Healthy Church Growth – Episode 27

Grieving Loss: When Good People Leave the Team

Losing staff members is inevitable, but it can make you question yourself as a leader. We discuss how to set your team up for success so that if a member leaves, you can be confident that you did everything you could to help them thrive in your organization. 

On Instagram: @Mikemage, @techjustinrp, @vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. It’s incredible to have you along with us here for these conversations that my co host, Justin Price and I are having. Justin, how are you doing today, man?

Justin Price
I’m doing good, Mike. You know, there’s been a pressing question I have for you. And I don’t think we’ve ever really just, like, gotten deep before on this topic and. Alright, so, um, have you ever lost anybody that you’ve loved?

Mike Mage
Yeah, I, just diving right in here real quick. Right up top.

Justin Price
Yeah, super, super shallow.

Mike Mage
I have actually, personally, you know, I did, I did lose my mom, about three and a half years ago to breast cancer and really terrible. Like, I mean, honestly, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through as a person, you know, an adult, whatever, just as a human, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. And, you know, losing people is obviously not fine. I mean, it’s just, it’s a terrible thing. And you know, even professionally, Justin, I know, you I’ve you and I had conversations about this, but we actually lost; He’s not dead. We didn’t lose him.

Justin Price
It feels, it feels like it.

Mike Mage
Yes. But from, from our professional at, you know, here at the church, we did end up losing a team member. He, you know, he decided to he got an offer to work somewhere else. And he’s no longer going to be a part of our team. And it really, you know, especially after 2020 and, you know, I know, for a lot of people out there listening, if you were in some sort of creative work, you know, you were really the engine of your church, you know, whether it was leading worship online, or putting together communications or

Justin Price
This was your video guy.

Mike Mage
Yeah. So this was

Justin Price
Everything you put out, went through his desk.

Mike Mage
Yeah. And he was our primary lens of how we got whatever we were doing out into the world, and, you know, got getting to impact 1000s of people by what he was being able to do. And, you know, he felt like God was calling him to be somewhere else. And who am I to, you know, say yes or no to that, you know, that’s that’s his personal thing. But it really does feel like we’re losing a family member, you know. Especially after a feeling feeling like really, we we all went to war together. And, you know, he felt that way, too, you know, we we all prayed over him. And, you know, it was it got very emotional. And he just kind of feels like this is the right move for him and his, whatever he wants to do, which again, I don’t disagree with, but still kind of a hard pill to swallow. So. Yeah. What about you? I mean,

Justin Price
Yeah, it’s interesting. I had a, I had a video guy that I poured a lot of time into, and we’re not gonna get into obviously losing a loved one. But I’ve had some, some instances in my life of losing people that were close to me. And yeah. And it is interesting how, how similar the feeling of loss can be. Yeah. But especially in this, like, we think about our teams, right? When we think about what our the DNA of the time, sometimes we actually spend time with the people we work with more than we spend with our families. So when you talk about losing a family member, in many ways, the memories or the the loss is sometimes even stronger, the sense of loss is even stronger. When you look at the mere time that’s been spent, you know.

Mike Mage
Totally. Yeah, it makes sense to feel as entwined, especially when it comes to like, either creative work, because I do think that it involves, you know, like, a lot of who we are as humans, but then, you know, you’re talking about church work. I mean, there’s just, there’s so much intertwined and tied up into that you can really start to identify as a group together or, you know, as a family together. And it’s it’s hard to unstitch those things, you know. Yeah, from from each other. So,

Justin Price
I think one of the first thoughts that comes to our minds as, especially as leaders, is sometimes like, what could we have done to stop that from happening? You know, what can we do to fix that? And, you know, whether that was, in any circumstance, I think we always kind of second guess ourselves. And sometimes I think there’s there are certain circumstances I lost a great employee to a circumstance that I couldn’t change. So, you know, we run a creative agency now that serves churches, and we serve a lot of large nonprofits and for profits, and the way that we’re able to do that most effectively is to be distributed across the country, which means we don’t have a lot of people who work in the same city. And this person was working in Orlando, and she was phenomenal. I mean, She was really great. But there was no community. And she started like two weeks before COVID. And so all of our staff get like, in person, staff retreats got shut down. She couldn’t visit from, you know, lots of times staff will come into town or I will, I will meet with, with staff, and, and our clients. And we’ll travel and things like that. So there was no travel. And she was she’s an extrovert, and she really did not want to be inside a house by herself. And even like coffee shops, like even the opportunity to like work around other people. She couldn’t do, right. And she just she was like, I mean, even if we would have paid her more, even if we could have done it, like she ended up leaving to take a job in an office. And like, and so you know, when you hear those circumstances, the loss is still felt. But there is this, there is a sense of resolve that I think that allows you to process it and move forward and go, like, I can’t change that circumstance, I can’t change that. And in the future, I’ll have like, and by the way, we vetted like, in the interview process, we said, hey, you’re gonna have to work hard about it, like, you’re gonna have to make sure you get out, you’re gonna have to put good boundaries in your life to make sure because you are an extrovert, you want to make sure you do get that, but her church got shut down. She was like leading a huge team at her church, and she couldn’t even like interact with them. So she didn’t, it wasn’t just a workplace, it was that everything else got stripped away. And when she got an offer to go to office environment and work with people, it was like, everything else was still shut down. And I can do anything after six months of her working by herself in her office and probably going a little bit nuts. So

Mike Mage
Yeah, well, I, I mean, yeah, I think that there’s a lot of outs, I mean, gosh, 2020 was a year where outside circumstances dictated what we did, more than anything else that I’ve seen in my lifetime. And especially changed what we did. Just as like, as a church as creatives, all that kind of stuff. I mean, we had to adapt quicker, I guess, you know, there’s a lot, there’s always been a lot of outside forces, dictating what we’re doing, or I guess how we’re doing things, not necessarily changing why we’re doing them, but how and what we’re doing. But this just had to be so quick. That Yeah, there’s there’s not a lot that you could have done for her. If, you know, like COVID happened, you know, like you can’t; You or I outside of not getting COVID or not spreading into somebody, we really can’t do a whole lot about that. Talking about losing people, you know, sometimes like, you know, either her, or maybe you know, someone else that you’ve been talking about, you know, there’s this idea of, well, and especially I see this a lot in the church. And I don’t think it’s wrong, necessarily. But I’d love to get your thoughts on it. We hold this attitude, that what we’re doing is we are building the kingdom, and we are equipping the kingdom, we’re building it. And, you know, I get that we have to hold everything that we have with open hands, and be generous with our training and our wisdom and you know, our time, our resources, all that kind of stuff. Do you think that there’s something noble about, you know, just training someone up for them to leave? You know, is that like something that we should be after? How do we approach ministry in that way? You know, does that make sense?

Justin Price
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is something that, so like, three years ago, I had an employee that left that I had poured a lot of time into, and that I loved very much. And I felt I was very proud of the development that had happened. And then as soon as the like the non compete contract was up, that was on paper, this employee was like, peace out, I can make a lot more money somewhere else. Well, actually not somewhere else, but working for myself. And so that was, it was super tough. That was that was that one was one that immediately caused me to go, hey, how can I prevent that from happening in the future? And I mean, I was asking that same question like, well, should I have not poured that much into that person so that they were valuable, right, that they could make money outside? Should I have put like, tighter restraints on them? You know, like, that was one of my first thoughts is like, I should have tied them down with like, tighter contracts, or whatever. And I think that the, the, there’s one, there’s like one clear answer to all of the questions and that since that employee left I have been asking in searching for and writing articles and writing this all down in kind of how we build out our culture. And the one principle that I feel really confident that I can say is that whether it is noble or not, and whether it is good or bad or whatever. The thing that stands true in leading creatives, when it comes to the topic of keeping them is to not worry about keeping them, but to worry about providing what is best for them. And to serve them and to love them, and to give them every opportunity to be successful inside of your organization. And what that means is that it means you have to train them and then open up the opportunities for them. And sometimes those don’t happen together. Sometimes you’ll train them and the opportunity is not there, you know, and then sometimes you train them, and you have to pray that they’ll be patient enough for that opportunity to come along. But you can’t, you can’t force that. But you can teach it, and you can review and touch base with them. So what like one of the things that we we’ve been doing in the last, the last little bit is like trying to have more frequent reviews. And in those reviews, we talk about that person’s future, and what are their hopes for their future? And what are their desired outcomes for the future? If they know that you know, what they’re after, why would they leave? If they see action for getting moving forward, And you can even say like, I can’t get you there this quarter, or this year, but we can make these steps to get you closer there for next year. Yeah, and and to figure that out, and that way, at least if they leave, you know that they’re leaving, because you couldn’t get that trajectory. And I found that that seems like that is all rooted in this very self centered concept of trying to do what’s best for them. Because if you do what’s best for them, then they will be better for you. They will pour back into your organization better, they will actually have better ideas, they will, they will soar. And so if they soar, and they leave, it’s not because you didn’t do everything you possibly could to make them great. And to provide the best future for them inside of your organization. And and I think that it, it sounds like maybe too simple. So poke some holes in this because this is something obviously I’m wrestling with. Still continuously, our team is wrestling with it. But we actually just shifted, I brought this up in the podcast before, but we shifted from yearly reviews and like even like, twice a year reviews to quarterly reviews. And now for like 2021 we’re not even setting yearly goals. We’re only setting quarterly goals. Yeah. So like, I could not tell you what our goals are gonna be for June, yet. I only know what we’re doing for this next quarter. And that is so freeing with all the things I don’t know right now. And all the uncertainty that there is right now. It is beautiful. It feels incredible. Because I can’t tell you like, are we gonna hire five new hires in June. But I can tell you, like we have two slots to fill in this quarter. And I can’t tell you, like if we’re gonna, you know, be able to go after this big account in June. But I can tell you, we have these slots available for these accounts. And they’re already like, pretty much done. So all but but but maybe a contract being signed. So I know what clients we’re gonna have. I know what staff we need to have for this quarter. And then probably into February, I can start working on quarter two. But anyways, do you guys said a lot of things there.

Mike Mage
No. Well, I mean, I think that’s really good. Because, you know, we started out this podcast, talking about, you know, losing somebody, and rather and for as much as that sucks. But as much as that hurts for as much as it can be detrimental at some point shape in time. You know, I the what you’re saying is you’re not operating at this point out of fear of losing them, you’re operating out of, you know, the, the your ability, as a leader to continue to create a space and a culture for them to grow. Which I think is a really great thing for whoever’s listening as well. You know, I was thinking about this a lot in you know, how can this translate to, you know, the worship leader who’s leading his volunteer worship team, at his church. And, you know, I don’t know if you ever did this when you were working at the church, but I have sent out a review to my, my worship team, my volunteer worship team. And you know, we do one as of right now, like, probably once a year, but like, do doing some sort of, like, you know, downloading some app that is a survey app, we’re going to what are some surveys on MailChimp or

Justin Price
Survey Monkey.

Mike Mage
Survey Monkey. Yeah, you know, getting on these these websites and creating some survey and asking your people questions where they can respond even anonymously. You know, and I think it does, it does a lot of things. A-it gives you some really helpful feedback about what you’re doing gives you some self awareness about what you’re doing, but, but on the flip side, it also allows your volunteer team to know or your maybe you have some staff or whatever, it allows your team to know that like, you do care, and you are you’re trying, it’s a way to show them that you are trying to create that space, that culture, you know, for them to grow. And, you know, to move in some sort of direction. Because I feel like sometimes we get really scared about what direction we’re moving. But sometimes it really like, we just need to take a step forward, whatever that is, we need to take some sort of action. And then we can sort of like course correct as we’re moving. Because, you know, the hardest thing to, like change direction is something that’s not moving when something’s already in motion. You can you don’t need to, you know, change, change it that much to keep to keep it going in the right direction.

Justin Price
So that’s a good little tidbit right there.

Mike Mage
Yeah, there you go. That one’s for free. But

Justin Price
I love that.

Mike Mage
Yeah, I just, I think that I think that you’re right. You know, like, if, at the end of the day, you’ve done everything that you possibly can do, and the person still wants to leave. Like, that’s when we have to be open handed about the thing. And because, you know, like, increasing your restrictions on what people do, or you know, when they’re a part of your organization. Like, that’s not that doesn’t show that you love them. That doesn’t that shows that you’re scared about losing them. And, you know, like, I don’t think people need that, you know.

Justin Price
Mike, tell me, so, like, run any scenario through this, like, the answer to keeping people is to love them. Like, just run a scenario where that doesn’t work. You got I mean, as anything I’m struggling to come up with. And here’s the thing you guys like, This isn’t like, I’m a Mother Teresa here. Like the the reason that I think this is the right solution is because it gets me what I want. This is I feel like I try so hard to be transparent about this, like, This isn’t like a bait and switch. There’s no smoke and mirrors. It’s not like I believe in peace, love and happiness, because I’m some like free thinking, you know, monk. Like, I truly think that I get the best thing that I want as a leader if I serve them, and treat them with love, respect, and try to do the very best I can for them. And it sounds like really cheesy, but I love the concept of like, you know, if you get to this point of them, the two things, your goals and their goals, their futures, not aligning, you can let them go if you love them, and you did not lose a loved one. But you’re now cheering on their future for where they wanted to go.

