300 episodes

Are you looking for practical ministry help to drive your ministry further ... faster?

Have a sinking feeling that your ministry training didn't prepare you for the real world?

Hey ... you're not alone! Join thousands of others in pursuit of stuff they wish they taught in seminary.

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.

unSeminary Podcast Rich Birch

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.7 • 103 Ratings

Are you looking for practical ministry help to drive your ministry further ... faster?

Have a sinking feeling that your ministry training didn't prepare you for the real world?

Hey ... you're not alone! Join thousands of others in pursuit of stuff they wish they taught in seminary.

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.

    Beyond Accessibility: Gail Ewell’s Vision for Church Inclusivity

    Beyond Accessibility: Gail Ewell’s Vision for Church Inclusivity

    Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Gail Ewell a leader at Bay Area Christian Church and Hope Technology School.

    Gail’s story is one of personal struggle and triumph. As a mother of children with special needs, she faced significant challenges in attending church. Her experiences shed light on the isolation and strain that families with special needs often endure. It was through these personal trials that Gail’s passion for inclusivity within the church was ignited.

    Tune in as Gail shares how the simple step of a church extending friendship can transform a community.

    * Focus on the isolation and strain. // It’s estimated that about one in five children are neurodivergent and yet 85% of churches don’t have ministries that can support them. In California, 1 in 22 children are diagnosed with autism and other types of disabilities are on the rise. Bay Area Christian Church (BACC) is committed to inclusivity and working to address the isolation and strain of special needs families.

    * Spiritual Resource Ministry. // It’s not uncommon for parents and children to miss church because it can be difficult to attend with a child’s special needs. BACC has developed spiritual resource ministries which promote the inclusion of people and families with special needs so that they don’t feel isolated. It began with smaller classes that are more sensory-friendly and include both neurotypical and neurodivergent children. From there it grew to creating E-sports and E-life which offer inclusive programs for a variety of activities, from soccer and karate to gardening and photography.

    * Partner with others. // Because the goal is to include rather than segregate, Bay Area Christian partners with other youth ministries, professional sports teams, guest speakers and more. Identify the needs in your community and the gifting in your church and how you can pair the two together. Partner with organizations, schools, ministries, businesses and teams in your area to provide inclusive opportunities for children with special needs.

    * Start small. // Gail encourages churches that feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin to start small. Extend friendship to the special needs community in your area because there is often a friendship deficit here. Anyone can give the gift of listening or friendship. Not only are you building relationships among the children, but their families also benefit from being able to connect with others.

    * Provide training. // The success of inclusive programs is largely dependent on the volunteers who bring them to life. Gail emphasizes the importance of training these individuals, underscoring the biblical principles of friendship, encouragement and support for the vulnerable. Recognizing and appreciating these volunteers is crucial, as they are the ones who make a tangible difference in the lives of special needs individuals and their families.

    * Seek understanding. // If you’re facing challenges and concerns, open a dialogue with the family affected by special needs in order to know how to best interact with their child. Seek to understand what is needed and what you may not have considered in your program or outreach.

    * Meeting a critical need. // While it can feel intimidating to step onto the path of developing a spiritual resource ministry, Gail encourages churches to just begin. Remote areas may not have a lot of services for special needs children and families. There’s a big opportunity for churches to step in and offer purpose and occasions for inclusion. It begins with a heart to love people, extend friendship and meet a need.

    • 36 min
    Key Takeaways from XPS 2024: Navigating Organizational Doubt, Leadership Stages & Target Audiences

    Key Takeaways from XPS 2024: Navigating Organizational Doubt, Leadership Stages & Target Audiences

    This week, we delve into the highlights of the XP Summit 2024, or XPS, as it’s affectionately known within the executive pastor community. Held at the vibrant Flatirons Church in Denver, this year’s event was a powerhouse of insights, connections, and practical takeaways for church leaders. Here are some key points from my solo podcast episode recapping the event.

    The Essence of XPS

    The XP Summit is an annual gathering that brings together executive pastors from across the country to share, learn, and grow. While the content is always top-notch, what truly sets XPS apart is the emphasis on building lasting relationships. It’s not just about what you learn, but who you meet. These connections become invaluable when navigating the inevitable challenges of church leadership.

