran into them at the school, I ran into them at the ball field.”

    [Inaudible 00:06:52] we had a guy that was a consultant with Coke Cola meet with us and he said the early strategy of Coke Cola was, they called it WAR, within arm’s reach. Wherever you go in the world you run into a Coke product and you run into a Coke machine which is true.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Mike – He said to us and this guy was not a believer, he said to us, “I would think you would want to, in this community, be so well represented in every facet of the community, whenever someone turned around they ran into NorthStar.” For us, we identified those areas as schools, businesses, ball fields, local government. In those four areas we wanted to throw a flag down and say, “We’re here until you need us, but we’re going to serve you until you do.” It’s been a model of… and what we found out Rich and I think a lot of church leaders found out, you know, if you do a spiritual gift survey of your people, 80% had the gift of helps and service. So for a lot of people it unleashes them to do a method of evangelism, they’re not going to do by knocking on somebody’s door and they’re not going to do by handing out a track.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – But they go and can serve somebody and love somebody. Now the by-product of that is, you can’t put on a gazillion church events.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – You can’t do something on your campus every day of the week.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – It’s got to be something that you say, “We’re committed to doing this,” and people love it, people love it and we love doing it.

    Rich – What does the structure of that look like? So let’s say you’re going to help with an event at the local school, how do you actually structure getting volunteers and mobilizing them? People can get a sense of what that looks like within their own church, but what does that look like when you’re doing this kind of ministry?

    Mike – It’s all pretty much… we’ll advertise some of the bigger ones, we’ll advertise our services, but a lot of the smaller things that we do during the week is for instance, we do special needs buddies. There’s a local field called Horizon field and they do kickball and baseball for special needs kids. We provide a set of buddies, we don’t provide the whole thing, but we provide a set of buddies that go every week. We do all of our signups online.

    Rich – Okay.

    Mike – So they’re all on our website at and I believe it’s /community and you can see. So people go to our website and they sign up there for all these different opportunities that we have and people signup and volunteer and there’s a database that we have of volunteers our community staff or email saying, “Here’s our [Inaudible 00:09:24] if you’re interested go to the web and signup. Sometimes we do it through small groups, sometimes we do it through our student ministry, our children’s ministry. So each one’s a little different but they’re all web based, everything is based off that and that’s how people get signed up for it.

    Rich – Okay very cool. Now you had mentioned schools, I can see lots of opportunity there, that one seems real straight forward to me, I can understand that. You also mentioned businesses and government, any other examples of how you’re serving in those domains?

    Mike – Sure, we partner, just recently, our Acworth Police Department, which is a neighboring city to us. They were hosting a get together to open their new police station. Our community pastor called them and said, “Listen, let NorthStar come in and celebrate with you and we’ll provide all the snacks and drinks and man the hospitality tables as all the local officials come in.” That was one way.

    We host the local business organization, Acworth Business Association. We host that on our campus. We talked last time about leveraging your facilities.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Mike – So we leverage facilities for them to meet, we’ll also partner with them. A local this weekend is a big festival in Downtown Kennesaw. We provide resources and we’ll provide people to go in and work with that and help with that. So our goal Rich is to do whatever we can to make our communities the greatest place in the world to live.

    You know Jeramiah said, “If the city prospers, we all prosper.”

    Rich – That’s so true.

    Mike – So more people move in, the school’s test grades are better if we provide mentors, which means our community becomes more attractive for people to want to live in and serve in.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – So by doing that I think it’s a way that we can make everybody better.

    Rich – Yeah, part of what I want people to kind of hear, just even on the tactical side and we found this at Liquid. We do a number of community outreach events and over the years we’ve done a number of these renovations for community service organizations, where we’ve gone into soup kitchens and battered women shelters and transitional housing and it’s funny because I’ve joked internally, I’m like there’s like a team of people that have the gift of interior design and then we kind of spend a weekend and do an extreme home makeover there and that’s been incredible for us. That skill, we’ve transferred from kind of a bunch of different community service organizations and built up all kinds of goodwill, it’s been fantastic and the interesting thing there is, those volunteers, those groups of people, they learn how to do that, they understand what that looks like, and then you could take that and move it to multiple locations.

    Mike – Absolutely.

    Rich – What I hear you guys saying, even on the hospitality side, which is a number of the things you’ve listed, “We provide hospitality at this, at this, at this,” which is a similar task, it’s obviously different everywhere you go, similar though, so it becomes easier to replicate, easier to get people to plug into it.

    Mike – That’s correct and you unleash people and here’s the beautiful part for churches. It is a six, seven day a week reminder, it’s not about us.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – It isn’t about your four walls, it’s easier to remember when you’re in school, but when you move into a building it’s easier to begin to think, “Well they’ll all come to us.” Really?