Mike Mage
That’s so good, Justin. Yeah. And I think that that’s, but you know what, though, that doesn’t happen with one conversation. And it is it is an incredible gift to be able to mourn someone’s loss, but also be super excited for them in their next endeavor, whatever. And I think that that comes after, like a long, you know, that, that’s, that’s multiple conversations over a stretch of time. That’s you showing that you care about them more than just one thing at a time. Not saying that everything goes perfect, or whatever, you know, it’s not some idyllic masterpiece, but like, you know, this, this guy that’s leaving from our team, you know, like, I, we will still very much be friends. And in fact, he’s still very much going to serve on our worship team, you know, like, it is his he is he is invested and involved here, it’s just another opportunity. And so while it stinks that he’s leaving, and I think that there’s more as a church we could have done to keep him around for such a high value staff member, someone who is very good at what they do is super impactful. I do think that, you know, it could have turned out a lot worse. And you know, like, we’re still able to, to have some sort of connection with that person.

Justin Price
So Mike, if you’re looking at this, from your perspective, and I know you’re you’re not his direct report. So right. We’re treading on some water that’s pretty loose, and pretty unsettled here. And I don’t want to go into a critical statement at that his boss, but because I don’t know that circumstance at all. But can you look and see like, Hey, could your review system, and could you guys incorporate some things into your review process for your creative team staff, and maybe can you bring this up to your boss, like, Hey, we need to be making sure that we’re helping everybody on the staff get to where they want to go. Yeah, and be taught having those conversations, right. Because I think one of the things that you mentioned when you told me, in fact, just I think this is fair to tell everybody on the podcast, you get to cut it out if you don’t like this, Mike. You can edit it out. But you sent me a text and you’re just like, I’m heartbroken. Yeah. You said you you told me that he was leaving. And your response was like, I’m heartbroken. Yeah. And I think it was from such a, that was not a dramatic text. That was a very just real thing. And I think what broke your heart was that the first conversation you guys had about this was when it was over. Yep. And I had that same experience with the guy a couple of years ago. And so now I have to be I as the leader, I have to get in front of those conversations. Because these younger guys don’t realize, guys and girls, younger staff members, and maybe even older staff members, people don’t realize that there is there more options than what they think. Well, I, two years ago, I said I wanted less hours, and I’ve been working more hours. And so I have to leave. It’s like what, wait a second, we’d never got to even have those conversations. And when this is gonna be a little bit of a side, trail, Mike, but I think we should probably make a quick PSA to people who are serving underneath. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re frustrated right now. Yeah, in your job situation. If you’re on a creative team, and you’ve been working at a church for the last year, and you didn’t feel a little bit frustrated, then I would love to have a conversation with you. Because you’ve been in a very, very tough, probably underappreciated spot. If not, like, that’s amazing. And I’d love to hear kind of the success from that. So reach out, you know, shoot us a message on on social media. or shoot me a text at 727-421-8299. I really seriously would love to have a conversation with you. If you’re if you you know, you’re like, man, I really got through this year thriving. Yeah, but because I’d love to hear learn more about that. But the point is, is that if you’re frustrated, quest, I want to, like think through like how well have you communicated your goals and your needs, and tried to seek a transition that can help you. Oftentimes, you know, your leaders love you and care about you. And they don’t tell you because they have 20 other things on their plate, and they’re not checking in on you because they think you’re fine. And then you get you have all this bottled up. And then one day you decide like, I can’t handle it anymore, I’m done or some action happens or a bad conversation triggers this box, or you get that phone call, which is a better offer with more money. And all of a sudden, this thing that you have put so much equity into, you walk away from because you’ve lost hope that it can be better, or you’ve had the same problem too many times in a row. And I just I want to encourage you that that so many times I; There was even a job that I walked away from that had so much opportunity. And I was just too young to even realize, and to think that I could communicate it. And I probably broke my leader’s heart when I said I was out. And by the time I told him about it, that decision was done. Right. I was off. I had had a better offer. Yeah. And I never even gave him the chance. Yeah. And and I think for you guys, if you’re listening to this, if you’re if you’ve not, if you’re not being mentored by somebody, you don’t get the chance to talk through some of these things. Please take this one piece of advice. And that is that there are so many more options than you think. And if nothing else, you’ve got to have some of these conversations early on to find out what the options are. And oftentimes, there’s more pay available. Because what you don’t realize is that while you may be make 40-50 grand, it’s gonna cost your, your leader 20 grand to replace you. Like just finding somebody else. It’s gonna take so much time and energy.

Mike Mage
And the inconvenience of all of that stuff too having someone else invest time, money, energy.

Justin Price
Oh re-training. Yeah all that stuff. It’s not just like hard cash, but, but your leader knows that. And they’re willing to, to figure out what they need to figure out financially. And so there’s, there’s just these things again, again, I wish somebody would have told me when I was when I was earlier on in my career, how many options there really were. So that, anyways, Mike, I know, I’m pretty fired up about this topic, but it’s like, man, there’s; it could it could be so much better.

Mike Mage
I think like with all things and you know, I think, you know, from where I’m coming from here is speaking to the leaders of your volunteer teams, or your your staff teams, or whatever. Communication is key. You have to be able not only do you have to communicate to people, but you do have to create a space, a safe place for people to have these difficult conversations conversations with you. Because I know, you know, like, if I was in the shoes of maybe I got another offer from another church or something to say, Hey, you know, we’re looking for a worship director we’re gonna pay you X amount of dollars more, here’s what we have to offer. Like on the front end, that might seem really great. But all the underlying stuff of me, you know, having to basically trade in the however many years I’ve put in at this church and relearning all these new people how this church works, you know, like, Is it worth it? Like there’s so much more you have to factor in than just cost. But let’s say I was that person and I had to go to my leader to talk to talk about that, whoever that might be. If If, if I didn’t feel like it was a safe place to bring that to them. I wouldn’t do it, like, I wouldn’t have that conversation with them. And I would have to fret and worry in the dark by myself, maybe talk to somebody else, some friends, maybe my spouse, my, you know, girlfriend, boyfriend, whoever, and probably get some fairly unwise counsel that isn’t directly related to the health of the organization. And, you know, that could be detrimental for both parties. So I mean, I think you’re totally right, there are far more options available than we give people credit for. And then on top of that, to not to over spiritualize things, either the guy is in charge of things that are bigger and better than we could ever think or imagine. And I think that we regularly don’t test God out on that. I think that we are, we are okay with the safe conservative option, whatever that we whatever we think that is or whether that might be we don’t give God sort of maybe the the time to like, maybe explore some some other options, especially with the people that you know, like we should be talking to so. But I think that you’re totally right, man. Anything else on this topic? You know, that we’re talking about?

Justin Price
Yeah, I would just I want to enforce the concept of the value of staying as well. I think sometimes it always feels like there is a brighter opportunity somewhere else. And oftentimes, there is a great, you know, maybe it’s like you’re going to a bigger church where it seems like there’s more resources, or more clout. And so there’s a lot of factors involved in changing jobs. And I would just say the the thing that is very, very hard that you don’t really know until the end of your career, is just how much value there is in staying put. What it means to like, have a volunteer that you have served with for 10 years.

Mike Mage
Yeah.

Justin Price
The equity that you have there. When you look at like payment versus like, the ease of the job. How do you build a team when you you don’t have the time to even invest in those people to train those people? And so, you know, when I look at at someone like Mike, who has been here has evolved his role has grown his his influence over the church. In was it seven years? Eight years?

Mike Mage
Yeah. This is my seventh year at Bay Hope.

Justin Price
Seventh year at Bay Hope. And it’s like, and you still have a long ways to go like, you’re not you’re not there, you’re not done. And I look at like what you can accomplish today, just because of your, of the time you’ve had there.

Mike Mage
Yep, yeah. 100%

Justin Price
The influence that you have there. God is able to use you. Yeah. As the vessel. No. So I want to be really clear. You’re not gonna stop God from doing something. But but if you don’t have the influence, God’s gonna use somebody who has the influence to do what he wants to do. And you’re going to miss out on that blessing of being in the middle of what God is doing. In some ways, if you’re jumping around from one thing to the next to the next to the next, instead of being faithful and sticking it out, and I think it is really, really tough to, to even understand that and to even explain it other than just to trust a couple of guys who have gone through it and have had a couple of decades of church work experience. And messed up enough.

Mike Mage
Well, and so I think important that and we’ll wrap up here too, but I think important distinction to make is I do think that there’s because I agree with you like I think there’s something super important and probably like very unsexy being okay with being planted with wherever you are, and, and growing roots wherever you are, and you might be for a given time period. And that’s okay, you know, I think we need to be okay with that, with that longer process. You know, God can do a lot of really cool things in that you will be a part kind of like Justing was saying; you will be a part of being able to see God move in in a very in a longer way you get way more perspective. I do think there are some times you know, where we are not speaking to the people who are you know, there’s, there’s really bad leadership or, you know, there’s obviously some some things that are going wrong, or that kind of stuff, you know, like that’s, that’s not to the exact person we’re speaking to in this moment. There are moments that do call for you to not be a part of that anymore. You know, even abusive things like that can happen especially in the church. I don’t think that we’re speaking to that person at all. But you know what, Justin too something I meant to say earlier in the in even before we really started recording at the beginning of this podcast, is one of the reasons I think this is really important that we’re talking about is I feel like the year 2020 we were all sort of just like hunkered down, you know, not really knowing what to expect around the corner. And I feel like as soon as the calendar turned over the 2021 people’s eyes are starting to get a little clear. I feel like people are reckoning, or there’s like some sort of reckoning with the frustration and the almost the attrition that 2020 has put on people. And so, you know, I do feel like this is really important that we’re talking about right now, how do you create that space to maybe give people you know, some runway to grow, to take off to make sure that you, as a leader have not been, you know, putting all this time and energy, and not necessarily just in vain. Because like, yes, like those things will probably be fruitful in some way, shape, or form, even if someone does leave. However, you know, what if we could have these people stay here and continue to invest at the church that you’re at right now. So well, thank you so much for being a part of this conversation. And you know, what, Justin, and I it, he’s not kidding. Like, we would really like to hear from you all. If your 2020 was great and thriving, we would really like to know that. And tell us how that happened. But also, really, according to this topic. Are you feeling that attrition rate at your church? Are you feeling that even within yourself? Are you looking for a way out? You know, in the in a professional sense? Do you feel like that’s you? Are you able, are you able to find ways to create a culture where people can stay where people can be planted, where people can grow, we would love to have that conversation with you even more, and we can have that conversation with you on our Instagram @healthychurchgrowth. On our Facebook page, Healthy Church Growth Podcast, or

Justin Price
Mike, let me throw it out there too, because I don’t think that most of our audience knows this. But we have been, we’ve been working with churches for a long time, you know, you you’ve got a lot to share on the health of the worship team. And so if you’re listening to this, and you’re feeling frustrated, like you want to leave and you want a lifeline, if you want just some help, feel free to shoot us a message. If you’re struggling with something if you’re even trying to figure out how to communicate with your leader. If you’re in that like spot where you’re you’re getting ready to give up or looking elsewhere. And you are a video guy call Mike. Kind of joking, joking. But also Yes, yeah, shoot your reel over to Mike. Yeah, I think they have a spot. No, but if you’re if your team or your church is in a place where you need some outside help, and you want to dig into some of the expertise and some of the the things that we’ve put together some strategies that we put together to help your your team get healthy, whether it is the worship team, with Mike or the creative team with me. We’re here for that. And those are things that we can talk more about offline, too. So anyways, if you’re looking into making 2021 better, and you would love to even be able to bounce that off that we can. We’re also available for those conversations. We’re doing this because we want to see the church grow and in a healthy way. We love the church. And this is a kind of a, an outpouring of our hearts and our desire to share some of the things that we’ve gone through.

Mike Mage
Yep, absolutely. And so yeah, thank you so much for listening to the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 26 – Katie Allred

Communication is More than Announcements.

In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, we chat with Katie Allred of Church Communications about her passion for using the internet to share the Gospel. You will walk away with practical tips but also a new outlook on how to use the internet for God’s glory. Be ready to get inspired!

On Instagram: @katiejallred, @churchcomms,  @Mikemage@techjustinrp@vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. Man, do we have an episode for you today. Justin and I got to do this interview yesterday. So it is very fresh, very fresh in our brains. And obviously in our hearts as well. Justin, how’s it going man?

Justin Price
It is going, it’s going really well, I I’m still kind of on the high of the of the of the interview. Yeah, it was a it was one of these; I think they always turn out better than we even hoped that they will. Because we’re just we get to talk to so many cool people. But talking to Katie, there was no way to really prepare for what she uncovered. I thought we were going to talk a lot about communications. And we I think, just to kind of tease you guys a little bit. We talked about something that I was completely not expecting. And very little about actual communications, we talked about something that we are called to do. We talked about something that the Bible is so clearly called us to. And yet we don’t spend enough time talking about it. I feel I feel really convicted. In a good way, I feel like Katie is so tuned in to just listening to what God is calling her to do. And I feel like man, I’m inspired to take some action off of this conversation. I feel, you know, really, really just amped up. And it’s, it’s been, it’s not been a full 24 hours since since we talked to her and already just, I’ve put so many things into place because of this one conversation. So that’s a lot of teasing. Let’s get into it, man.

Mike Mage
Well, what so so for those of you that don’t know, is right up front. I mean, Katie Allred is she started this Facebook group called Church Communications. That’s originally why we wanted to have her on.

Justin Price
Yeah, 27, 000 people. Biggest Facebook group and Facebook told her highest engaged Facebook group, spiritual. What was the term? Religious.

Mike Mage
Spiritual page. Yeah, it’s not a religious page, religious organization, whatever it is the most engaged, like page that they have in that section of spirituality or whatever.