    Organizational Doubt: A Model for Understanding

    One of the standout sessions was led by Jesse DeYoung, the lead executive pastor at Flatirons Church. Jesse unpacked a fascinating model for understanding organizational doubt, breaking it down into five levels:

    * Suspended Doubt: Complete confidence in the organization.

    * Operational Doubt: Questions about the efficiency of processes.

    * Ideological Doubt: Concerns about the mission and relevance of the organization.

    * Ethical Doubt: Doubts about the integrity or capability of leadership.

    * Absolute Doubt: Pervasive doubt affecting all aspects of the organization.

    Jesse emphasized the importance of addressing doubts early, as unresolved doubts can escalate, ultimately leading to disengagement or departures. A key takeaway was that individuals often express doubt one level higher than they actually feel, making it crucial to dig deeper into their concerns.

    Check out Jesse’ past podcast: Rebuilding a Team Culture That Was Broken with Jesse DeYoung

    Leadership Stages: Seasons of Contribution

    Lee Coates from Las Vegas presented a compelling framework for understanding the different stages of leadership based on age and contribution:

    * Prince/Princess (18-25 years): Driven by passion and curiosity but prone to entitlement.

    * Warrior/Warrioress (25-40 years): Focused on energy and purpose, with burnout as a potential dark side.

    * King/Queen (40-60 years): Valued for experience and direction but must guard against disengagement.

    * Sage/Muse (60+ years): Offer wisdom and advisory support, yet must avoid pushing personal agendas.

    Lee highlighted the importance of recognizing and nurturing the unique contributions of leaders at each stage, ensuring a balanced and effective team.

    Check out Lee’s past episode: Reflecting on Seasons of Life, Leadership & Their Impact on Your Team with Lee Coate

    Target Audiences: Actual vs. Aspirational

    Kayra Montañez from Liquid Church shared insightful strategies on identifying and targeting different audience segments. Liquid Church focuses on both actual and aspirational target audiences to align their ministry efforts effectively. The key groups they are addressing include:

    • 16 min
    Vision to Reality: How Executive Pastors Shape the Church’s Future with Phil Taylor

    Vision to Reality: How Executive Pastors Shape the Church’s Future with Phil Taylor

    Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. We’re welcoming back Phil Taylor, a seasoned leader with over 20 years of experience in various pastoral roles and a passion for helping pastors turn vision into reality, which he does through his ministry, Backstage Pastors.

    Tune in as Phil shares insights on the importance of the Executive Pastor’s role in the church and how they can build their relationship with the staff and Lead Pastor.

    * The Executive Pastor role. // Over the last ten years, there’s been a big shift in churches accepting and understanding the need for the executive pastor (XP) role. Churches recognize that they are more effective when they have strong second-chair leaders that have both the skills and authority to make change happen. Many churches now have multiple executive pastors, often dividing responsibilities between ministry and operations. Sometimes an XP even takes on more of a co-pastor role with the lead teaching pastor.

    * When do you need an XP? // Deciding whether a church needs an executive pastor can be based on the style of the lead pastor. A big vision thinker will often need an executive pastor to work with him sooner. A lead pastor who is more comfortable thinking strategically about details may be able to get by longer without an XP. But when you get to the 1500 range in attendance, Phil recommends that your church explores hiring an executive pastor.

    * Be attentive to the soul. // Phil has found, in his coaching work, that executive pastors aren’t always as attentive to their own souls as they could be, being focused more on getting things done. Given the task-oriented nature of XPs, they must be intentional about attending to their emotional and spiritual well-being. The updated edition of Phil’s book, Defining the Executive Pastor Role, delves into this crucial topic, encouraging leaders to cultivate emotional intelligence and engage in spiritual disciplines, such as observing a sabbath.

    * Be aware of your impact on the staff. // Because executive pastors tend to be more driven and high capacity, it can create feelings of unrest on the church staff when people feel they need to be doing as much as the executive pastor. Don’t make others feel guilty for being gifted differently. Approach your people with a soul-focused attitude, and step back from the focus on the work, turning again to worship.

    * Ease into the role. // Two of the chapters in Phil’s book talk about next steps for the new or aspiring executive pastor and their first year in a new church. One thing new executive pastors often forget is that people can struggle with change. Don’t jump into making a lot of changes in your first year unless they are immediately necessary; rather, take time to earn trust.