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – They’re not supposed to come to us, we are supposed to go to them and it’s a way to do that and we say, “We don’t want to be a part of the community, we want to be a part of the fabric of the community,” that if we were gone we would be missed, our influence would be missed. So that’s the way we’ve chosen to go.

    Rich – Now you mentioned a couple of times the community pastor, tell me about that role, because you have actually staff resources associated to this. Tell me about that.

    Mike – That’s correct. Yeah we’re so committed to it we said we were going to designate two fulltime staff members that serve the community.

    Rich – Oh man.

    Mike – So one of them also works in our men’s ministry but he works with government and businesses and schools. So anything in that arena falls under him.

    We have another lady on our staff that works anything on the social end. So she works with the local social organizations, she works with local foster the DFCS system, we provide socks and underwear. When a child gets taken into foster care, many times they’re taken from their home, they don’t have toiletry items, they don’t have socks, they don’t have underwear, they don’t have the diapers. We do a monthly big give as a church. One of my favorite things we do, a monthly big give that supports one of those organizations, so people can bring in socks and underwear one month and it goes to that DFCS organization or to foster care.

    The world that has opened to us, we didn’t even… as a pastor I didn’t even know it was there.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – I’m not the guy leading it, we’ve got a whole other team of people leading it and coming up with the ideas but what it’s taught our people, for somebody who’s never given a financial resource to a church, they go shopping with their family to get toiletry items for Easter, for local children. Well they learn to give and it’s small but it teaches them to give.

    Rich – Absolutely.

    Rich – Then sometimes when that offering basket comes by or to the backdoor they go, “You know what, if I’ve given this and we didn’t miss it less, let’s begin to give another way.”

    Rich – Yeah.

    Mike – And the goodwill that it’s built in the community has been unbelievable.

    Rich – Absolutely. You know, I’ve had other church leaders and you know I’m from Jersey so you can sometimes be a little more forthright. I’ve had other church leaders kind of challenge and be like, “Gosh why do you do that stuff? Why do you do community outreach it’s a waste or whatever?” and I’ll say, “Listen, I think it’s what God calls us to do. I think the Bible’s pretty clear on it that we’re called to serve the community. We’re supposed to go out and make an impact.”

    But for a moment, and this is to other church leaders, for a moment let’s say you don’t go there theologically, for whatever reason you really are in the belief that, “No everyone should just come to us.” Put this in the same category as like fancy lights and good music because it literally builds bridges to the community, it literally is one of those things. It’s like, you know, like secret services in the ‘80s, it’s the kind of thing that engages the community at a level that you can’t… you know, there’s just no other way to get that. The reality of it is that most people in our communities aren’t waking up this weekend and saying, “I wonder what they’re talking about at our church this weekend,” they’re just not thinking that.

    Mike – That’s exactly right and here’s the other hard part for all of us.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Mike – When we started in ’97 we were very unique. We were contemporary worships, we were meeting in a school, there’s nothing unique about that anymore.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – In fact the reality is 98% of the churches you walk into are going to look very similar. Either they’re going to be a more traditional model or they’re going to be the more contemporary, current, new model.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – But outside that they look alike.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – So really the question becomes, what do we do to look different and not only what do we do to look different, what are we doing to make an impact? If we were to disappear tomorrow would anybody even notice besides our church members?

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – And for a lot of us, the reality is nobody would ever know we’re gone.

    Rich – Right.

    Mike – We’d just close shop, our influence was never there anyway.

    Rich – Yeah absolutely. You know I had a friend years ago who said, I was asking him, “What’s your vision for the church and how would you know you’re making an impact in the community?” They were a multisite church and he said, “You know what would be amazing”, he said, “it would be incredible if, when we announce we were opening a new campus in that location, if the property values in that location went up, because the community recognized when that church is there it makes such a big difference,” and I was like, “Wow that’s a huge vision, that’s a huge vision for us to be thinking about.”

    Well anything else about kind of engaging our community before we kind of wrap up for the day? This has been an incredible conversation. Anything else we should be thinking about as we kind of embark on this?

    Mike – I would just challenge people to start small. If you’ve never done it start small and start by your church. I have yet to meet a group that says, “No,” when you go offer to help.

    Rich – That’s very true.

    Mike – And I’ve heard people say, “Well we’re an older church and our seniors won’t like that.” What we have found, our greatest volunteers and we don’t have tons of them because of the style of church we are, but our best volunteers are those people, because they have time. They’ve retired, they’ve created…

    We’ve got a guy, he got saved at 62.

    Rich – Nice.

    Mike – Unbelievable story behind this guy but he began a ministry called HOG and it’s helping one guy.

    Rich – Okay.

    Mike – So they’ll identify a man in the community that’s through cancer, lost his job, they’ve lost a loved one and he’ll put on a dinner in their honor. All the money that comes into that dinner he’ll charge everybody a donation of $10. That will give somebody at the end of the night $1500.

    Rich – Wow, so cool.