Justin Price
Which means like, higher than any church, though, it means a bit higher than any church, which you would think would have would be maybe doing a little bit better than then a communications group.

Mike Mage
Right. Well, and so that that’s initially why we really wanted to talk about communications, Justin. And, and you are so right. I mean, this interview, took a turn where I think and, you know, we’re talking afterwards, like I called, you called me on the phone, or I called you or something like after, after we got done with the interview, just to like, debrief with how awesome this interview was. And I just, I think I said yesterday, I was like, I I had to stop talking just for a little bit because I didn’t know what else to do. But just like, listen, and I really hope that our audience can just like I felt like she was talking directly to me. And, and how I view sort of the online world, when it comes to church and, you know, getting people engaged and all that kind of stuff. And I just really hope people will be listening over my shoulder as she’s talking.

Justin Price
There’s a lot of practical tips you can take away she gave us some good meat, and some good practical tips, but also some incredible inspiration. If you’re listening to this podcast today because you want some tips on growing your church or becoming more healthy. And you want to lead up if you’re a young ministry guy or girl you can lead up Katie is like kicking butt and you know, I love she felt called at 12 to ministry and and she had a pastor say like, well you I can’t ordain you because you’re a girl and I just if you’re a young girl, definitely like hold on to this, get Katie’s information start following her. She’s She’s kicking some some butt and if you get anything out of this, please share it. We would love for you to share it like this and subscribe to the podcast we’ve got more podcasts like this lined up. More interviews like this lined up for you keep sharing them the more you guys do that the more people get to also hear this get exposed to to this podcast. And it means the world to us to Mike and I. Although really, Mike this has become just a therapy for me. You do such a great job of coaching me through the responses of all of these, these podcasts. So, you know, I’m just here for the free therapy from Mike but for everybody else, man. This is those shares are like icing on the cake to the free therapy. So thank you. Thank you guys so much. Let’s jump into the podcast with Katie Allred from Church Communications Group and so much more.

Mike Mage
Before we jump into today’s podcast, I wanted to let you all know about a limited time offer for church leaders. This podcast is supported and produced by Vers Creative, a full service strategic creative agency that works with a lot of large nonprofit and for profit organizations. We know that you are facing a new reality and see a huge opportunity to grow your local church. In the past, the majority of churches have understandably utilized whoever was eager to help with their social media and website presence. This may have been a volunteer with a good eye for photography, or a person that just seemed to know more about the tiktoks than the senior pastor. Pre COVID-19, this may have been passable. But fast forward to the present and your church’s, digital presence is the front door. You need help from a team with years of experience building a strategic online presence for brands. You need a guide that will help keep your attendees engaged and to reach new people through the heightened noise online. So Vers wanted to offer up a free one hour strategy session to help you and your church leadership team get results. Vers also offers a full strategic roadmap service at a discounted rate for churches, that is the same roadmap process that they would take a Fortune 500 company through. So if you just like some help, they would absolutely love to help you. Vers has always felt called to support churches in any way that they can. That’s why they felt called to start this podcast with me, the Healthy Church Growth Podcast Network. And if you’d like to take advantage of that free strategy session, shoot them an email at get@verscreative.com. That’s get@verscreative.com. There are no hidden charges. This is just to help you and your team with the mission God has called you and your church to. Again, that’s get@verscreative.com. And just let them know you heard this offer through the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

We have Katie Allred with us. Katie, thank you so much for joining us.

Katie Allred
Yeah, of course excited to be here.

Mike Mage
First off, I just want to say how big a fans and I’m going to speak a little bit for Justin. But Justin and I yeah. Justin and I are like giant fans of you, your work on what you’ve been able to do. How you been able to really leverage social media platforms for growth and for change and engagement. I mean, like it’s, it’s, it’s mind blowing, and I’m ecstatic and super, super grateful that you are taking time out of your schedule to join us and make this happen. So thank you so much.

Katie Allred
Oh, man. Well, thank you. I’m just the thing is like, I just know, I’m incredibly blessed. Like I don’t think I got here. Other than standing on the shoulders of giants and lots of prayer. You know, I think always, I don’t know if you’ve seen like these memes or whatever on Instagram and like, you know, you don’t know how long I prayed till I get here. Like I mean I spent a lot of time trying to get to the point where God can use me through digital, like digitally. And so yeah, thank you. I appreciate that.

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, and I mean, like, Yes, a lot of prayer. But it’s super obvious. I mean, you are, you’re, you have worked very hard. I see you. You know, it started with the Church Communications Facebook, and it’s just it feels like it’s growing and growing your web designing your social media podcasts conference stuff.

Katie Allred
It even started before that, you know, the Church Communications Group here is, you know, I don’t know if you know anything about my history, but I started a Harry Potter forum back in like 1992.

Mike Mage
I did not know that.

Katie Allred
I was nine years old. I started this Harry Potter forum where I strategically shared the Gospel with 1000s of people. And it was completely on accident. And, but then I was just I felt like John out in the wilderness just are crazy person who was like eating honey and just hasn’t like, you know, if I had a beard, like, I feel like that would be me.

Mike Mage
You wore the camel hair for fun, like the camel hair is just for fun

Katie Allred
Yeah I did. But about the internet, right. On the internet, like you shouldn’t be sharing the Gospel on the internet, like you should be the answer for when people have these really deep questions about life like you should be their church should provide that answer. I was very passionate about that. And I was like, Well, how do we do it? You know? Even at like, 10 I was asking these questions because I was I was googling them you’re asking. And I was very thankfully discipled very intentionally, at a young age by a deacon in my church, which I do feel like sets me apart. That doesn’t happen anymore. discipleship on a one-on-one basis is what was what you know, the New Testament intended is What you know, I think what, what discipleship was supposed to look like. And I’m very fortunate to have been a result of that. I’ve been blessed through it. And so anyway, that’s it, Church Communications all really happened, because I really felt called to online community and creating online communities that were engaging and helpful and made people feel less alone, I guess, and just a part of something that was bigger than them. And so that’s kind of how Church Communications started. I definitely did not expect for it to grow as much as it has. I don’t think anybody could expect for something like that. Unless they were full of themselves.

Mike Mage
Well, it’s, it’s super funny. Like I, I didn’t know about Church Communications until probably when we first started really talking about Justin, I started really talking about this podcast. And then I think, Justin, I think you brought it up about these podcasts, or about the church group was like, oh, man, I for some reason, you know, I’m just a dumb worship leader, you know. And so, you know, I know there’s worship leader

Katie Allred
Oh yeah. There’s worship leaders groups now. Yeah.

Mike Mage
A lot of worship leader Facebook groups in there. Those are wonderful.

Katie Allred
There weren’t when we created the communications group. It was pretty, there was only like, a couple, there’s like a handful at the time.

Mike Mage
Sure. Well, so let’s just let’s get well anyways, but I was just I had no idea about it. And then I, I subscribed to whoever and it was just like, this world opened up to me. There’s so many people on there and like, so yeah. So so let’s, let’s, let’s get the the timeline here, the history of it. So like you said, You started Harry Potter forum. And so where, what, when did you start Church Communications? You know, it’s been a while, but what led to Church Communications, like specifically, like, what about that, you know, really brought that on?

Katie Allred
Yeah, so Church Communications really started out of it really started out of, I’m trying to think like, so back in 2015, I was working at a mega church in Nashville, just doing com work at that church, I was kind of the bottom of the totem pole, telling somebody that earlier, I was not by any means, like, at the you know, I was not a director or anything like that. I was the social media and web like I was in charge of web content. And while we while we were at that church, or while I was at that church, I saw the church grow from one church to having seven churches into five year span, which is astronomical right now. We had a very small web team, we lost most of the web team, I ended up carrying most of the web responsibilities. And, you know, the com team, all in all was like 20 people that included media people, right, like a/v as well. So a large team, you know, it wasn’t you know, by any means small, but I was very much at the bottom of the totem pole. But, um, while I was there, I was working with my boss, who’s Darrell. And Darrell, he hired me, actually we work together he trained to me when I worked center kid camps, I worked camps over some summers. I’m sure y’all,

Mike Mage
As most people do.

Katie Allred
Yeah, I’m sure you probably worked a camp and your life. If you’re a Christian. Like how you can get out of working camp. Like how you cannot be a camp counselor. Yeah, I have no idea. Camp counseling is first off something you should do. It’s like a rite of passage.

Mike Mage
I was just gonna say that. Yeah, absolutely.

Justin Price
Yeah. It’s like sweeping the floors.

Katie Allred
Completely. Yeah, Justin. It’s like, I don’t know. And it’s also like the blood and sweat and tears, especially if you’ve worked a Lifeway camp. I don’t know, center kid was like a whole nother level of work I am never bored. And plus, like, you know, like the water balloon thing that they created where you could tie 1000 water balloons at one time. Like that didn’t exist so we were tying 1000 water balloons, you know,

Justin Price
Bringing some PTSD for all of our listeners right now.

Mike Mage
For real. Yeah.

Katie Allred
Well I’ve been there guys. I understand. I understand having to change the auditorium from a party space to a worship space in a matter of 15 minutes.

Mike Mage
For real. Yeah, exactly.

Katie Allred
Change the mood.

Yeah, totally.

Or like from worship to party, you know, or like, you know, and you’re like, how do I change the mood from we were just crying to let’s celebrate the Lord.

Mike Mage
Totally or like, those nasty food games. Like all student camps play and the you gotta turn it around.

Justin Price
This is a dark path we could go down here guys.

Katie Allred
I feel like that could be it’s own podcast.

Justin Price
We could do a church camp podcast for sure.

Katie Allred
If somebody did that, that’s the whole niche, like the church camp podcast things that happened at church camp. But it’s true. Um, but so anyways, when I was at camp, I was a Production Director. Well my first summer I was a video producer and found out I hated video like an adamantly. And because like I had to film the whole thing and render the video and back in the day, we had tapes, right. So it took some time to render footage. And yeah, I really earned my Stars and Stripes until we were a traveling camp, so we had to set up camp stuff across America. And my second and third summer I ended up being a Production Director. And that’s where I met Darrell. He was in charge. He used to be in charge of all like event production at LifeWay. So he oversaw like, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, but also camps. And I just remember thinking was really cool. I’d love to work for him. One day, he ended up leaving life way and going to Brentwood to the church, I worked and created this job and I ended up answering, answering the call as you would. Before that, I was actually like digging ditches. I was working in IT as a networking administrator. Yeah, that’s definitely what everybody expects for me to be a network administrator digging ditches course. Yeah. fiber optic cable like so if you need me to create a cat five cable anytime.

Mike Mage
That’s worth it.

Katie Allred
What everybody thinks. I mean, I can also, you know, set up a sound system like whatever, you know, like, when you work camp, you just learn so many random skills.

Mike Mage
Absolutely. Oh, my. Well, what’s funny, Katie is like this podcast is for the person at church, who’s like the worship leader, but also the communications person. And also the, I mean, it’s literally the person you’re describing.

Justin Price
And the ditch digger too.We had actually put that in the description for the interviews.

Katie Allred
Did you really?

Justin Price
No. No . No.

Katie Allred
Sounds like the guy who’s in the graveyard digging.

Mike Mage
For real.

Justin Price
Yeah, I did. I do think I did think we identified with like, the church guy who, or girl who is also responsible for mowing the lawn. You know, I mean, it’s like this. Yeah, the position that you often start at the church is, and is this bottom rung thing. And oftentimes, you have this passion, and this drive that has called you to do it, like to do a job that from the outside looks like pure insanity, right? And then, yet, but yet you’re doing it and you’re passionate about it, but you don’t have the tools you don’t know, you look at you look at somebody like Katie Allred, who has this phenomenal online community, and you’re like, I can’t even get anyone to respond to one post on my Facebook page for my church, you know, but I’m so passionate, and I’m posting all the time. And, and what do I do? And I would love circling back, you know, for us to get into, you know, some of those things of like, how, how can we help equip that person with some of those things. But I do want to, I do want to hear the rest of the story of how this turned into where you’re at today, because this is great.

Katie Allred
So, yeah, so you ran through, Darrell anyways, that’s how I met Darrell how went to the church, and then with him decided to start the group. Well, we actually he we’ve been through a lot of ideas about what to do. And I really was very adamant that I wanted to start a Facebook group, and he was like- I don’t know. A Facebook group? Which he will tell you that so like, you know, I’m not throwing him under a bus or anything. But it’s so funny. I definitely expected to find 50 people who wanted to complain about it. And then within a few months, we had 1000. And that was just through kind of word of mouth really like and then Facebook was promoting us. I think it’s fair to say that we caught on to the craze a little early about groups. So actually Facebook, you know, changed their entire mission to be about groups in 2016, late 2016. And we started this group in late 2015. And we so I think that Facebook was actually promoting us with the intention of knowing that their their whole platform was about to change, and they wanted people to get into groups. And then in 2017 Facebook actually called us to tell us we were the most engaged faith based group on the platform.

Mike Mage
Whoa, man.

Justin Price
That’s really cool.

Mike Mage
Did you get a cool plaque like I have?

Katie Allred
I didn’t get a plaque. I’m like kinda mad. Like, why don’t they send me a plaque you know? I did get like a postcard. Go to Facebook, for me to go to Facebook, but I didn’t get to go and actually tour the facilities and stuff, which was really, really fun. Yeah. So how did we do it? That’s a you know, first off how it really depends. If you’re talking about from a church perspective, what is your goal? I guess, you know, like, what is your goal to reach people in your community? Is it to reach people all over the world? Is it just to reach people in your congregation? Like, who are you trying to engage? I guess, my first question. So is that where we want to go first? Like, how do you get your congregation to engage?

