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Published every Thursday the goal of the unSeminary podcast is to be an encouragement to Pastors and Church Leaders with practical help you can apply to your ministry right away.
Church Merger Tactic: Expanding Your Church’s Reach with “The Letter Method”
In today’s solo episode, I’m diving deep into a topic close to my heart and crucial for any growing or multi-site church considering expansion: church mergers. This isn’t just another growth strategy; it’s a pivotal approach that could significantly impact how we reach more people and foster an inviting church culture.
The Growing Trend of Church Mergers
Reflecting on the wisdom shared by my good friends Warren Bird and Jim Tomberlin, it’s evident that the landscape of church growth is evolving. The trend towards church campuses being birthed from mergers has spiked dramatically, from 15% to an eye-opening 40% in recent studies. This shift highlights the increasing relevance of mergers in today’s church growth strategy, especially in the post-COVID context.
How Do We Start the Conversation?
The big question on many leaders’ minds is, “How do we even begin to approach the conversation about mergers?” Drawing from my own experiences and the invaluable insights of the late Kristy Rutter, an incredible leader in church mergers, I’ve seen firsthand the power of starting with relationship-building.
The Letter Method
One effective tactic I’ve employed and coached others to use is the “Letter Method.” This involves reaching out to 50 to 100 churches in your target community with a personalized, physical letter. These letters are not just about proposing a merger; they’re about introducing your church, sharing your mission, and most importantly, offering to partner and help. This approach isn’t about acquiring assets but about fostering genuine relationships and exploring how we can collectively serve our communities better.
Dear [Recipient’s Name],
Greetings from Sample Community Church! I hope this message finds you and your congregation thriving and filled with peace. My name is [Your Name], and I serve as [Your Position] at Sample Community Church. Today, I reach out to you with a spirit of unity and partnership, inspired by our shared mission to serve and impact our community for Christ.
Introduction to Sample Community Church
Sample Community Church has been a part of [Your City/Community] for [Number of Years], dedicated to creating a welcoming environment where individuals and families can grow in their faith and serve alongside one another. Our mission is to [Briefly Describe Your Church’s Mission], and we’ve witnessed God’s grace as we work towards this vision.
Our Mission and Desire to Partner
As we look to the future, we are guided by a vision to expand our reach and deepen our impact within our community. We believe that through collaboration and shared resources, we can achieve more together than we can separately. It is in this spirit that we reach out to Friends Bible Church, hoping to explore how we might support one another in our respective missions.
Proposal for Partnership
We are keen to understand the needs and opportunities within Friends Bible Church and to discuss any potential for partnership. Whether it’s through shared community projects, resources, or even exploring more formal ways of coming toge...
From Downturn to Turnaround to Steady Growth in a Rural-ish Community with Joseph Berkobien
Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. We’re happy to be talking with Joseph Berkobien, the Lead Pastor of Frankenmuth Bible Church in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Transitions in leadership can be challenging times for churches. How do you recover and grow after a season of decline? Tune in as Joseph shares the turnaround story of the church and the intentional steps they took to recover.
* Times of transition. // Frankenmuth Bible Church began in 1982 when a small group of like-minded Christians had a passion for starting a gospel-centered church. When Joseph first joined the 400-member church in 2012, it was as the Worship Pastor. What he didn’t know at the time was the leadership challenges happening behind the scenes. A transition to the senior leadership led to decline and Joseph found himself both preaching and leading worship.
* Bring stability to the church. // When Joseph first stepped into the Lead Pastor role, the church had declined to about 200 people. Joseph assured the congregation that he wasn’t going anywhere and they were in this together. Even though as believers we’ve been saved by grace, the church family can be messy and difficult with a lot of pain and hurt. During tumultuous seasons of transition, it’s particularly critical to give a sense of stability to the church body.
* Build a solid staff. // After declining, Frankenmuth Bible worked hard to position themselves for growth by bringing on a solid staff team. It can be hard to build a staff that works best for your church, particularly when you’re in a rural area. Joseph encourages church leaders to be patient. Don’t be quick to hire, but wait for the right person. Sometimes a nationwide search can be cumbersome because someone outside your part of the country may decide it isn’t the place for them after arriving. Do a lot of networking and consider hiring from within.