    * Build the LP/XP relationship. // The relationship between the executive pastor and the lead pastor is the most important one in the church because it sets the tone for the church and the staff culture. It requires weekly time together, open communication, honesty, and a commitment to avoiding triangulation. It’s essential to honor each other publicly and work collaboratively to steer the church towards its vision.

    * Plain Joe Studios. // Another way that Phil helps pastors turn vision to reality is with his work at Plain Joe Studios. Plain Joe helps churches, Christian schools, and not-for-profits tell their stories more effectively. They have a personality profile that can help churches better understand who they are and how they are different from other churches in their city.

    You can find Phil’s updated edition of Defining the Executive Pastor Role on a href="https://www.amazon.

    • 37 min
    From 1,000 to 2,000 in 1,000 Days: Engagement Pathway Best Practices

    From 1,000 to 2,000 in 1,000 Days: Engagement Pathway Best Practices

    We’re aiming for what might be called the Goldilocks growth rate—quick enough to make a substantial impact but sustainable so it doesn’t overwhelm your resources or team. To achieve this, we’ve identified that retaining 26% of new guests is pivotal.

    To effectively double a church’s attendance from 1,000 to 2,000 members over 1,000 days, or about three years, it’s crucial to focus on both attracting and retaining new guests. Aiming for a 3% increase in new guests weekly means approximately 30 new guests each week for a church of 1,000 members, totalling about 1,560 new guests annually. The goal is to retain 26% of these guests, which translates to around 406 individuals becoming regular attendees over the year. This strategic approach of engaging and retaining new guests is essential for meeting the ambitious growth target and ensuring a vibrant, expanding church community. These figures highlight the importance of a structured engagement pathway that supports sustainable growth through clear, actionable steps.

    The Concept of Engagement Over Assimilation

    We’re shifting the focus from assimilation—a somewhat outdated and impersonal concept—to engagement, which centers on the guest’s active participation and integration into the church community. This strategic pivot is more about inviting people into an ongoing interaction rather than merging them into a pre-set mold.

    The Three “Ones” of an Effective Engagement Pathway

    * One Experience: Create a clear, engaging first step for newcomers. This could be a simple event or orientation session designed to introduce new guests to the church community. Examples include “GT in 60” or “Welcome to Liquid,” which are tailored to be straightforward and accessible.

    * One Next Step: Encourage a single, clear next action for newcomers. Focusing on team involvement over group participation initially can be more effective in building connections and integrating new members into active roles within the church.

    * One Connection Team: Establish a dedicated team responsible for maintaining and nurturing the connections made during the initial engagement. This team ensures newcomers feel valued and are smoothly transitioned into their chosen areas of involvement, with regular check-ins and personal attention.

    Avoiding Common Pitfalls

    * The Velcro Myth: Beware of creating too many entry points, which can dilute the focus and effectiveness of your engagement strategy.

    * Shiny Object Syndrome: Stick to proven strategies rather than constantly shifting to new trends or ideas, which can disrupt the continuity and stability necessary for sustained growth.

    Call to Action

    We discussed how to incrementally increase your church’s capacity to welcome and retain new guests, focusing on the importance of regularly scheduled connection events and the need for a cohesive, community-oriented approach.

    We look forward to seeing how your church can implement these practices to not only grow in numbers but also deepen the sense of community and belonging among its members.

    In this episode, we also reference into the innovative approaches of Greg Curtis from Climbing the Assimilayas. Greg’s insights into church engagement are reshaping how churches think about integration and connection. His coaching and courses offer deep dives into effective strategies that can help your church not only grow in numbers but also in community strength and cohesion. If you’re looking to further explore and master the art of church ...

    • 21 min
    Exploiting Limits for Church Growth: Insights from A Better Theory’s Nathan R. Elson

    Exploiting Limits for Church Growth: Insights from A Better Theory’s Nathan R. Elson

    Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Nathan R. Elson. He is the founder and chief theorist with the organization, A Better Theory.

    Every ministry, every church, and every leader has problems they have to deal with. Regardless of the size of your problems, it is possible to develop a pattern of behavior around solving them and continue to push forward in your mission. Tune in as Nathan provides a framework through which you can tackle your problems and accomplish more from less.

    * A framework for problem solving. // A common misconception in problem solving is the belief that our problems are unique. While the nuances may differ, the underlying issues are often universal. By recognizing this, we can apply proven frameworks to address our problems in better ways.