Mike Mage
Yeah, I think so. Cuz, you know, I was thinking about, you know, obviously, there’s like, 1000 different directions that we could go with this conversation. But like, the average church out there is, like, well, that, and like, everybody’s sort of in the same boat right now, for the most part. You know, like, we’ve all had the experience, sort of what is a virtual church look like? What is the virtual community look like more than anything? And I feel like, you know, when I look at Church Communications, like, I don’t need Facebook to tell me that it is one of the most engaged like groups because like, I see that I mean, it’s comment after comment after comment, like after like it like and, you know, engaged engagement is like one of the biggest catchphrases that churches have been throwing around. And it kind of feels like, they’re just now focusing on engagement, which is upsetting. And I don’t wanna get into that. But like, if you’re just now focused on engagement, like you’ve missed the boat, like, this is where we’re very far behind. Be like, how do you like, what comes first? Is it the engagement? Or is it the community? And like, does is do the goals sort of help each other? And I don’t know, like, what what are you looking for within your group? And then maybe we can translate that to how other churches should maybe like, start formatting things?

Katie Allred
Yeah. So first, the the group, our group is 80% engaged, which means we have 27,000 numbers today, I think. And so that means about 22,000 people use it every single day, which is wow. It’s fine. Casual. But then I think about that as a picture of the church, like the global church at large. And I’m like, Okay, so the church is engaging. But how can we get that to work on a more community level, I guess, or church level, like a local church? And so I think first it does come first engagement, and then community, but also maybe a little bit of first community thing? Well, yeah, definitely think that’s a chicken before the egg like who came first. So when we are starting the group, and something I think even churches can take a part of is, well, first off, should you create a group for your church specifically? So let’s talk about just some basic like Facebook strategy. Okay. So most churches, almost every church has a page. So Facebook has several different products, if you will, there are Facebook profiles, which you and I have, like personal profiles, and churches should be using personal profiles, not as a church because that’s not right. You should have a church page. Yeah, like, you should enable and empower your congregants, your church members to use their profiles to share the Gospel. And there are ways to do that. And then there’s, you know, church, there’s pages that churches can use, any organization can create, they’re free. And those are what most people are familiar with. The problem that the church I think a lot of churches encountered in the last 10 years, was they created too many pages. I think I’ve seen so many pages sorry, Justin, that that have been like, gosh, different ministries. Right. So the children’s ministry has a page student ministry has a page, preschool has a page that has diluted your ability to reach people. And so it has really decreased the ability to engage. Yeah. And so let’s talk about I think a lot of people always think like, I need a lot of vanity metrics. Like I just want 10,000 people following me, and that is what we’re aiming for. But I would like us to get away from vanity metrics, like who cares how many people like even in church COMM The group like, Yes, we have 27,000, which it sounds like a lot, but it’s still not a portion of fraction of how many churches there are in North America. There’s 300,000 churches. And so you know, maybe I’m going to get to 10% of them. But like, what’s more important is how are we engaging? Even when we had 1000 people, I was so fanatical about how can I reach all 1000 people with something? Um, and so, yeah, so creating content that speaks to that is part of the question. But then also asking people in person, and through word of mouth, just like old school is also a great way to do it. So talking about let’s focus on pages. So if you have your church that has multiple pages, I’m going to recommend that you merge them all into one. You can merge, it is difficult, and sometimes take some time. If you have problems with that you can of course, like go into our group and posts about how you’re having problems with it. We do have people on Facebook, who will come and help you. From the Facebook team, I can’t promise anything, it’ll magically happen. But you can merge, but the thing is like to merge, the pages have to be extremely similar.

Mike Mage
What does that mean?

Katie Allred
Just in the name, like, so you’re gonna rename the preschool page to, you know, blank Baptist Church, or whatever, and then post some similar content or something, and then eventually, you can merge those audiences. It is difficult. So that’s not an easy problem. It might just be easier, honestly, to turn it off if you’ve got only 500 people or something. Um, so first is having just that one channel that everybody can go to, but pages are really a front door. They’re like, what, you know, what kind of content should we post on a page? It’s really stories of life change, and like how God is moving, and sermon clips, really shareable content. And even content that doesn’t necessarily make sense. I can remember one time I had a pastor’s wife email me, she was so she was so angry. Because I was sharing a shared like a thing about, you know, what kind of toppings do you like on your pizza or whatever. She’s like, how dare you. Don’t you know that people are burning in hell because of their sin. And I was like, Yeah, yeah, I do know that.

Mike Mage
Exactly.

Katie Allred
I am well aware.

Mike Mage
Thanks for the update.

Katie Allred
Oh what is that? And I was like, but do you think Jesus was like going up to people like you’re burning in hell. No, I think he picked up people and met them where they’re at. And maybe that’s sometimes a pizza.

Mike Mage
He was into food. A lot of His stuff is about food. Yeah.

Katie Allred
He might ask you what kind of pizza toppings you like, um, but really, you know, creating that kind of fun content. And I think Life Church actually does a great job of this. So if you look at a great example, I think Life Church creates a lot of fun content and balances really well with church content. Yeah. But if you look at their content, too, you’ll notice almost, you know, hardly any of it is stuff around events at their church. That’s where we go wrong is we make it all event centric, because almost all of our churches were that centric. But 2020 changed that, right. Like, we can’t do events anymore.

Justin Price
Not only that, but all the communication needs from the church where we need to communicate events. I was talking to a pastor earlier today. And I was like, I feel so bad for pastors, and for even communications, people who’ve been doing this for 20 years, because there’s never been a bigger, you know, tectonic plate shift in all things, communication, and all of a sudden, like, there’s these new ways to communicate. But they’re not the same things to communicate with. And so we have a different way to make community. And yet we’re expecting somebody who used to lay out a bulletin to, to make sure that people had like detailed information for events, or what was happening this week. And also, the sermon notes, is now supposed to understand how to build a community on a new social platform that’s changing every six months. Which is kind of insane.

Katie Allred
Right. Yeah, it really is extremely insane that anybody thinks that they can just like, I don’t know, pick this up and make it magically happen. You know, I think, I think God enables some of us with some amazing gifts. We can’t have all the gifts. And so to imagine that your communications director who was probably just one person, if you do have one at all. Maybe you have a volunteer that’s been doing this this entire time, just magically knows how to make this happen. is, I don’t know it. It is a gift. It’s a gifting in and of itself. Just like creating community in real life is a gift. Yeah, so I, we can’t have all the gifts you can have some of the gifts.

That’s the title for this podcast. You can’t have all the gifts.

You can’t have all the gifts. Um, yeah. So anyway, going back to Facebook, you know, creating pages is what churches know. That’s basically all they know to do. That’s what they were doing up until really 2019. And then 2020 happened, right? Like, Hmm, what else is there? And so, you know, Facebook groups is what I recommend most churches turn to because for at least creating community, because they had it has just a whole nother set of tools. It’s not, you know, just one thing. It includes social learning tools and includes so much more. And so and then creating groups for those sub ministries so that you can communicate that’s like a place you can create your bulletin board, essentially. Not that you can’t put events and advertise events, of course, like advertising, you have to use a page. And if you’re a multi campus church, I think you should have pages for each campus. I’m not saying like, get rid of that by any means. But I do think your church needs a group. And you know, depending on how larger churches does it need subgroups for each ministry. I mean, that that that is part of the question you have to ask yourself. And then, you know, when you create those groups, how do you get people into them? So, I think the first thing you should do is if you don’t already have the email of all your people, you should. And so maybe that’s where we should start get the email of all your church members. All their emails. Maybe you should do text messaging. I don’t know. That’s a whole nother thing. But text messaging, though, is important. 99%, open rate for texts.

Mike Mage
For real. Yeah. I just opened one.

Katie Allred
15% for email marketing. I may want to say like about groups too don’t, and this is something, this is why I usually talk about for most people don’t just create internal groups. So like we just talked about, like, you can create groups that are specifically for your church. But could you create external groups that serve your community? Yeah, is my next question for most churches. So I have been talking about this for years. And I actually saw a church do this right when COVID started. They started like COVID, response group or whatever for, for the New Orleans area. Yeah. And within 24 hours, had 5000 members of people in New Orleans. And now, like 10,000 are added members, and they ended up getting press and all this kind of stuff. But what I’m very specific about when you create these groups, create niche groups like hiking, or knitting, or I don’t know if something you’re passionate about, but for your area. And then this is a very old evangelism tactic. By the way. This is like, you know, creating a basketball league. You’re saying, you know, come join our basketball league, but leave the churches, branding and life out of it. Start by like, just intentionally creating community with people creating relationships with people that can then translate to offline relationships. Because if you create like a kayaking group, fantastic. You can probably get a bunch of people in your area that are interested in kayaking into a group pretty organically, and you can maybe even tell 10 of your friends at church that also love kayaking. Be like, hey, invite 10 of your friends that love kayaking, and, you know, then we’ll have 100 people in the group and then organically, Facebook will promote it themselves. Um, and then what’s great is that now you’ve got, you know, 100 people who love kayaking, you can all go and meet up and talk about kayaking and go kayaking together. And then you can create those relationships that can translate to offline.

Justin Price
How long do you wait, Katie, when you make the kayaking group before you start doing kayaking lessons in the baptistry?

Katie Allred
Definitely, I would say never. I can remember one time like actually I was great is that one time I went so that a church created an event on Facebook, that kind of went very viral of free kayaking trips in my hometown, and I was like, This is awesome. Like, who doesn’t want to go on a free kayaking trip. And so they actually took all of their missions money and put it into these kayaking trips. And yeah, smartest idea ever. I mean, it was a super small church. I mean, like a church of like, 40 people and They’d like we’re putting our like, you know, $1,000 kayaking, or $1,000 missions budget into this kayaking thing, if they did every summer, and I mean, they saw me probably hundreds of people come through these kayaking trips. But what I hated was at the end, they made a sit on a hot bus and listen to somebody’s testimony, they weren’t prepared to give.

Mike Mage
The old bait and switch.

Katie Allred
The old lady switch. We’re gonna sit on this hot bus for 30 minutes and listen to the 17 year old kid, tell their testimony. That’s bad.

Mike Mage
All the stuff that they’ve gone through up until 17 is really hard life.

Katie Allred
It was so good up until that very moment, and then there was no follow up none whatsoever after the trip, and so I was like, you know, it’d be amazing is if you know, a church, and so, or even not a church, just a human being was offering free kayaking trips. And then there is follow up like, Hey, what do you like being a normal human being. I think we forgot to be human somewhere along the way, we became organizations and forgot that church was humans hanging out with other humans.

Justin Price
Yeah. That’s what that’s what stuck out to me when you mentioned the Harry Potter group. And the idea that you understood that there was a space for people who were lonely or alone, I think was the word you said. Yeah. And I was thinking about when you started Church Communications, I was a community, I was a creative director at a church. And I quickly joined and the thing that brought camaraderie for for me, was all the people complaining, you know, you had some really great, you know, like, people would talk about like things that messed up on Sunday, we would talk about different things. So there was there was a value a lot of community right, was higher than like the any tips I got, like, I don’t, I can’t tell you one thing that I ever, like, learned that there wasn’t a lot to learn.

Katie Allred
People are like yeah I learned so much, but they can’t tell me exactly.

Justin Price
It was, there was a lot. But what sticks out to me was feeling like I was not alone. And I was the only one who was really passionate at my church on staff that really cared about what I was doing. And yet he was like another 5,000, 10,000 people who are also passionately trying to do their very best, like people, you know, and it’s like, we can be so critical of church communications, like we can look at other churches and be like, Oh, they all look the same. And the graphic designers all copy each other and, and everybody only talks about events, and you’re not being critical of churches. But I just feel like I think it’s super easy for us to get so critical. And yet, the reality is like there, there’s one person trying to do a job of three or four or five people, a copywriter, designer motion graphics.

Katie Allred
I just want them like I know that like there are other people probably at the church. Some sweet admin named Betty who’s been there for years. I’m sure she has things to say. I’m sure she has things to talk about. But I really do care about that person who is wearing a million hats. And then the person who was like me, who was at the bottom of the totem pole was part of a bigger thing, but felt like they had so much to give back because they did have extra space and bandwidth to give to these other churches. So yeah, can we create those spaces for these lonely people? You know, I was thinking about it. And here’s the thing, like, everybody’s lonely. One in four people, you know, this was like a statistic from Cigna back in like 2018, one in four people don’t have anybody to talk to. Like, don’t feel like they had anyone that they could, I don’t know, intimately express themselves with. That’s 25% of Americans. There’s a higher percentage that like, I don’t know, it’s more than 60%. That was in 2019. But I felt like overwhelmingly lonely. And so I’m like, okay, that’s six and 10. And so I’m like, that is a lot of people who are feeling and it’s so on the rise. And it is directly correlated, I think, to social media, which is crazy, right? I think that loneliness is directly correlated to the use of social media and technology. But how can we redeem it? I think God’s in the business of redeeming things. And so how can we use it for his purposes to connect these lonely people to other people who care about them? That as we are Christians, we should care about people. Think creating these intentional or getting involved in groups that are already created in meaningful ways. You know, there are there is tons of community groups. You might even be a part of a neighborhood group, right? Probably like you know, not next door I’m talking about but like your, you know, Facebook group next door. I feel like it’s just a dumpster fire.

Mike Mage
It totally is. No, you’re right, it is.