    Mike – And say, “We just wanted to do this to let you know God loves you, NorthStar loves you,” and that’s a guy who is all about… I mean he lives, eats and breathes, anytime we’re doing something, he’s got time now he didn’t have 15 years ago. So I believe for the young couple and the mom who’s wanting to teach her kids things, to a student [Inaudible 00:19:00] to a senior, there’s an opportunity for everybody to go, “It’s not about me.” We say this all the time Rich and I’ll finish with this, I believe the greatest definition of spiritual maturity is others. When we begin to see life’s not about us.

    Rich – So true.

    Mike – When we begin to see that it’s not about what I know and it’s not about how saved I am. I’m saved, I’m going to Heaven, that’s secure. Everything from here isn’t about me, it really is about serving someone who doesn’t know yet. If that serving opens a door which it has for us, why not do it?

    Rich – Absolutely. Well this has been great encouragement, even to start real small with what you said, you know, go to the local school board, maybe try to get a meeting with your mayor and say, “What can we do to serve? How can we help?

    Mike – That’s right.

    Rich – And really come with open hands and say, “Hey we’re willing to do whatever you need done,” and you’ll be amazed at what will take place in your community.

    Mike I really appreciate you being on the show today, you know we’re out of time unfortunately but if people want to get in touch with you or with NorthStar how could they do that?

    Mike – They could always go to our web, or they can email me directly Rich at or on Twitter @mikelinch.

    Rich – Great. Thanks so much Mike, I really appreciate you being on the show today.

    Mike – Thank you Rich. Have a great day buddy.

    —Huffduffed by theprd

  4. Jordan Schiller from Real Thread Talks About T-Shirts as Ministry Tools | unSeminary

    Rich – Well hey everybody it’s Rich from the unSeminary podcast. Thanks so much for listening in, I’m so glad. You could have listened to a lot of things this morning and I’m so glad that you’ve decided to put us in your earbuds today. Happy Thursday, I hope things are going well at your church as we head into this weekend.

    Today I’ve got a new friend, somebody I’m excited to have on the show with us. We’ve got Jordan Schiller from Real Thread which is an organization that makes apparel and you’re like, “Why are we talking with someone who makes t-shirts?” But you’re going to hear in a minute, Jordan welcome to the show.

    Jordan – Thanks Rich, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

    Rich – Real Thread’s an organization that we partner with at Liquid, we buy literally thousands of t-shirts a year from these guys and I just thought it would be great to have Jordan on to talk a little bit about apparel and t-shirts and how that fits well into the church world.

    Just before we jump in with Jordan I want to tell you some of the different ways that we’ve used their products. We’ve talked about this in the past, our kind of first-time guests, we call them ‘new’ here. Folks that are new here, we give them a free t-shirt every weekend. We also do free t-shirts for our volunteers. So we do kind of normal t-shirts and then ones for our kids and then whenever we do a special event we also turn around a great t-shirt for folks. I’m super passionate about that, I think a great t-shirt is a great way to communicate your brand and people love it. There is a weird disproportionate value thing, I’ve said before, the actual cost of the t-shirt is lower than the value that people ascribe to when they get it.

    So that’s kind of why we’re talking about this today and I’m excited to have Jordan on the phone. Jordan why don’t you tell us a little bit about Real Thread and about you? What do you guys do?

    Jordan – Yeah that’s a great question. Real Thread is a screen printing company and we specialize in water based and discharge printing. Your industry standard t-shirt has a plastisol ink on it, which is ink that sits on top of the fabric, rather than soaking into the fibers of the shirt. So it’s not as high quality and it can crack and peel and it’s like a two or three dollar shirt that you can kind of pick up from anybody.

    At Real Thread what we do is water based and discharge printing and that print technique is in the ink itself, it’s still screen printing. That ink then soaks into the fabric of the shirt so it’s a nice super, super soft shirt with the super soft print that lends itself to a little bit higher quality, a shirt that someone’s actually going to want to wear. Then as you know, when someone actually wants to wear the shirt then we’re apt to talk about the shirt, have conversation, even start to develop some community around the shirt.

    Rich – Absolutely.

    Jordan – So that’s really kind of what we’re all about here at Real Thread.

    Rich – Yeah it’s funny, I’ve joked in the past with other folks. I’ve said that other kind of printing, I always joke, it’s kind of like the breastplate of righteousness. Putting on this t-shirt, by definition you wear a t-shirt on a hot day. If you wear that t-shirt on a hot day you’re like sweating underneath of it and it’s just like nasty. But a part of what I love about your process is the t-shirts do come out super soft. They’re the kind of thing that people want to wear.

    The reality of it is, when you spend a lot of money, which if you take anything and times it by a few hundred, it ends up becoming a big investment, ultimately I want to make sure that people wear it. If we’re going to pay for it let’s make something that people will actually wear outside of when we tell them or ask them to wear the shirt.