* Build small groups early. // Another intentional step that Frankenmuth Bible took was building the small group ministry when the church was small. Starting with a solid group of 200 people provided a strong core that was committed to the church. The church staff also reached out to people on the fringes to get them plugged into authentic community, knowing it would help them to stick and stay.
* Reach beyond the doors. // Frankenmuth Bible Church is also passionate about loving their community and fostering unity with other churches in the area. Serving neighboring communities in weekend outreach events helped to dismantle some of the small town rivalry and communicated a genuine love for people. Get people at your church out of the seats and into the streets. Organize fun, outward initiatives. Increasingly, people aren’t as open to being invited to church so we need to go to them and show an interest in the things they love.
* Be open to change. // Reflecting on his leadership journey as the church has steadily grown to over one thousand people, Joseph acknowledges the challenges and need for a lot of pivoting. If your church is on a similar journey, don’t lose hope. Believe growth is possible and be open to new things. Joseph recommends checking out the invaluable free resource by Tim Keller, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics”.
You can find out more about Frankenmuth Bible Church at www.frankenmuthbible.com and download Tim Keller’s “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics” PDF here/a...
Reflections on Christian Ministry at the Halfway Point with Jon Thompson
Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Jon Thompson, the lead pastor at Sanctus Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Being a Christian leader is a marathon, not a sprint. In the middle of the social media and the politics and the pressures and the fear and the questions, we can be tempted to lose heart. Tune in as Jon shares wisdom and encouragement for staying faithful and running the race well to the end.
* Recognize how you were called. // As Jon celebrates his 26th year at Sanctus, he reflects on the concept of calling. Many who feel the call to go into ministry find themselves discouraged and working outside of the church years later. In his book Perseverance: Fifteen Reflections on Christian Ministry at the Halfway Point –– An Invitation to Make It to the Finish Line Well –– Oh God, Help, Jon talks about how persevering in our callings has been lost. It’s important to realize there are four calling theologies in scripture rather than just one. Church leaders need to recognize how they were called and return to it when they wrestle with discouragement and doubt.
* The four callings. // Embracing your unique calling is the bedrock of sustained ministry. If you only have one view of calling, you are more likely to end up leaving when things get difficult. Calling can look like a sovereign decision, like those of Jeremiah and Paul. It can also be a recognition of spiritual gifts which intersect with vocational ministry, as with Timothy. Another type of calling is demonstrated in the Book of Acts where there is a vote, a communal decision made for the church. Finally, for the prophet Samuel, familial prayer dedicates him to the Lord.
* Loving God vs trusting God. // From the pressure to perform, to the rapid pace of ministry, to the challenge of maintaining one’s spiritual health, fears plague many Christian leaders. You can love God deeply, yet be filled with fear rather than trust in God. The amount of fear that sits in leaders’ lives in exponential. God is the one who casts out fear with his perfect love; we have to systematically invite him in to do that.
* No before yes. // One of the most important ways to persevere long term is actually hearing God’s “no” before His “yes.” Ask God what spiritual gifts he’s given you, what gifts you will never have, and where you will never have influence. God’s “no” creates boundaries because you can’t go beyond the decisions he makes. Rest in his “no” rather than going after the gifts that aren’t for you. The heart of victory is working in your place of spiritual gifting rather than pursuing natural or acquired gifts.
* Encounter Him. // At Sanctus, they’ve based their discipleship and evangelism not in class but on encounter. Where does God say he’ll be encountered beyond omnipresence? When you start teaching everyone about where scripture says guaranteed places of encounter are and create an expectation that they will meet with the living God, suddenly everything moves from a programmatic approach to real encounter.
* Perseverance. // Jon has written a book reflecting at the midway point of his own ministry walk. Written for those who are considering entering ministry, those who have been in the trenches for any period of time, and even those who are coming near the end of their Christian leadership journey, this book shares fifteen observations that are transcultural, timeless, and transportable to many different settings. Perseverance: Fifteen Reflections on Christian Ministry at the Halfway Point –– An Invitation to Make It to the Finish Line Well –– Oh God, Help is a great book to pick up and discuss with your church team to see where everyone is in their own ministry journeys.