Katie Allred
You can redeem it with Facebook groups, there’s like a neighborhood group, like, I have a neighborhood group for my like suburb or whatever, my subdivision. And, um, I think about, like, how can I create engagement in this group that is meaningful and helpful and like, positive and people in the neighborhood now recognize me because of my engagement, like, you know, I’m saying like, before neighbors, and even now, like neighbors don’t know each other. Right?

Mike Mage
Right. Oh, my gosh.

Katie Allred
You’re like, I don’t know who the neighbors to the left of me or the right. I actually don’t even know who my neighbor to the right of me. They just moved in, like three months ago, I still haven’t met them because of COVID. I’m like afraid to approach. Um, but I’m like, how can we create this like actual community where neighborhoods actually care about each other? And can we get into this in groups? Well, I’ve been talking about this for a long time. So somebody had listened to a podcast where I did talk about this. And she was like, I felt encouraged. So I joined a group and they like, take a walk or something every week. So I went and joined their walk. And she was like, this was probably the most meaningful gospel, like, opportunity I’ve gotten in a long time, because Christians tend to run in Christian centric circles. Like, we’re a church, and then we’re at work and like, we just don’t have an opportunity to meet people outside of the circles of influence. How can we increase our circles of influence? And I think creating Facebook groups are very centric to hobbies in your area, or even just hobbies in general, not just in your area, if you want to go national, you go for it. Or like, can we create like, communities of around and you can do this with Instagram, too, you don’t have to just do so in the Facebook group. So like, this can work in Instagram, too. Like if you want to create an Instagram account about kayaking in Mobile, I’m sure people who love to kayak and Mobile would follow that. And you could probably get user generated content from the group. So like it could feed to it. Because what I was thinking for like a group that’s like about kayaking, it could be like every Friday, like, Hey, where are you kayaking this week, share a picture, you know, of your latest kayak, you know, trip below or whatever. And then you can post all of those pictures, right, to an Instagram feed. And then start another community that’s going on over there and feed them back into the other ones. They can work together. And so I feel like we make this so so too complicated, like we make evangelism too complicated online. But the thing is just creating intentional pathways. So people aren’t really searching out the church. But they are searching. This is kind of changing subjects a little bit, but they are searching for words. You know, they’re searching phrases. They’re not really searching necessarily for church. Sometimes they are and then great, like they watch our broadcasts or whatever. But like people like during COVID, if you go to trends, Google Trends, I don’t know. Have you ever used Google Trends?

Justin Price
Absolutely. Yeah.

Katie Allred
Oh, yeah. Well, if you haven’t, if you’re listening to us it’s trends.google.com. And what I love is you can kind of search like words and phrases and see like how popular they are in search engine results, and like how much people are searching them. Well, when COVID happened, prayer, like how to pray and like what happens after you die, like shot up like a hockey stick. People were searching for these answers. And there wasn’t any content like Google would prefer; Google how Google works is it actually checks local results first, and would prefer to give someone a local answer to their question, if there was a local answer that was authoritative. And like it was well researched, and had, you know, and seemed like it was a good answer, even if it was on YouTube, like, prefer to give answer because obviously, you choose on by Google. Um, but for the most part, churches don’t do you have a YouTube video of how to pray. Or video of how you know what happens after you die. Or answering these very simple like questions- What happens after you die? So simple.

Mike Mage
Just a tiny thing. Yeah, no, not a big deal. People haven’t been asking that question for 1,000 years.

Katie Allred
You’ve asked that question. If you became a follower of Christ. At some point, like you have asked the question these questions like some, you know, and so can we put out intentional pathways for people to fall like landing pages and or page content on your website, even if it’s a blog or a YouTube channel or whatever, that answers these questions. A lot of times they can come from the sermon. You know, you’re already doing sermons around this stuff. So don’t think like, Oh, you’ve got to reinvent the whole wheel. I don’t think that’s the case at all. You really can take the stuff that you’ve already created and put that in. And you just have to you just have to name it correctly.

You have to be intentional about it. Yeah, for sure.

Yeah. To be super intentional about how you’re doing it.

Justin Price
Katie, I don’t know if we’ve ever had a guest who has been as even evangelical in their mission for technology or communications as I’m like, honestly, I’m blown away. There’s no doubt. The reason why you’ve been able to be successful is because you’re chasing after sharing the gospel. And God is just using you. It’s It’s seriously so encouraging. As you’re talking. I’m just listening. I’m sorry, I want to recap for our listeners, if you didn’t quite catch on. Katie has just covered three different genres. And actually, she’s like, kind of moving into what we’re currently in right now for like top communications, which is, first it was an online community and Facebook groups. Then she started talking about how, well actually before that it was her web, the web management, like she was doing web work at a church; introduces Facebook and online groups, way ahead of the group’s trends, moves into Instagram, you know, develops how to utilize those things on Instagram as well still building social communities. And now she’s actually talking about search, which has both Google and YouTube search hacking for but all of it for the gospel, not for her glory, not for like her, you know, empire. And I’m super, super inspired. Katie, I think it’s just a breath of fresh air to hear, you know, sometimes I think we get like, really, especially when you’re good at something, right? To just like, be like, more focused about the thing you’re good at, rather than just like keep pointing it back to the gospel. And it’s just so cool to hear your heart. It’s like you just you’re you’re on the front edge of these trends. And not maybe you know, not necessarily like your what you’re way ahead of where most churches are at. And even what if you’re live if you’re a listener who’s listening to this right now, don’t be discouraged that you’re not Katie, God’s gifted her and given her incredible. Obviously, she’s given him the credit for it, for forecasting and for kind of seeing where they’re being able to read the communities and where things are going. But But listen to what she’s saying, because there’s not like a even if you’ve if you understand this today, everything she has said isn’t about Google and YouTube today. It is that understanding people and realizing that people are searching this way. So if you would be willing to listen and think about how people if you just constantly think about people, you will also be ahead of the trends. You will also be understanding where people are at and figure out new and exciting ways that Katie’s not figuring out that works for your community. We talked about this all the time a healthy church growth isn’t about taking a model and applying it to you and like copycatting. It’s taking it’s typically like the healthiest things are taking principles like scripture in parables oftentimes relate lots of different ways. But the principle is the core same and what Katie is ultimately saying is no matter what thing is happening, or trending or where people are at, she is finding avenues to get to them. And to give them the gospel not to give them her not to not to raise you know her awareness but to give them the gospel. And yeah, I’m just honestly like blown away. I had no idea. Katie, your heart for this. Even though I feel like I’ve been a fan of yours. I’ve been following you for a long time and seeing you do cool things that all met, like add to the story, you know, that all support the story. It’s not like I’ve been seeing yourself promoting out there. Yeah, but, but it’s just like, really, really encouraging. So I wanted to kind of recap that for our listeners and say, Hey, if you didn’t figure out what what she’s been talking about that is it right there. Did I miss anything on that, Katie?

Katie Allred
No, thank you. Yeah, no, that was that was I feel like sometimes when you’re like, well, Katie’s, like, figure it out. I’m like, I feel like the worst sometimes, you know. Cuz I, you know, to be all things to all people I sometimes have felt like I I just love the internet so much. And I’ve been very passionate about it for a long time since I was a child about reaching people on the internet. Because I really figured out at a very young age, that is where the ends of the earth are. Like, obviously, we’re having a conversation right now that was very much like we would have in real life. And, you know, I, at a young age also figured out that I let my guard down online, and I know that there are trolls and it’s easier to be hateful. But it’s just as easy to be loving, and kind. And so, you know, I have figured that out. I don’t know. I mean, ever since I was a kid, it was just so clear to me that that was the path to spread the gospel. So thanks for recognizing that. A lot of times, you know, I feel like I’m a crazy person. Like I said, like, John out in the wildernes, just a kid. Like if we just did these couple of things, we could really reach a lot of people for the gospel.

Mike Mage
Yeah, but it’s incredible. I mean, and I think Justin’s right, like, it’s the focus on people, even if it’s virtually. I mean, social media is supposed to be supposed to do what you’re doing, you know, at it social media at its best, does exactly all those things that you are implementing through Church Communications, and all these things that you are, you’re bringing forth.

Katie Allred
More the worst of social media, like, you know, social media, especially during like an election season can be the worst. I think that was why it has increased loneliness and anxiety and all those things. Um, turn that all off, like, unfollow all those people who are like driving you nuts. But create places of sanctuary, right online, like, how can we create healthy pockets on the internet, that are guided by Christians that are not like, church front facing but are, are ran by Christians owned by Christians. It’s just like, creating and running, you know, Christian businesses, right? Like, I want to create those things. It was funny what Justin was talking earlier, he was talking about, like, you know, it just created a space for me where I don’t even know if I learned anything, but I love that it’s part of the community that’s like University, right? Like, do you remember what you learned in university, he created this space, right for you to, to mature and to belong, and to like, create relationships that really were meaningful for you. I’m a professor right now. So that’s all I think all these kids. I don’t even know if they know that. Like, I should probably tell the internet. I’m a professor. Um, yeah, to give myself like, one tiny little bit of authority. But um, yeah, anyway, so. Yeah, I don’t know where I was going with that.

Mike Mage
Healthy spaces. Yeah. And that’s, and again, to bring it back, obviously, to the Bible. Like, that’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to be lights in the darkness. And, you know, my pastor always says, to start punching holes of light in the darkness. And, you know, let’s just make as many of those as we can. And yeah, go ahead, Justin.

Justin Price
This thing is like, this is crazy that I had this conversation with an outreach pastor today, who said, I am struggling, he goes, I I’m not against the internet. And I’m not against social media, but I just don’t really get social media.

Katie Allred
Yeah I just don’t understand it.

Justin Price
And he’s doing a lot of overseas work with Muslims, that it’s kind of it’s very dangerous mission work.

Katie Allred
You can really reach the Muslims on the internet.

Justin Price
Yeah, yes. And he also, he also had just informed me about something that he had seen where they were actually taking like a church’s mission video where they, they actually were kind of telling the church, they came back, and we’re like, this is what we did on our mission trip. And that there was a group of, of Islam, people who then actually reacted like they found that video, and then they actually harmed some people that were in the area that had the mission work was done. And so he was coming from this very scared side of social media and internet.

Katie Allred
You definitely have to be careful. I, you know, they’re there. Especially it depends on like, especially mission organizations, you really do have to be careful about how you do it.

Justin Price
Yeah. Well, I think there’s a lot of nuances to all of that, right, obviously, like,

Katie Allred
But no matter what, the risk is worth the cost, right? Like, it’s just like anywhere, like you’re going to be persecuted no matter what, or however you’re trying to reach people. Right. Like, we know that that’s going to happen, right. And so for me, yeah, the risk just outweighs it.

Justin Price
I honestly, I don’t feel Katie like I can, I can make that judgment, you know, as far as like, what his risk or costs are.

Katie Allred
Sure, yeah. You have to be smart, don’t start. There’s a lot of things involved.

Justin Price
But everything that you have said so far has not been about communications, like you didn’t talk to me about the audience. You didn’t talk to me about the problems that we’re solving. You didn’t really talk to me, you ask questions about it. But that’s not necessarily what your heart has been after in this conversation. It has been sharing the gospel. And I almost feel like I’m sitting here talking to an outreach pastor more than I’m talking to a communications person. And so I honestly think this is a great; I’m more I’m bringing this conversation up with my with with the friend that I met and was talking with, because it’s unprecedented in the sense that he’s a mission. He’s an outreach pastor. He’s a missions pastor. That’s what has been doing for the last 10 years at a large church with a lot of money, a big, you know, hundreds of 1000s of dollars of missions budget that’s going locally and globally. And they’re doing some amazing things like they built a an orphanage for kids that were like in child slavery and they like save them and train them. raise them up, and they have these incredible stories. And I’m like, that is that’s amazing. And if like God is calling him to do that, that is great. And I’m not saying that like online missions, or what you’re doing with the internet is more worthy.

Katie Allred
But cant a portion of that money go to online missions. I don’t know of a church. I mean, I can’t tell you I’ve been; It’s not there yet. Online missions is not a thing, which is why I’m over here just like being like John again, like, yeah, yeah, it’s definitely not a thing. Online evangelism has been ignored and ignored. I mean, people were like, yeah, you could do it. And I mean, you could start really small, like, like I said, a personal profile. If you just ask the question, how can I be praying for you this week? I guarantee you, like 10 people, at least 40 friends, I bet 10 of them will reach out to you and say, Oh, you can be praying for because people are just waiting. They just wanting Yeah, they want to have the opportunity be prayed with, but we don’t give them the opportunity. And so that’s the easiest, I think prayer is the primary strategy for reaching people with the gospel no matter what. But offering prayer like that is just I don’t know, online, especially through personal profiles, where you feel like you’re not gonna be persecuted in real life. Hey, you know, here in America, we have such a great I don’t know, we have a lot of privileges. But I just went and you know, to India in January, I don’t know if y’all knew this. I went to India with missions organization. I don’t know that I can name the mission presentation over. I’ll tell you offline. But. But I went to India in January, right. When the pandemic was announced in China. I was in India. It’s fine. I had never been overseas before.

Mike Mage
The one time. The one time.