    Obviously this is a bit of a premium product so is there a typical cost differential between that and the normal breast plated righteousness shirt?

    Jordan – Yeah honestly pricing is so different based on: 1) the shirt that you’re ordering, 2) your design specs – is it one color, is it two color? How many colors are you putting on the shirt? So there really isn’t like a good average.

    For someone like yourself and someone like Liquid Church, who’s ordering large amounts of these shirts, the prices that you’re getting them at are very, very, very competitive when you’re comparing a high quality shirt to a plastisol shirt. Honestly the price point isn’t too different.

    It’s really tough to narrow it down and say, “Hey it’s going to be about an extra two to three dollars per shirt,” just because it’s so variant on the shirt that you’re ordering. Then the print spec, so you’re going to be printing on the shirt. Just the value of what you’re going to get out of it and just getting that shirt that someone’s actually going to want to wear, that’s the true value, that’s the true cost of the shirt right there.

    Rich – Yeah totally. If you give them a shirt that they don’t wear it doesn’t matter how much you’ve spent on it. Even if you’ve spent a dollar on it, which you can’t get a dollar shirt, but even if you spent a dollar on it, that’s just like throwing money in the garbage.

    Jordan – Absolutely.

    Rich – I’m sure people come to you and they give you designs and you’re like, “Okay well we’ll print that on it, sure,” because that’s your business. But if you could give kind of the inside skinny, what should churches be thinking about when they’re printing on shirts, or really any apparel? What should they be thinking through from a design point of view? Not necessarily like this is the hot color right now but just some general principles around that, what would you say to people?

    Jordan – That’s a great question and to answer that question I think talking about kind of a trend that’s happening right now in businesses and in churches as well is, if you don’t have a good design you’re going to suffer as a church or as a business. People look to design and say, “Hey this is authentic, this is genuine, someone actually cares about me,” because they’ve put the time into creating a great slide for worship, music, creating a great bulletin, creating a great poster that’s talking about an upcoming series or even creating a great t-shirt. One of the trends that we’re seeing is because of Real Thread we now give organizations and churches the opportunity to have a retail quality shirt by using the water based and discharge printing.

    So I guess just with that, more and more people are realizing and understanding, “Hey I need this quality of the shirt to show my customers, to show my audience that I genuinely and authentically care about who they are as individuals and as humans.”

    The thing I think gets the design or the t-shirt to become retail quality is a variation of three different things. Your design, you have to have a good design. It can’t just be bold text across the shirt, something created like that. You have to spend a little bit of time on the design of the shirt. The other two things are the super soft shirt, making sure that the shirt itself is actually going to be fitting on the audience the way you want it fitting, it’s going to feel soft. Then the third thing, that’s going to be the printing, making sure that the print turns out exactly how the designer wanted it to turn out.

    Those three elements are kind of the key elements, to even designing a good t-shirt you’ve got to start with a good design. Then even focusing on the design side a little bit, we’ve really noticed that the simpler designs typically do the best and simpler meaning like the number of colors, is it one or two colors or is it all over the map?

    Then the number of locations as well. A lot of times we get people who want to do four of five different locations and they’ll want one on the top, one on both sleeves, one on the back, a custom printed tag and it’s a little overkill. So we’ve really noticed the simpler the designs, although still creative and engaging with the audience, the more apt someone is going to be to actually put on the shirt.

    That’s something that, whoever you guys have got designing over at Liquid Church does an absolutely phenomenal job at designing. They’re great pieces, they’re one or two colors. You guys normally do a one or two thumb print with the sleeve print. I can only imagine that everyone at your church is probably loving to wear that shirt. You can price that better than I can.

    Rich – Yeah they are. It’s taken us a while, I used to joke t-shirts are now our core competency, like we would do t-shirts and it was like, “Gosh they just did not turn out well.” I think we’ve got better as we’ve done more and we’ve learned more about what people like and we’ve taken the feedback.

    A couple of things that we did, to kind of shift and change and try to get better at that, we actually would actively go out and like, “Let’s go into American Eagle…” or in whatever company, because they’ve spent a lot of time, effort and energy on figuring out what sells and actually the fact that it’s on the shelf in our local mall, by definition tells you it’s selling, because it’s already weeded out. So we thought, “Is there a way we could take what they’re doing there and kind of mix it, is there something we could pick up on a theme there?”

    I think the other thing we’ve learned is, we used to be super concerned about having to say everything in the shirt, as opposed to like, no it’s okay if it’s a logo or it’s kind of saying one thing. It doesn’t need to be this all-encompassing piece, it’s not your only communication piece obviously, which I think has taken some of the pressure off it and because we’ve switched to doing a couple of t-shirts a year, rather than pushing for one. We’ll joke with people, “Hey if you don’t like it it’s okay, six months from now it’s going to change, it will be okay.”