From Eye Rolls to Engagement: Boosting the Effectiveness of Your Church’s Announcements
This episode tackles a critical yet often overlooked aspect of church services: announcements. Far from being mere placeholders, announcements have the potential to drive engagement within your church significantly.
We start with a relatable discussion on why church announcements typically induce eye rolls rather than enthusiasm. Recognizing this issue is the first step towards transformation.
Learn about this potentially game-changing approach that focuses on reducing the number of announcements while enhancing their quality and relevance. This strategy is all about making announcements a pivotal part of church engagement.
Five-Step Process for Focusing Your Announcements Time
* Plan with Purpose // Select a strategic three-month period to focus your announcement efforts.
* Engage Stakeholders // Bring together departmental leads to align on announcement priorities.
* Optimize Messaging // Use a collaborative session to decide on one or two key messages for each week.
* Create a Calendar // Develop and refine an announcement calendar based on stakeholder input.
* Implement and Evaluate // Firm up plans and adjust based on feedback, setting the stage for continuous improvement.
The episode emphasizes the goal of moving congregants from passive listeners to active participants, highlighting the crucial role announcements play in this transition.
Listeners will gain practical strategies to make their church’s announcements more impactful, turning a traditionally dull moment into an opportunity for meaningful connection and action.
Transforming your church’s announcements from eye rolls to engagement is not just about changing the content but about changing the approach. It’s a shift towards strategic, intentional communication that resonates and motivates.
Tune in to learn how to elevate your church’s announcements from mere information sharing to a dynamic engagement tool. Discover the power of intentional announcements and see how they can help foster a more vibrant, involved church community. Let’s embark on this journey together, from eye rolls to engagement, one announcement at a time.
Protecting Your Church’s DNA: Jon Delger on Building Culture Within a Fast-Growing Church
Thanks for joining us at the unSeminary podcast. We have Jon Delger with us today, the Executive Pastor at Peace Church in Michigan—one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
Whether your church is growing a little or a lot, change to the people making up your church will change your culture. How can you protect your church’s DNA and reinforce culture during growth? Tune in as Jon shares best practices for guarding and building your church’s culture among your staff and congregation as you grow.
* Face the challenges. // Peace Church has experienced remarkable growth in the last three years, more than doubling in size and expanding to two locations in Michigan. Despite the many challenges that come with rapid expansion, such as space constraints and the need for additional services, protecting our church culture is the most important problem we’ll face during growth.
* Clearly communicate. // Every new person at our churches brings a unique set of beliefs and expectations that can influence the church’s dynamics. The key is to integrate these individuals while maintaining the church’s distinct identity. To protect their culture at Peace Church, they have implemented strategic steps in the assimilation process to communicate the culture clearly. From newcomers’ lunches to membership classes, they ensure that each step reinforces the church’s core values.
* Be honest about fit. // At membership classes Jon and his team talk about who they are and what it’s like to be a part of the Peace Church family. Rather than pushing people towards membership, they address reasons why Peace Church might not be the right fit for some, directing them to other great churches in the area. This level of honesty and clarity is crucial in building a cohesive community.
* Three key parts. // There are three key parts of the Peace Church membership class: theology, ministry philosophy, and commitments of being a member. In theology they talk about what Peace Church believes about the bible and hot-button cultural issues. Ministry philosophy talks about the church’s size and what people can expect. Membership commitments talk about giving and serving in the church and what’s expected of members.
* Have a distinct hiring process. // With attendance growth, a church also needs to grow its staff. Jon emphasizes the need for a clear and distinct hiring process in order to vet who joins our teams and protect our cultures from rapid change. Peace Church has a hiring process that begins with a phone screening and then a minimum of two in-person interviews. The final interview is with Jon and the lead pastor, at which point they’re only asking culture questions.