    * More from less. // There are two things that underpin the framework Nathan has put together: the idea of exploitation and the idea of limitations. We often don’t make full use of the resources God is giving us, whether it’s time, talent, treasure, people, and so on. The result is we end up throwing more at a problem trying to overwhelm it rather than solve it. The idea of exploitation puts the focus on challenging ourselves to do more with what we already have. God also created us with limited capacity so we need to look at how to maximize those limits.

    * Think creatively. // Look at your situation and ask: What do we have? What are we limited by? Problem solving is a creative endeavor. Outlining our parameters allows us to exercise creative problem solving more effectively.

    * Three maxims in problem solving. // The framework in A Better Theory’s methodology has three maxims: Be realistic, seek simplicity, and remove friction. Being realistic is important because you have to be honest with God, yourself, your team, and your congregation about where you are and what specifically you need. Ask yourself if you’ve really taken the time to think about what it will take to achieve what it is you want. Often leaders start building before knowing what is needed.

    * Complex yet simple. // As you approach problem solving, the solution needs to be complex enough to solve the problem, yet simple enough to be replicated. If you can’t replicate what you’re doing and teach it to someone else then it won’t be sustainable. Lastly, identify where you might be introducing friction to your problem and how you can stop that.

    * How A Better Theory helps. // The team at A Better Theory can help you identify the problems your church is facing, and find a better solution by doing more from less. To get the free e-book that dives deeper into Nathan’s problem solving framework and start applying it in your church, visit www.abettertheory.com/unseminary.

    Learn more about A Better Theory and contact Nathan at www.abettertheory.com.

    Thank You for Tuning In!

    There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, but you chose unSeminary, and I’m grateful for that. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the left hand side of this page. Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes, they’re extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and you can bet that...

    • 35 min
    The Four Key Factors of Magnetic Community Service That Drive Invite Culture

    The Four Key Factors of Magnetic Community Service That Drive Invite Culture

    In this episode of the unSeminary Podcast, we delve into the transformative impact of magnetic community service on building a vibrant church invite culture. Drawing inspiration from outreach initiatives at prominent churches like Elevation’s Love Week and Church of the Highlands’ Serve Day, we explore how strategic mass outreach can drive your congregation’s growth and engagement.

    Key Factors That Shape Magnetic Community Service:

    * The More Volunteers Factor: The first key to driving invites is the sheer number of volunteers mobilized. When 60-70% of the adult community actively participates in impactful community service, engagement skyrockets, leading to natural conversations and opportunities for members to invite their friends to church. By empowering people to leave their seats and make a tangible difference, they naturally want to share their experiences.

    * The T-Shirt Factor: Visibility is essential. Wearing matching shirts and being seen doing good in the community reinforces the positive image of the church. People feel a sense of pride and fulfillment when they’re visibly making a difference, and this visibility motivates them to share their stories, post photos, and invite others.

    * The Day Of Factor: The holy ruckus created by community-wide outreach spills over into conversations, social media posts, and networking opportunities that naturally generate buzz and invites. Mobilizing large groups to help neighborhoods, host events, or run awareness campaigns creates a memorable spectacle that leaves people curious and engaged.

    * The Afterglow Factor: The positive ripple effects from a mass outreach initiative can last months or even years. People who participate continue to talk about it, share photos, and tell stories, all of which reinforce the culture of generosity and outreach that the church embodies. This afterglow can be leveraged in future outreach, campus launches, and community engagement efforts.

    Ready-to-Implement Outreach Ideas:

    * Shop of Wonders: Create a dignified and empowering Christmas shopping experience for hundreds of families in need. Display donated gifts like a shop, providing families with hope and joy.

    * Serve Day: Mobilize your entire church to serve the community by cleaning parks, running garage sales, offering free services, and more.

    * Night to Shine: Host a prom for individuals with special needs using the resources from the Tim Tebow Foundation.

    Magnetic community service, as outlined in this episode, can catalyze your invite culture and make a lasting impact on both your congregation and your local community. It’s time to unlock new potential by moving your members from their seats and into the streets!

    • 12 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
103 Ratings

103 Ratings

W. Warren ,


Rich Birch consistently provides very helpful tools for Kingdom growth through church growth. His podcasts are an outstanding resource!

Wtrmrk ,

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!

Clueless Leader ,

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!

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