    Jordan – So you have found success as well in keeping the design simple rather than trying to portray the whole message. Maybe even use it as a conversation starter like, “Wow that’s a really cool shirt, where did you get that shirt?” “Well I got it from my church,” you know and just the ability to have that retail quality shirt, like you just mentioned, going out to the mall and saying, “Hey this is what’s selling, where can I get this?” Five years ago you wouldn’t have been able to do that, your only solution was plastisol ink. Now with the water based that can really become a reality.

    Rich – Absolutely and I think there’s another… You guys don’t offer design services to people right? Will you actually do that?

    Jordan – We can take designs that have been worked on and either factorize them, clean them up a little bit, change certain elements. We really don’t offer design services. One of the reasons is just culturally trending as a country, as organizations. Most organizations if they don’t have a designer onboard then again they’re not creating that authentic material but they need to be creating in order to have the audience or the user, the attendee feel loved at the end of the day.

    So we really try and pair up with designers and work with people who have an eye, have a knack for that but we’ll definitely clean up some work and even sometimes try and make a concept of an art or design come together and actually create it. But that’s not our main gauge.

    Rich – I get that. A couple of years ago we were pinched, we do have a couple of designers on staff but we were pinched. It was just super busy and we needed to get a new t-shirt out and we actually did the 99designs thing.

    So for folks that are listening that aren’t aware of this, there’s an organization on the web called 99designs. It’s a marketplace for freelance designers and they make it really easy to go in, you can go in and basically fill out a creative brief. It’s a couple of hundred bucks and what they do is a whole bunch of designers will start giving you designs and then you can work with a couple of them, refine it down and then export and say, “Yeah I’ll take that one.” We actually had pretty good success with that, it actually worked out pretty well. So that’s an idea for someone who’s on staff or listening in who does not have a volunteer or somebody who can do design work for you.


    So obviously the designs important, the actual shirt itself is important and then the printing, which you’ve come back to, you know the water based printing. What else are you guys finding? Is there anything else you’re finding as you’re working with people, maybe outside of t-shirts, do you guys do anything beyond just t-shirts or do you do other types of apparel as well?

    Jordan – Yes we definitely do other types of apparel but we really try and hone in and stick to only doing apparel. So there’s other printing companies that venture into mugs, Frisbees, flyers, posters, stuff like that but because we want to be the best at what we do, we’ve really decided we’re just going to stick to apparel and those main key apparel elements are hoodies, sweatshirts, tank tops and t-shirts. Those are the four main categories that we’ll stick to.

    Rich – Very cool. Alright just a couple of last questions before we jump into the lightning round. Can you give us a sense of the Real Thread story, where did you guys come from? I have a sense of what you do today but actually what’s your story?

    Jordan – The Real Thread story, like any good story it started with a problem. Drew Dalton who’s our active CEO and founder, he went to college here in Orlando at UCF and he was in a fraternity. In that fraternity they were ordering shirts there all the time. He really wasn’t satisfied with the shirts that they were ordering. He noticed that they were plastisol, they weren’t really like you would see in a retail store. So he was like, “We can make these shirts so much better. There are better shirts out there, why can’t our shirts be like this.”

    So he did a little bit of research and learned that the main factor of that was water base and discharge, having a super soft shirt, as far as the shirt and the printing goes as well and that’s what the water based printing does.

    So Drew got some printing equipment, flew out to, I think it was Seattle, trained, learned how to use it and by the time he got back he had accepted a thousand piece order without really knowing what to do.

    So that’s kind of where it started, moving from a thousand square foot warehouse to a 35 hundred square foot warehouse to now we’re in a 15 thousand square foot warehouse with three different presses, we got a great team.

    It started with that problem like, “Hey, how come businesses and organizations and churches can’t have a retail quality product?” Then finding that solution to that problem.

    Rich – Very cool. Well for folks that are unSeminary premium members and one of the things I’m super excited about is this Christmas our friends at Real Thread are going to be giving you a gift, a t-shirt. I’m so passionate about what they do, I think they do such a great job and they’ve agreed to give everybody who’s a premium member this year that. It’s going to get packaged up with a whole bunch of other stuff and we’re sending it out in just in a couple of weeks as we head into Christmas. So you’re going to get a sample to see.

    Again that’s just for premium members, so not everybody who listens to the podcast is going to get one but we’re just super excited about that and I just thank you so much for doing that Jordan, that’s going to be a great gift for our folks. So thank you for that.

    —Huffduffed by theprd

  5. Steven Barr from Cast Member Church in Orlando | unSeminary

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    Steven Barr is the Vision Pastor for Cast Member Church, serving the 67,000+ community of Cast Members who work for The Walt Disney World Resort, in Orlando, FL. During this interview Steven gives us insight into the fascinating “niche-ministry” he’s launched to reach this community. This is a great interview for church leaders looking to be inspired to reach out to their community in fresh new ways. Steven provides a great framework of Church Leaders looking to contextualize the gospel in fascinating ways!