* Onboarding, developing, and improving. // After hiring, Peace Church uses three processes for staff management: onboarding, leadership development, and a performance improvement process. In addition, one-on-one meetings are the cornerstone of staff management at Peace Church and have been instrumental in maintaining a thriving church culture.
* Care, clear, and coach. // Jon has provided us with a PDF that offers best-practices for effectively leading one-on-one meetings with staff. At Peace Church they recommend that the one-on-one is twice a month and includes three aspects: care, clear, and coach. We need to spend time caring for our direct reports, make sure tasks and priorities are clear and understandable, and offer leadership development to team members through coaching.
You can learn more about Peace Church at ...
From First Fifty to New Frontiers: Mike Signorelli on Moving Your People to Deeper Levels of Commitment
Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Mike Signorelli, Lead Pastor at V1 Church – one of the fastest-growing churches in the country with locations in New York City and other cities across the country.
Are you feeling stuck moving people at your church to increasing levels of commitment? Wondering how to manage the tension between evangelism and discipleship? Tune in as Mike shares the key to empowering your leaders and how to transition people to deeper engagement and growth.
* Model the culture. // Are we teaching people to evangelize and lead lost people to Christ in their own lives outside the church? Are we helping them disciple people? Mike knew that New York City was a tough place for a church to grow and he felt strongly that leading the lost to Christ needed to be at the heart of V1 Church. In order to develop a culture of evangelism, Mike modeled the importance of it by living it out himself and leading the first 18 members of his church to Christ. As church leaders, we impart who we are. If we don’t do what we tell our congregation to do, we become the lid.
* Discipleship in everything. // Mike also wanted V1 to be about ruthless disciple-making. At V1 Church they intentionally connect the word discipleship to everything going on at the church, from small groups to listening to sermons. Like most churches, V1 has an assimilation pipeline, however they also have a family tree framework that helps disciples make more disciples.
* Inward to outward-focused. // Discipleship-focused churches can have a reputation for becoming too inward-looking. To counter this, Mike presents V1 Church’s process of guiding people through three distinct phases that help them move from inward-focused to outward-focused: hospital (healing), to family (belonging), to army (mission). This framework aims to shift the church’s focus outward, combating the consumeristic culture that often infiltrates American churches.
* Finding healing. // When people come to Christ, they are coming broken because of the world we live in. As pastors, we want people to jump in and serve, but they can’t live beyond their level of health or be generous when they are in pain. The path to sustainable serving is to make people the healthiest version of themselves. At V1 they have a huge emphasis on therapy and counseling in the hospital phase, building value into a person’s life so they become healthy.
* Selflessly lead them. // As they get healthy, people transition to family and start to think about others. Church leaders need to discern when to put people on assignment and recruit them to serve in the church. Transitioning from a family mindset to that of an army on a mission is crucial as it furthers the church’s mission and growth. However, if you recruit people without an attempt to get them healthy first, you’re being selfish. Instead we need to recruit people after selflessly leading them, showing them that we don’t want anything from them. Then we’re empowering them.
* 10 enemies. // Mike is giving us a free download called The 10 Enemies of Process that helps church leaders work through common barriers that could be stopping your church from moving forward. It’s a great resource to read and discuss with your team.
You can connect with Mike at his website www.mikesignorelli.com. Plus, click here to download The 10 Enemies of Process.
Practical and helpful
Love the practical nature of this show. I went to seminary, and much of what I was taught revolved around seminary and high-level concepts. This show interviews practitioners who have learned from experience. Wish I knew about it earlier!
Growth and Help Resource
I’m very thankful for Rich and his team at UnSeminary. The content is regularly updated and always applicable to leaders in church and ministry. I’ve experienced significant growth through the application of wisdom shared in this podcast. So many tools and resources shared here to help answer questions and help our teams serve the community in greater ways for the Kingdom!
Orthopraxy Strong. Orthodoxy Not So Much.
I often listen for the purpose of gathering fresh ideas and to keep up with trends and what’s happening in other churches. Rich has a great mind and is a good communicator, and puts out quality content. But personal experience seems to drive his theology to places I’m not always comfortable with. Wish he was more Bible-driven but his content is still helpful for those leading ministries.