Katie Allred
Right. Yeah, well it’s so funny. My whole life. I’ve always, you know, I’ve really felt called to missions and stuff like that, like, like, you were kind of saying and, um, anyways, went to India and was working with some different Christian organizations on digital strategy for India, to reach people in India. And so I actually got to work with one team was making YouTube channel and they were like, Oh, we’ve reached millions of people before. They were like, this won’t be hard at all. We’ll spend $20 and reach 1000 people I’m like, like, okay, like, cuz people are so hungry for the gospel in India. And then too what was great is that I got to work on another theme that I created a podcast, the first podcast so podcast, just picked up podcasting in general. just picked up in India is like a cool thing to do. And, um, anyways, This podcast was the first podcast in two different Indian native languages, the first one ever. So first one ever put out and has already like, or at least in like, June or July, the last I heard had already reached 300 people for the gospel had already. Like 300 people that came to know the Lord directly through WhatsApp. Like we did, they did WhatsApp follow up, we that was part of our strategy was using WhatsApp to follow up with people. And anyway, um, so people are hungry for the gospel, figuring out how to do it digitally online, I think is the is the question. Yeah, I don’t know. I think I think we’ll figure it out. But I just I hope that we, man, wouldn’t it be great if churches like did get portions of their budget? I don’t know what that looks like for them. You know, I think figuring out like enabling and empowering people in their congregations, there are people who are already passionate about these kind of things about certain hobbies or whatever in their area. It’s just turning it around and like empowering them to create and not take ownership too, you know, I think the church so desires ownership over things. And I don’t think that I don’t I don’t know that hat’s biblical. Oh, we should give it all away. So well, how can we empower and encourage and equip people to do this really well, I think is the next question.

Justin Price
I think you’re paving the way. I think this podcast could be planting seeds right now, Katie, that people have just haven’t. It’s not that. And this is where I feel like it’s so easy for us to have this critical conversation at the church because I don’t think it’s because people don’t want to it’s it’s that precedent, like it just hasn’t been an opportunity. They haven’t seen it work. And there is a lot of; people got burned really early with with websites that were super expensive and did not perform. People got really burned by like bad things that happened on social media. Obviously, we’ve seen all sorts of different things. And so there’s a lot of fear around it and any I think you think you said it really well. They’re worth, the risk is worth it. But I would hope that this would spark a conversation in some churches, even if you’re a small church, and you’re like a worship guy doing everything and you’re doing communications, like, take this conversation to your pastor and say, let’s start with 100 bucks, like, let’s start doing something. There is work that we can use communication can be more than announcements, it can be the gospel, using these channels. And in you guys now more than ever, are a conduit for a whole, you know, untapped group of people who need the gospel right now more, you know, so much online.

Mike Mage
What I feel like what Katie is bringing to us is almost bypassing this idea that content is should be the only driving force. I mean, Katie, would you agree with that? I feel like we we have one of the pain points I see for a lot of churches, and we can wrap up here pretty soon. But one of the pain points I see is a lot of people are stunted in what they want to do, because they feel like they can’t compete with the churches around the corner, or the mega church that’s just down the road, or even, you know, stinking Elevation Church or Hillsong. You know, they don’t have millions of dollars. And, but what what you are bringing the church, the community building aspect of this has nothing to do with content. You use content as a vehicle to to ask people how they’re doing to actually connect with people. And you don’t need to have the $8,000 camera or you know, like the $2,000 video editing suite, you don’t need that specifically. Sure, that can help every once in a while. But But your your primary point is connecting with people.

Katie Allred
Right. How can I start intentional conversations that lead to intentional conversations about the gospel? You know, I definitely in 1999, did not have a fancy camera, or even social media didn’t exist. Right. Right. Right. It was just how can I reach these people that I have access to on the internet? How can I intentionally lead them more towards Christ’s likeness, even if they already know Christ. Like, what can I do to disciple them? How can I get to how can I reach them? How can I create pockets of community and create a community that is intentional and relational? And yeah, yeah, you know, and you can start very small, don’t feel like you got to go and reinvent the wheel tomorrow, I know that this is probably a 90,000 foot view. And tomorrow, somebody’s gonna have no idea. Literally, today, if I can just get you to do one thing, write how can I be praying for you on your personal profile. And start the community there. And then, if you’re like, Okay, well, that went over well, you know, how can or how, you know, however, that went in probably with them. By the way, don’t just say I’m praying for you like, and intentionally send them actually, yeah, we’ll actually send them a prayer because people don’t know how to pray. And so they will read the prayer as if they are praying it because they don’t know what you know, like Jesus modeled prayer for us so that we can model prayer for others. And so anyways, if you can actually write out the prayer for them, that would be one intentional way for you to create community online today that starts with your personal profile. You know, that is one easy way. But if tomorrow, you’re like, Okay, I want to take the next step. Join a community group that’s already started in your community. Yeah, and intentionally post on there. Just about random stuff. Like what’s your favorite barbecue restaurant? Like, you know, and just follow up with people. Okay, that’s a great restaurant. I’ve been there, you know, and just get your name out there enough to where people can recognize who you are. And just kind of move the conversation from there until like, see where you can kind of go with it. I don’t know. Maybe create your own group afterwards. You can have you’ll have a whole list of people who love barbecue. Barbecue fanatics of Mobile, Alabama,

Justin Price
It’s so good. You’re making it sound so easy, Katie.

Katie Allred
They both like it’s never gonna happen for me. Sure.

Justin Price
How many posts before I post a link over to my church?

Katie Allred
If you’re talking about barbecue, you post a church link. I feel like that’d be like, unless your church is having amazing barbecue, then you know- that’s an opening right there that we’re having a barbecue kickoff at our church. Okay, fantastic.

Mike Mage
Well, I do I do. I do love the freedom in that though. If you’re joining like a community, whatever. Like if you are a Christian and you are living a life with Jesus, it is going to naturally come up, you know.

Katie Allred
Because that’s what you do in relationships. That’s all a relationship is. Out of those relationships the abundance of your heart overflow Jesus along the way, that’s great. That’s exactly what we want to do. But that should happen naturally and shouldn’t be forced. It shouldn’t just be like-Go to my church website.

Mike Mage
Even online, I feel like people can sniff that out very quickly, you know, man, oh, yeah. They don’t want to engage with that.

Katie Allred
Yeah. Right. And so we don’t want that. Like we don’t want to be salesy or whatever, I just want you to be like a normal human that wants barbecue.

Mike Mage
That’s the title of this episode. There it is. There’s the title.

Justin Price
Katie, you’ve done such a good job of giving us so many good pointers, I hope that we can have you back some time and talk some more. Is there, you know, I know you wrote a book about Instagram, is there anything you would want to share? If you if our listeners got, you know, enjoyed this if they wanted to extend it. And here’s some more of your words and are not willing to take a class in your your college. Yeah. Where can they find you? What can we you know, tell us a little bit about how they can engage with you.

Katie Allred
So you go to churchcommunications.com if you want to visit the website. We have a blog. We have a podcast, you can check out the Church Communications podcast. We have, which we just did one on small groups online, like how to do small groups online. Actually, it was with Dave Ramsey, and there’s some great content in there.

Mike Mage
I’ve heard of him before.

Katie Allred
Yeah. Um, it was good. And there’s, gosh, you can join the Church Communications Facebook group. You can we just we’re launching a membership group, it’s pro.churchcommunications.com. You can join that today, which is more exclusive access to me, because I know everybody needs that now. There’s some great educational courses. So we did a summit with Dave Ramsey on small groups online. 30 different speakers about how to do small group and church online. I think actually, there might be like, 60 I don’t know. There was a ton. We got so many so much amazing. And all of it is how to content. So everything is how to do this because we like to be very practical. If there’s anything I want somebody to walk away with some practical steps. And so that’s included in the Pro membership, the instant summit that we did earlier She Leads Church that we did last year, we’re doing She Leads church again in March. So if you’re a female leader like me, who’s been confused by your whole life I love Jesus. Oh, the church, right. Anyways, that’ll be sheleadschurch.com that’s coming up in March again and then yeah, so just we’ve got a lot of crazy stuff coming up. But anyways, all of it will be offered through pro.churchcommunications.com. And yeah, thanks for asking. We’d love to meet up with anybody if you want to send me a DM on Instagram it’s @katiejallred.

Justin Price
Katie does reply. So. I think that’s how she got roped in.

Mike Mage
Yeah. That’s how we tricked her into doing the podcast.

Katie Allred
The only place I’ll reply.

Mike Mage
Well, cool. Well, Katie, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This has been incredible. And yeah, we hope to have you on again soon.

Wow. I mean, I I don’t know what else to say other than just wow. Katie is the real deal. Yes. And, and I, I absolutely love how everything is distilled that she does. I mean, you take the online world, you take social media, you take web design, you take whatever you can, and it is distilled down into connecting with people the way that it should be. And we get so lost on our way in with all the shiny tools with you know, Facebook groups and vanity numbers that she even talked about and and at the end of the day, the reason church communications is the most engaged group on Facebook is because she cares about people. And I know that that’s not mind blowing. But why is that so mind blowing?

Justin Price
Mike, we, we we said we thought we were gonna have a conversation about communication tips and things like that. And I feel like we just talked to the best missions pastor I’ve ever talked to, you know, I think her desire, her heart to to share the gospel through the internet is so cool. I love I don’t know if she’s intentionally doing this or not, I need to ask her. If she knows that she’s like a this disciple in disguise, and that she’s like disguising communications and needs groups and different things. Yeah. She kind of knows that she’s doing evangelism through groups. But it’s really, really incredible because she’s not she’s not just like stuck on one platform. It’s like every new evolution of the platforms. She’s taking the gospel to it, and figuring out how to use it. And it’s like, she’s not talking about how to trick YouTube algorithms. She’s saying, This is how the YouTube algorithm works, people search questions, and you should have a YouTube video to answer that. Not so that you get more people at your church, but so that you can actually help people solve these heart problems they’re looking answers for. And because of that, you’re going to use the the internet, which can be a bad place for something very good. And that’s her. That’s your whole heart. That’s her desire. And, man, I think if we could just maybe sometimes get, get some of the vanity and some of the metrics and some of the flash, the walking on water, and the the wonderful essence, the miracle level of the Holy Spirit, and put it aside and get back to the John the Baptist, we’re okay to be weird and eat some locusts, maybe a little bit more mindful of just truly being desperately sold out for the gospel, we might find a little bit more health in our culture in our organizations and maybe even a little bit more growth. So yeah, really well, there’s so much more to unpack with Katie.

Mike Mage
Totally well, and it’s, it’s such a it’s an opportunity, and it’s a challenge for us in the church, who are like, we have all had to go to an online platform at some point in the year 2020. And the challenge for you is to not just let it go, you know, follow follow Katie on on all of her sites. She has her own website. She has obviously Church Communications. She has a podcast, she just came out with a book. She’s a professor at a college. I mean, like, she’s, she’s everywhere. And, you know, one of the places you can go to find all that stuff is on our website. It’s the shownotes on our website, it’s healthychurchgrowth.org. You can go, yeah, and yeah, not.com.org. And you can find all of that stuff there. And just really, you know, get that encouragement you need to continue on in reaching people that are already online. I mean, people are already online, so why not go and meet them where they are, which is to me the most Jesus thing that you could do. So we hope we really hope that you got something out of it. I mean, at least a little bit of what Justin and I got, because we are, we’re blown away. And yeah, we absolutely were so grateful that you were able to listen in on this interview with us. And so thanks so much for joining us here on the Healthy Church Growth podcast, where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 25

Are big events a healthy way to grow your church?

Do you rely on big events to grow your church? In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, hosts Mike Mage, and Justin Price, founder of Vers Creative, discuss how to determine if an event had a healthy impact on your church.

On Instagram: @Mikemage, @techjustinrp, @vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We are so glad that you have joined us here for this incredible conversation that I, one of your hosts, Mike here am having with our other co-host, Justin Price. Justin, how are you doing this fine, what’s today, Wednesday today as of recording this. We’re on a Wednesday.

Justin Price
As we’re recording this, it is a Wednesday. It is four o’clock in the afternoon. And it’s been. It’s been a fantastic day. Thanks for asking Mike. How are you doing?

Mike Mage
You know what I am doing great. And for those of you that are listening to this, you have no idea, but Justin and I have been going through a battle of technology, battle with technology. As I’m sure most of you who are listening go with every Sunday when it’s the most inopportune times. Justin have you ever noticed that? When you’re doing something, you got something big going on and all of a sudden, something that has never broken before is now broken. Doesn’t that always happen?

Justin Price
It only happens when you need it. Pro Presenter only breaks 30 minutes before service.

Mike Mage
Well like 30 minutes, you know what, you know what actually happened to me once was during the Christmas Eve we were going into our first Christmas even now you know for everyone listening if you’re you work at a church, all that kind of stuff. Christmas Eve is huge. It’s a big event for you. And I I remember our Ableton our tracks, you know, we use tracks and all that kind of stuff, click queues, all kind of stuff. Just completely, all of the files that we use from the cloud just completely got deleted off the computer. I still to this day do not know how it happened. And so we’re scrambling I mean, there’s a countdown going, all that kind of stuff, I’m scrambling, you know, 12 minutes before the service starts to somehow figure it out. So yeah, and you know, Christmas, we’re actually around Christmas time as we’re recording this right now. I mean, you know, people could be listening to this months from now. But right now, we are recording this around Christmas. And there’s a ton of events going on, you know, around Christmas is always seems to just, you know, amp itself up, Justin, have you gone to any anything, any Christmas stuff lately, any Christmas events, all that kind of stuff, anything.