    Steve Barr [twitter] [website]

    Interview Highlights //

    00:56 // Rich introduces Steven Barr.

    01:21 // Steven talks about The Disney Company and the employees.

    03:05 // Steven talks about his first visit to Disney and thinking, “Wow wouldn’t it be cool if there was a church just for cast members?”

    04:17 // Steven talks about how he started Cast Member Church.

    06:44 // Steven talks about how he reaches out to cast members.

    08:00 // Rich encourages all church leaders to check out

    08:45 // Steven talks about the success of Life Beyond Imagination.

    11:11 // Steven gives examples of those his ministry is reaching.

    12:30 // Steven talks about church leaders needing to know who they are to be able to reach into their community.

    13:27 // Steven talks about The Disney mission field.

    14:50 // Steven and Rich joke about living in close vicinity to attractions.

    15:21 // Steven offers advice to anyone thinking of church planting.

    16:12 // Steven shares his vision for the Cast Member Church.

    Lightning Round Highlights

    Helpful Tech Tools // Fuze

    Ministries Following // Looks to Disney Cast Members for inspiration

    Influential Book // Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and Church Unique by Will Mancini

    Inspiring Leader // Sir Ken Robinson

    What does he do for fun? // Playing and writing music and being at Disney

    Interview Transcript //

    Rich – Alright, well welcome, happy Thursday everybody, we just want to start off with that. Thanks so much for listening in to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host around these parts. Today we’ve got a fascinating interview, I’ve been looking forward to this. What if I was to tell you that there’s a group of people, actually 67 thousand people in this community, who don’t have, or up until this guest, who don’t have a kind of, active presence of Christ there, kind of a church, something reaching out to them. What if I was to tell you that that’s in America, in this country? Today’s guest is Steven Barr, I’m going to let you tell us what community that is, but Steven welcome to the show today.

    Steven – Thanks Rich, it’s a pleasure to be here.

    Rich – Nice, so Steven runs a ministry called Cast Member Church which reaches out, specifically to the cast members at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida, the largest single site employer, just heard this today, the largest single site employer in the entire country. So Steven, I look forward to hearing more about this, what’s the idea behind Cast Member Church?

    Steven – Well Cast Members, which is Walt Disney’s term for an employee, anyone who works for The Disney Company is a cast member because his attitude is that they have a role to play. It’s a show and no matter what your job is, you have a role to make the show happen.

    So anyway, you see where Disney draws the mostly talented, we call them dreamers and doers and this is a place where, not just Walt Disney World but Disney Land in the parts around the world but these are magnets for creative people and they’re like talent incubators. These young people come out of college, they come to work for Disney to develop their skills and not just entertainment but business and things like that, but it’s an incubator, it’s a magnet.

    Rich – Right, absolutely.

    Steven – So we felt what a great opportunity to be able to bring Christ into that formation process. As they’re developing their talents and abilities, if Jesus can become a part of that process as well, imagine the potential they have when they move on beyond Disney.

    Rich – Very cool. I know at our church we have, there’s like a cadre of… they would be 20 something, early 30 something, who have been through the college program at Disney World and it’s true, there is a unique quality of those individuals. When you kind of take them as a whole, they’re like talented, creative, people that are making a difference in all kinds of different industries now. So I think it’s such a unique idea what you’re doing here.

    So let’s take a step back, give us a bit of the history. How did you get started, why do this, it’s such an interesting ministry?

    Steven – That’s a great question. I’ve always loved Disney. Most people who have ever been to the parks, I mean that first time they remember going to Disney, it’s a magical experience. But for me that experience stayed with me, all the way growing up and in 1991, I believe it was, I was a cast member for a while and I remember looking around and going, “Wow, it’s a shame there isn’t a church to minister,” because all of these cast members have crazy schedules. I mean you cannot put something together that would be normal or predictable. But I remember thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a church just for cast members,” and I forgot about that, I really did. It was one of those things where, you know many, many years later it came back to, I don’t want to say haunt me, but it certainly came back to get me.

    Rich – Very cool, well has anybody tried this before and when you say church, like what is this? Do you do services at the foot of Cinderella’s Castle on Sunday mornings, how are you doing Cast Member Church?

    Steven – Wouldn’t that be fun. Well we are a church in the, we like to call it, in the biblical sense. When I started Cast Member Church, I came to Orlando and the first thing I did was to try to connect with other pastors. I started hearing the horror stories of churches that had tried and failed to reach Disney.

    Rich – Right, yeah.

    Steven – It’s a very… it’s show business.

    Rich – Right.

    Steven – So it’s like putting a church in Hollywood. Churches have tried and failed and so I started asking myself, “Well why, why have they failed because I know God would want something here?”

    Rich – Right.