Justin Price
I’ve been doing a couple of Christmas events online, I’ve experienced a few things there. As far as in person, there was a church down the street, this is a really small Methodist Church down the street. And they do a living drive thru Nativity. And it was really cool. You put your windows down, and you drive through their parking lot. And they do it for three nights. And they have volunteers who kind of dress up in the different scenes and kind of act out the nativity scene. And it’s a, it was fun. I’ve got a six year old. So she really loved it. And she got to engage with it. And we got to talk about biblical truths. And it was a great way for us to kind of, you know, not be talking about Elf on the Shelf, and the fact that she’s gonna tell Santa that you know, you’ve been bad today or good. So yeah, it was a really nice change of conversation for our family. And it was really cool, because we didn’t have to get out of the car, you know, it was safe. And it was an event. And you know, it’s interesting, we sometimes talk about church work. And we talk about results, you know, so in marketing, we’re always talking about like-so how many, how many people did it result? Was the event good or bad? What’s the first question that you always ask Mike?

Mike Mage
How many people were there?

Justin Price
I mean, I feel like that’s a I feel like that’s a valid answer. Like, doesn’t that say something that’s a trackable number.

Mike Mage
Exactly. Well in and I think we’ve been using that number for a really, really long time. Yeah. I mean, wouldn’t you say?

Justin Price
It would. But so one thing about this event to that topic, you know, they can count like, well, we had a lot of cars this year. But the thing that they’re not counting for is like, well, how does that compare to anything else that they do throughout the year? And what is really healthy? You know, I think the point of this podcast is for us to talk about what is healthy growth look like for a church. And what is the purpose of events are they just feel good? I mean, they could just be nostalgic. They could be for our own people, we’re going to do a choir special Christmas, because that’s what I had when I grew up. And it makes me feel good inside, just like warm soup on a cold day, you know?

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, that’s, I think that’s a really interesting thing, because I was thinking about, you know, as we were, we were, you know, starting to talk about what we’re going to talk about on today’s podcast and all that kind of stuff. I was thinking about this event, and I know that there’s a ton of people out there who have this type of event and I’m not saying it’s good or bad. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just gonna, I’m gonna talk about it from my experience only. When I was at a church, it was a smaller church, we did a thing around Halloween called a Trunk or Treat, which, you know, I know, it’s not like a mind blowing thing as a ton of people that do that. And it was very, you know,

Justin Price
What is a Trunk or Treat, Mike?

Mike Mage
It’s where you, you get a bunch of people in a parking lot, that, you know, so I’ll do this, you, you sign up people in your church to come to dress up, you know, have you go to your church parking lot, you open up your trunks. And, you know, you hand out candy as people come by, you know, and it’s basically a way for you to get people on your church campus. But at the church that I was at, we celebrated the fact that we had, you know, we had like, 250 families come through. And yeah, you know, no one was actually tracking that number number one, number two, there was literally there was we thought that just because people came onto our campus that they were going to think, Oh, I’m gonna go to this church later, you know, like we we actually had no intentional reach out reaching out afterwards or no, no healthy gauge for how this event was going for something that was like we held is like an event centric time of the year. Does that make sense?

Justin Price
Yep. First of all, Mike, you’re telling me that your church participated in the satanic Halloween holiday.

Mike Mage
We redeemed that stuff one day before and yeah, it was a fun night. We all dressed up as characters in the Bible.

Justin Price
That explains a lot about you Mike.

Mike Mage
We, you know what, there’s the okay. Yeah, I’m not gonna get into it.

Justin Price
Ok, good. I couldn’t get past the idea that you guys would lift up your trunk and show people the junk in your trunk. Especially little kids.

Mike Mage
Well, you know, that’s, uh, yeah, that’s probably another podcast for another day. And, you know, maybe we can really dive into, you know, the cultural implications of what it means to really just to open up your car and hand out candy from your car. So as if that wasn’t creepy enough, you know. But yeah, I mean, I think, you know, we’re, I feel like in the church world, and like, you know, this from a marketing perspective, right? I mean, the way that you all do everything with Vers in your creative ad agency, all that kind of stuff, is to be able to like funnel people to a point, right? Isn’t that kind of how you create everything that you guys do?

Justin Price
Yeah, and but I never want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. I do want to give credit where credit is due. So with a Trunk or Treat Mike, don’t don’t throw away the fact that there’s brand affinity. Brand affinity is that thing that makes you go I like those people, I don’t even know why. But three years from now, I walked by that church, and I’m like, you know what, that was cool. They did that thing for my kids with all the junk in the trunk. And that was, that was cool that they did that for my kids, you know, and my kids got some candy out of it. And I knew it was like, it was safe. There’s a lot of other things that they could have been doing. And like that worked out really well for us. And that idea or that feeling of emotion of I like them for whatever reason it is that level of brand affinity, multiple times over somebody’s life will sometimes be the thing that opens them up to being receptive to the message of the gospel. And so I actually do believe in it, I do think it’s a good thing. And if you’re doing Trunk or Treats, I don’t necessarily want to say stop doing it. So that that’s not my message. I think when we talk about healthy church growth, if you’re funneling people in, like, the idea of pushing them through is very, it’s very, like transactional. And to say that it’s only valuable if we actually see people come to know Christ, or if we actually have salvation, if we actually whatever your your thing is. And I don’t know that I don’t know that, that church community building, if we say like healthy church growth means like people like really connecting on a on a relational level. And then and then actually having building some trust, right, so that you can walk people through whatever it is that they’re kind of dealing with and going through and, and help them kind of find hope and grace. So, I do think it’s, I think it’s valuable to say, Hey, we can do brand affinity things if we’re doing them for that sake. But I do like the the fact that you were kind of alluding to then how do we give them a call to action, everything we do, you were saying as a funnel, that everything should have some sort of opportunity if I had a great experience, and I was looking for a church, right, the obvious thing that you think sometimes is like, well, they went on our campus so of course they’re going to know. But the reality what we know with marketing and science and the research has really clearly shown is that people only do what you tell them to do. And if you don’t give them an action point after they had a great experience, you could potentially, you know, lose them. So a healthy growth scenario for something like even like Trunk or Treat, or this living nativity scene thing that we drove through, at this church, they put out an offering bucket. As I walked as I drove by, yeah, which is great. Like, I put some money in the bucket, because I appreciated what they were doing. And I wanted to support them. And that was the way that they asked me, that was the call to action for me. If they had asked me to come to church, though, this weekend, instead of asking for 20 bucks, I may have, I may have had an opportunity to build a relationship with them. And I might still be open to go into church there. But there was never that ask. And so I think, you know, when we start to talk about this conversation all the time, the the first thought is like, hey, a lot of people, you know, I want to translate this over to like big events, a lot of people focus all their energy on the push and getting some getting people in there. And we count the heads that are in there, and we go, we did a good job, or we did a bad job based on that. Maybe the maybe the name sucked, maybe the theme sucked. We didn’t tell enough people. And that’s where the buck stops right there. Is that fair for you?

Mike Mage
Well, I yeah, absolutely. And I think that, you know, our evaluation of the of the event afterwards only goes so far. And I’ve totally I’ve been in those situations all the time. And it’s almost like the because we put so much effort into it and because we actually did see a good amount of people, then yeah, that’s where we stopped like, yeah, we can make maybe we can make the branding better. Maybe we can make the name better. But like, that’s it, we’re not gonna go any further than that. And I’ve I’ve run into that a bunch. But Justin something I want to go back to real quick that you said, right as we were beginning to talk about this was about making, you know, making something transactional or not, or, and I feel like maybe you were you were saying like, not all things should be like that. Is that what you were trying to say?

Justin Price
It’s not that clean when it comes to church work?

Mike Mage
Right. Well, so that’s what that’s what I want to like, expound upon, like, how do we, and maybe maybe you can speak into this a little bit better, because I know you think about this stuff a lot. How do we as a church, if and when we decide to spend time, money, resources on an event, how do we create a call to action, without it sounding like just a giant bait and switch? Because I do feel like our culture is very sensitive to that. And I feel like I’m very sensitive to that, you know, like, I don’t want someone to feel like they’re only there for me to basically shove them, you know, into a certain direction. Does that make sense?

Justin Price
So like a good example would be that on on in the Christmas season, you guys put together a musical of sorts. And once you sang songs, and Mike, you actually I think this year, did you do a hip hop Christmas song? Or you rapped in it?

Mike Mage
You know, it was so weird, like, we were doing something and then you just hear this, this music come up, and I put on like a sequined vest in a sideways hat in my hammer pants, and I came out and it was nuts. Dude, it was nuts. Brought down the house. Yeah, that was me.

Justin Price
Everybody loved it, you know. And in fact, I think it was trending on Twitter. It was like MC Hammer pant, Mike was was trending on Twitter. It was really, it was really, it was really great. And you know, and I think you guys did a good job of inviting guests to come to it. And say, you know, this is a great way for you to bring your friend and it’s not church, you know, like, it’s not Sunday morning. I feel like this is like a common event for a lot of churches. It’s a historic thing. And maybe you do it more traditional. Maybe you do it more modern. My point, I guess is that it’s totally different than Sunday morning. And and if you are doing it on Sunday morning, it’s totally different than your normal Sunday morning. And you’re inviting people and saying, Hey, this is like a really soft, welcoming thing. It’s not gonna be as hard hitting, maybe there’s a salvation message at the end, maybe not depending on what church you’re in. But that’s not really the point of what we’re talking about. The point we’re talking about is like, we put a lot of work into the program. We put a lot of work into the event into the thing and and you’re kind of saying the bait and switch thing would be like you’ve never sang any hip hop songs on a Sunday morning. But yet, you did an awesome job with it on this. I’m sorry. Audience Mike did not sing a hip hop and he did not wear hammer pants. This analogy going too far.

Mike Mage
Fifth grade Mike did though so keep going.

Justin Price
I have this fantasy version of Mike doing hip hop things all the time. He’s really street Y’all. He’s really street.

Mike Mage
Absolutely, that’s what people know me by for sure.

Justin Price
Yeah. But my point is, so we have to, we have a lot of issues inside of events, if we were going to dissect them from a healthy church growth standpoint. And we would say one of them is not representing what, what is us, or a flavor of us that’s not going to ever be seen again for another year, or until another big event, which may be two, three, four times a year. Um, so I think that’s an interesting topic, what I mean, what are your thoughts, how do you combat that? And what are you guys doing to help make that- you know, people want to see the show, they want to hear you bust it out, you know.

Mike Mage
They want to see Mike Mage rap a little bit. No.

Justin Price
The Mike Mage.

Mike Mage
Yeah, I think that that’s good. Like, and I think it’s probably a bigger conversation than, you know, this, this podcast can lend itself to. I know, for, you know, when we get to Christmas Eve when we get to Easter, and I don’t know, again, you know, I think this podcast is a great is a conversation and a journey for all of us to be on what does it look like in your contextualized environment to have healthy church growth. And especially from like, the creative realm, because, you know, that’s what we do. And so like, I think, for us, in our context, we try honestly, obviously, you know, for those big those big weekends, or whatever we try to make, make it be yes, a little special. I do think people are, even if people are coming in, who’ve never been to church before, they are expecting Christmas Eve to be a little different, they’re expecting Easter to be a little different. They just they have some, some sort of cultural context for that. And so, you know, we try to maybe, to maybe not go like super crazy on the end, so that we so that if we get new person that is going to come back, what they’re expecting is maybe a little bit of what they got for Christmas Eve for Easter, whatever big event is. So that’s not like this, this is us on only on this time. And then when you get you know, the next Sunday, you get people who are tired, uninvested, and just like a rote experience, you know, like, that’s not. So we’ll try to like, you know, it is I think it’s a fine line. You know, and it’s, it’s something that you kind of have to work through. I don’t know if there’s like a set template for that. And I might be wrong on that. I don’t know what your thoughts are. But, you know, we and we do try, you know, we have tried to save big concert type events. You know, that just that’s not who we are. And so, you know, that might be who well whoever’s listening church is, but we try to, you know, save those for worship nights. But again, like that’s, that’s our contextualized version of that. So,

Justin Price
I have a lot of thoughts about this. But one of the rubrics that I feel like or maybe like, the tests or gut checks on this for like, how far are you going, is like, I got a I’ve quoted him before, but I worked with a pastor, Pastor Kurt, who said, you know, he’s like, man, he’s like, you guys, you just killing it, like you get, you just go in. I mean, I would leave, I would leave everything on, on the big event floor. You know, I mean, it was like, I didn’t hold anything back. It was every big idea I had, it was everything I could possibly do to get people talking. And that wasn’t the healthiest thing. It wasn’t healthy for our team. And what we found is like, we were really burned out for the next two Sundays, three Sundays, four Sundays. And we weren’t really willing or ready to give our best and, and he he used to challenge us to say like, hey, maybe like scale back that event a little bit. And maybe try to make the next Sunday a little better. So yeah, right. And so, it you brought up a point that Christmas Eve is still one of the most successful opportunities we have as the church to attract people who are far from God. You know, like, it’s one of the cultural things that is culturally seasonal, accepted to say, Hey, I’ll go and experience something at church, even if I don’t, I’m not really active in my faith. I’m not really believing right now. But it was something I did as a kid and it feels good and Christmas just brings back all these nostalgic feelings. So with that in mind, like I do think Mike like I don’t think we get a free pass to not still try to be our best. The question is just like how many chips do you cash in to be your best and how much above and beyond, so that if if Christmas Eve or your big event or your big opportunities, which Christmas Eve is one of the natural big ones if you’re don’t ignore it, we’re not saying like, Hey, don’t talk to your don’t do Christmas programming, right or any any holiday program for that matter, and a lot of people listening to this are probably trying to figure out how to do Easter, just a little bit different beast. But the point is, is maybe to think about, if you were if you had 100 chips to cash in, right, and you’ve been putting them all in on on Easter on Christmas, and, and really even maybe borrowing some from the following couple days, like overspending on Christmas and borrowing, like you’ve used up everything you’ve got. And the next couple Sundays you’re putting on the C squad. You know, you bring him in that the pitch pastor, right, the the pastor for hire who’s been like just touring his one message around the country. You know, whatever, whatever your solution is to getting through that that weekend is and getting a couple weeks under your belt to recover. My point is, is that maybe take your 100 or 120% of your chips that you had, and cut that down to 40% for the event, and then spread that out and 30% and 30% on the following two Sundays. So a good measure, you know, for me, Mike. A takeaway for this would be a good measure for healthy church growth events, is how much does your church grow the second Sunday after your event. If the answer is zero, if we’ve got nobody interested in getting connected, you know, we’ve got we don’t have a lot of people to follow up with, if you’re connecting is not like just slammed and swamped after the next couple of weeks of events, that’s a problem. You know, it was just hype. It was just, and again, you could have brand affinity, like if you come into it with a hype, event purpose, and as long as you give people a call to action to say, Hey, if you’re interested, if you liked the hype, and you knew this was hype, and you knew this was just to have a good time, if you want our normal thing, come over here, and here’s a call to action for it. Make sure you sign up, I still think you know, for the health of the church, it’s really the second Sunday that’s going to tell you what stuck, you know, what kind of growth was really good. And the thing that makes me a little bit sad is that sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of churches who they have like their standard status quo for Sunday for 50 weeks out of the year. And then two weeks out of the year, they have like a 10x budget on them. And it might be smart, I challenge you to maybe look at your schedule and go is there an opportunity for you to take the effort and like scale back Christmas, and put it into back to school season and put it back into your back to school series. And treat that with the same level of intensity that you’re putting into Christmas and see what four seasons of pushes like that. Put a summer melt series in, that’s gonna stop some of that attrition in summer, and give people a reason to keep coming during the summer. Put some extra effort into something exciting there.