    Steven – I had to admit that I came with this model in my mind of how it was going to work and how awesome it was going to be. I believe it was about two weeks into it where God took that plan and said, “No, no, not going to do that one.”

    Rich – Oh yeah, definitely.

    Steven – I almost had, not a crisis, but I really had a moment of truth where I really had to ask the Lord, “What do you want to do?” Not what are my plans, “What do you want to do?” and hearing all these stories about churches trying and failing and here’s a novel thought, I went back to scripture. I decided, how did it work, how did it work? The book of Acts became my best friend for weeks and I just kept looking at this dynamic church and somewhere in that wrestling, I heard a quote by somebody I’m very fond of, Mike Breen and he made this comment about, ‘if you plant churches you might get disciples but if you make disciples you always get the church’.

    Rich – So true.

    Steven – I thought, that’s it, that’s it, we’ve been doing it backwards. So instead of planting a church at Disney, let’s just focus on making disciples and if we make disciples, God will take care of the church.

    Rich – Very cool.

    Steven – That’s exactly what’s happened.

    Rich – Very cool, now that’s I think a great idea, a great thought. How instead of looking at… I’m assuming some of the ways that other churches failed, I’m assuming they were trying to import maybe other models, things that they had been doing in the past and that just doesn’t work. I hadn’t even really thought of this until we were going to interview, but it’s going 24 hours a day, at Disney World there’s constant activity there 365 days a year. So the idea of appointment based, we’re going to run a service or run some sort of deal, that may not work for you. So what does the ministry actually look like, how are you reaching out to cast members?

    Steven – Well the first thing I did is I started gathering a group of people that, kind of like my first group of disciples, the people that I’m going to invest in. Then these people in turn will lead their own groups. We’ve become a network that has, we call them the group’s Communi-Ds.

    Rich – Nice.

    Steven – D stands for Disney until they don’t like that, we’ll call it D for discipleship.

    Rich – Yes.

    Steven – But anyway we have these groups that meet all over Disney property, at different days, at different times and a cast member can choose a group that works for their schedule. If we try and do one service, we’ll draw maybe a hundred people and that’s it, because it’s just crazy, but if we put the emphasis on the discipling groups, not only do they have their own family but this is a place where an unbeliever can actually sit in a group of people and say, “I don’t get that,” or “You know, I’m not sure I believe that.”

    Rich – Interesting.

    Steven – That’s okay because it’s a family and so they’re drawn to the family element but within that family element, discipling begins to take place. So we have this network that meets at different times and different days.

    Rich – Very cool. One of the things I love… we’ll make sure, I want everybody who’s listening to check out your website which is and one the things I love about what you’re doing that I want church leaders to lean into, don’t write this off is, I think you’ve done an incredible job of contextualizing your ministry, you just kind of threw it out there; ‘Communi-Ds’. It’s a small thing right, it’s nodding to the culture you’re in, but I just think that’s powerful, what a powerful idea and just from what I see online, it’s through everything you do, you’re trying to find how to connect with these groups, with the people who are actually there.

    Now what kind of, for the lack of a better word, curriculum, what are you actually talking about in those groups? There’s probably a better word than that, but what’s that actually look like?

    Steven – Every time we launch a new group we start with something called Life Beyond Imagination. It’s a curriculum, I think that’s probably the best word, it’s a curriculum that I developed for cast members. What it does is we found out that, when you talk to cast member about Jesus, well let me back up. If I tell them I’m a pastor, they’re gone.

    Rich – Right, right, right, right.

    Steven – The conversation shuts down and the idea of talking about Jesus and even trying to get a conversation going is extremely difficult at least in our culture.

    Rich – Right.

    Steven – But in my conversations with cast member, I mean hundreds of cast members, I realized that none of them are afraid to talk about purpose.

    Rich – Very cool.

    Steven – I thought, okay that’s huge because this is the core of who we are, we exist because God has given each one of us a purpose, a reason to glorify him. So I thought, what if I worked through a scriptural model on how to help a person find their purpose and in that process we introduce Christ, we introduce this idea of, you have a purpose but you’re separated from the one who gave you that purpose.

    So we called it Life Beyond Imagination, which hence the Disney kind of vocabulary, but we also use what we call Disney speak, another word for vocabulary. We use words like, ‘story’, ‘dream’, ‘quest’, ‘mark’ and these words that float around Disney all the time, but the idea is every week, they’re working through this process of, “Why am I here? Who am I? Where am I going and why does all of this matter?” What’s wonderful about it is we’ve had an amazing conversion rate as a result.

    Rich – Very cool.

    Steven – It’s kind of surprised all of us but it’s been very successful. Then at the same time we’ve created a common vocabulary, a common set of values. The idea is that every person that goes through this, they’re able to tell their own story, they’re able to share, whether they’ve come to Christ yet or not, they know how to tell their story and that’s so crucial.

    Rich – Very cool.

    Steven – That’s so crucial here.

    Rich – Well I wonder if you can tell us, give us maybe an insight into an individual, the kind of person that your ministry is reaching, give us a sense of their profile and how has it impacted them?

    Steven – We use the term, ‘Dreamer and Doer’ and the idea is it’s someone who goes, “I know I have something to offer, I just don’t know what it is or how to do it.” These are usually artistic people and I don’t mean artistic like painters these are just creative…

    Rich – Yeah creative folks.

    Steven – They are usually just out of college, though Disney employs all ages, but we seem to draw those that want to make a difference in the world and so we’re able to say, “Hey you know what, we know that God wants you to make a difference too.” So that seems to be the connection right there. We have a lot of entertainers, we have people that work in merchandize, we have people that work in food and beverage, there’s really not one particular slice of the population, except to say that we are reaching the younger element obviously.

    Rich – Right very cool. Now what would you say to a church leader who’s listening in today and thinking, “Okay that’s interesting, I’m not in Orlando, but there’s maybe a…” They look at this and say there’s a college campus close by or maybe another large employer like Disney or another kind of identifiable subculture that does feel outside of them but they’d like to reach into them? What are some of those lessons or a few things that they should be thinking about, if they want to try to reach into that community?

    Steven – Well I would say first of all, ask the question, who do you love, who is it that you love, that you connect with? People seem to connect with you. I’m a dreamer and doer and so Disney just happens to be the place where those people come but you put me in any city, I’m going to be drawn to those people who are catalysts and innovators.

    So the question would be, who do I connect with, who has God created me to connect with? So you have to know who you are.

    Rich – Rich.

    Steven – Then you start thinking about, well where do those people gather? And you’re going to find out if there’s a mission field out there that’s designed just for you.

    Rich – Very cool, well this is fascinating. Now do you actually get a chance to be in the park, is that a part of what you do? Have you figured out the ultimate job? Like, “I’m ministering today, I’ve got to go and ride Space Mountain.”

    Steven – You know the truth is yes, I do. I’m in the park so much, it’s never gotten old. I’m not there riding the rides all the time, although if my kids come with me, chances are we’re going to end up on something.

    Rich – Yeah.

    Steven – But you know it’s fun. I have the coolest mission field in the world because where else can you go, where people are paid to talk to you. So I go in as a guest, I don’t receive any special treatment from Disney, we’re not endorsed by Disney or anything, but I go in with an annual pass and so I’m treated as a guest. So I look for cast members that are, you know you can just tell – I’d love to talk to somebody – so I’ll go up and just start a conversation with them.

    It’s been fun taking friends of mine into Disney as well and showing them what I do and they start to see the mission field as well. So I’m there a lot, I try to balance, not just the parks but the hotels. Most of our communities meet in hotels.

    Rich – Okay.

    Steven – So we don’t meet in homes, we meet actually on [unclear 00:14:31] and I live about three minutes from Cinderella’s Castle, so …

    Rich – Oh gosh. Wow my kids, if they can hear this thing, this will be very bad. They’ll be like, “Dad you’ve got the wrong ministry, why are you not in Florida?”

    Steven – I will tell you this though, I think my kids are the only ones you’ll ever hear, “Seriously dad, do we have to go to Disney today?”

    Rich – I can imagine that, I can imagine that. Well it’s funny because we’re similar, we’re like 45 minutes from Manhattan New York City and it’s the same thing right? Like I love going into Manhattan when guests come and my wife and kids are like, “No it’s fine, you take them, we’re staying here, I don’t really want to see Time Square one more time.” So I can identify with that.

    Well it’s fantastic, anything else you’d love to share with our listeners before we jump into the lightning round?

    Steven – Yeah just simply the fact that Disney sounds incredible, it sounds like it makes sense what we’re doing but the truth is, it took a lot of hard work to figure out how to make this work. I want to encourage anyone, if you’re really feeling called into church planting or some of what we’re doing, don’t be afraid to do the hard work because it’s worth it. God wants to do a new work through you, don’t necessarily look at models, you can learn from models, but don’t be afraid to step into something innovative because I really believe that’s how God grows the church.

    Rich – Actually you’re thinking about expanding or you’re in the process of expanding to other locations, tell us about that?

    Steven – Our vision is to have a Cast Member Church at every Disney location around the world.

    Rich – Wow.

    Steven – So that means, Anaheim, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

    Rich – Right.

    Steven – We are now getting ready, this month, this is exciting, I’m flying out to LA to have the first meeting, forming a leadership team for Disney Land Anaheim.

    Rich – Very cool, well that’s neat, what a cool vision and again you’ll have a really tough job the day you have to fly to all those parks, one after another. Well great for you Steven, that’s a tough ministry you know? I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding obviously.

    Steven – Thanks.

    —Huffduffed by theprd