Mike Mage
Well, and I think that’s a, that’s a good place for us to, I think we can keep talking about this forever. Because I do think, you know, it’s such a good topic, because churches are going to continue are event driven organizations. Or that, you know, it has been for a long time. And, and while you know, I think the mindset behind it is changing or has changed or will change all that kind of stuff, just the way that everything is, churches are not going to stop doing events. And that’s okay. But we would love to hear from you, the audience. You know, hit us up on our Instagram, our Facebook, you know, and let us know how have you been making your events better. We would love to be resources for for everybody for for healthy church growth, to be able to check in and see how can we make this next Sunday really reap the benefit of this big event that we spent all of our a lot of our time, energy, and resources behind. So Justin, this is this has been a super great conversation. Thank you so much for joining us here on the Healthy Church Growth podcast. Continue to share, like, subscribe, all that kind of stuff. It’s been incredible to get to see you, to get to know you, to get to hear from you, and continue to have these conversations together.

Justin Price
So good. Thanks, Mike.

Mike Mage
Thanks so much for joining us here on the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 24 – Jonathan Malm

How to meet the emotional needs of your congregation through personalized, engaging content.  

In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, author and entrepreneur, Jonathan Malm, discusses why content is important, but meeting the needs of your people comes first. This episode is packed with practical ideas you can put into place today.

On Instagram: @jonathanmalm


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Well, welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We have an incredible, incredible interview lined up for you all today. And one that I am I’m super, super excited about. So we actually have Jonathan Malm with us. Jonathan, how’s it going man?

Jonathan Malm
Going good. Loving, loving the day.

Mike Mage
Aren’t we all?

Jonathan Malm
I love how, I love how presumptuous you were to say that it’s gonna be a good interview, and we just started like, we have no idea how this is gonna go.

Mike Mage
You know what, I think it’s gonna be good regardless. Even if it’s terrible. You know, it’s one of those things that it could be really good, if it’s really bad. We’ll have to get to that point. It can’t be mediocre. It’s gonna be bad, it’s got to be really bad. So either way. It’s gonna be notable, I promise. So, Jonathan, we were just talking a little bit before we started this, and something that I absolutely love, that we’re being able to have this conversation is honestly like, how much I don’t know about you. What I do, what I do know about you is all the things that you’ve done. So you know, you’re an author, you’re a web designer, you’re a church consultant, you’re an entrepreneur, people know you without actually knowing you. And I’d love to, you know, we’ll get into more of that here in a little bit. But I’d love if maybe you can sort of just give us a little background on who you are. And maybe kind of what you do right now and why we would be interviewing you in this moment.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I grew up, my dad was a pastor, missionary, pastor, again, started a mission foundation. So like, I’ve gotten to be in the church world, in ministry all my life just by proxy, right, just by being around it. So I got a chance to work with my dad at a church that had gone through like a massive church split. It was, you know, 75 people in a massive building, a million dollars worth of debt, a new piece of property they were going to build on before it all collapsed. And my dad was called in the pastor that. And that’s where I went to school,

Mike Mage
Easy. That’s an easy job.

Jonathan Malm
Oh, it’s so simple. Where I started working in ministry and started working at a church like more, more tangibly, like actually like getting my hands dirty. And then I started, you know, we were trying to renovate this space that was built in the 70s. And everyone had been to the church in the community, so they all knew what the church was, but we weren’t that anymore. So stage design was one thing that I was like, trying to figure out, how can we update our stage, so it matched the modern music we were doing in worship, whenever you walked in the building kind of knew what to expect, right. Like I wanted to set expectations when people weren’t in. So I didn’t know the stage design was a thing at the time, like I didn’t really know much about it. I just built one. And I blogged about it. And I saw a lot of people were really seemed hungry for this type of content. So I just began researching it and putting together a resource called ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com, literally for, because that’s what people find me my site on is Church Stage Design Ideas, so they go ahead, I’ll just make that the domain name. And that was great for SEO for Search Engine Optimization. So I’m built that site. And, you know, I was really intentional about reaching out to the community kind of creating a community around it. And it just grew and grew and grew. And it was, it was really fun. And through that, I’ve had the opportunity to launch you know, a bunch of other things. Sunday Magazine was one that I started was kind of like, I missed the idea of like, the traditional magazine that had like, really, you know, long thought out content in the blog world where it’s like, you expect it to be gone in a day. Like I wanted something really rich content. So put that together. I sold that recently, but and then with my buddy Joe Cavazos, who’s this uber talented designer, you know, if you go to Photoshop.com, like he’s one of the three graphics on there, like his graphic, he’s good. Um, we launched this thing called Sunday Social to help churches with social media content to to have something to post, have really good quality thought out content, fantastic design that can really be powerful on your social media for churches. So one of those things, hopefully, you’ve encountered me with and then I’ve written some books since then too.

Mike Mage
Just a tiny, you don’t sound busy at all. It just seems like a normal. Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
Like, I have plenty of time. Like, this is like not this is not a stretch to take this time out of my day. I’m happy to do this.

Mike Mage
Wonderful. I’m glad. Well yeah. And we were talking beforehand. I mean, as a podcast known for just as Healthy Church Growth, we I think we went down the same, the same avenue and just what are people going to search for? And that’s what we’re gonna name our thing after. So ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com there we go.

Jonathan Malm
It’s not sexy branding, but it works. Right?

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, that’s and you’re talking SEO, the Search Engine Optimization. I mean, like, that’s perfect. That’s all you need, right there. Okay, well, well, one of the things I really wanted to dive in with a lot of people in is this SundaySocial.tv thing that you’ve been able to create with, what is what’s the other guy’s name?

Jonathan Malm
Joe Cavazos.

Mike Mage
Joe Cavazos. So, yeah, just a tiny designer, just on Photoshop website like the prime not a big deal. So what was so obviously, you know, you hop from church Stage Design Ideas to the Sunday Mag thing, you know, like you’ve dabbled in a lot of stuff. So what was sort of the, the initial, I don’t know, I guess desire to create something like social SundaySocial.tv? You know, like, what, what is the driving force behind that?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, so I mean, I’ve always noticed that, um, you know, working in ministry there, there are very specific needs that churches have, where, especially with the the calendar of Sunday, to Sunday to Sunday, I’m always going to need, you know, a series graphic. I’m always going to need motion graphics for the video. I’m always going to need stage design. So you know, Church Stage Ideas was kind of like that, where it’s like, man, people can’t get enough of this. And if I can just come along and help and, and ease that, that burden of coming up with ideas, like I mean, I could come up with two good ideas a year maybe for stage design, but on top of that sermon series on top of that, you know, so it’s, there’s so many things we have to do just the weekly grind of ministry. So Sunday Social felt a lot like that. You know, part of it was, I got kind of a bromance with my buddy Joe, like my wife, my wife accuses me of like, getting super obsessed with people that I find that are talented that I’m like, “Aw, dude, like, Joe’s a legit guy, but he’s really talented.” And so we just like, strike up a friendship. And we’re always looking for a way to work together. And so he even came to me said, You know, I always feel frustrated, because there’s all these churches, you know, he lives in south south Texas, there are all these churches that want to work with him, but they can’t afford his prices, he can’t go cheap enough, cuz he needs to support his family, right? So it’s like, Man, I wish there was a way I could work with more churches. And I’m like, man, I feel the need. There’s this like social media need that’s kind of growing, and it’s developing. And it’s almost even like going to be bigger than Sunday mornings needs where like, we’re now expected I saw kind of this trend developing. And so we just kind of got together and said, should we do something like this? Should we create a resource where people can get access to your design skills, and then we can ease the burden for people on that weekly social media grind. And that’s what, that’s what we came up with, we came up with kind of this like sort of Netflix model of it, where like, download as much as you want unlimited access, we just create a ton of content that we think is good, and it’s evolved. It’s evolved to be you know, I’m very intentional with the content calendar calendar that we create. And Joe is very intentional with the design. Like we measure our analytics to see what people are engaging with what they’re not. So we’re, we’re really intentional about the stuff that we create, because we really do we just want to help churches, like our goal is, you know, obviously, it’s fun to make money, because then it makes it helps us keep doing it. Right. Like, we want to help churches. That’s our that’s our, this is our ministry.

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, and I love sort of the the model for Sunday Social is kind of like you were saying that the Netflix model, kind of, so it’s it’s a subscription thing, right? You pay per month, and then you can sort of download as much as you want?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah,

Mike Mage
Yeah. And you can download the actual Photoshop files, too, right?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah, we launched originally with just JPEGs. Because the goal was like, hey, let’s get social media content. Let’s not, you know, let’s not try to upsell, you know, we didn’t want to, like be one of those guys who like, oh, but now you can get for an extra $10 a month, you can get this but we just got so many people requesting A because they wanted to see how Joe arranged his files, like post part of it. Like, I just want to see what you’re doing, Joe. But then B it’s just like, you know, we realize especially I realized in a when I was in ministry, in a church, I was very DIY, you know, like, I saw that graphic, but I’m like, ooh, but like for our, for our purposes, it’d be better if it was this if we tweak that verbiage or tweak that color. So we wanted to make that available to people. So yeah, so there’s two options, we have, you know, ready to use JPEG files or Photoshop files, there are two levels of, and obviously, we just had to charge more, because Photoshop files cost a whole lot more to post. Like, we’re talking about, like four gigabytes worth of files for a single image. Like, it’s, it’s rough. So, that allows us to keep doing that.

Mike Mage
Well, and really too because it’s not that much more. It’s only like 10 bucks more a month, right?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah. So $9 versus $19. Um, you know, I still think it’s pretty inexpensive. Like.

Mike Mage
It’s crazy. Well, it’s because I think that you’re right, I think most people, and so like, 10 years ago, you know, I was I was at a smaller church. And, you know, that’s, like I said, that’s how I found the the stage design ideas website and everything, but I literally I was going through the same thing. It’s you become, as you know, worship leader or, you know, the the resident creative person, young person in a church.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah.

Mike Mage
You’ve got to figure…

Jonathan Malm
The resident young person. I love that.

Mike Mage
You got to figure out how all this stuff works, you know, especially if you want it to be good. And so I ended up you know, as most, it happens all the time, and I’ve taken on the set design, I ended up taking on the tech world, I ended up taking on like all the creative endeavors, having no idea how to do anything outside of music. And, you know, just downloading Photoshop files and seeing how people put stuff together was immensely helpful, you know? And so I mean, I think that’s amazing. It’s almost like you are able even just for $10 more a month, you’re able to sit at the feet of like some really pro designers who are very intentional with what they’re doing, to see, you know, how they’re doing that kind of stuff. So I think it’s really cool. So,

Jonathan Malm
yeah, and that that’s really what I mean, the thing I love about ministry and why I love I love being in ministry at a church is you’re required to be good at 1000 different things. Um, and what’s frustrating is, there’s this increasing pressure as the church grows to, like, be like, excellent at everything. And that’s, that’s like, that’s a really tough thing to put on yourself. That’s like, I think that’s a source of a lot of burnout for people where like, man, I just as an individual person, I can’t be good, that good at 1000 different things. But as much as possible, if we can come alongside and help you be really good at one area. So you have to like, strive less in that area, man, that’s a great thing.

Mike Mage
That’s super cool. And I think that you’re right, that I got goosebumps a little bit when you’re talking like man, I do. I use you see that pressure from a lot of people. And, you know, it’s the comparison game. It’s trying to compare yourself to Yeah, to the church around the corner. And they don’t have those resources. They don’t have you know, you don’t you don’t have what they have, and you’re not supposed to sometimes. Like God is calling you to that unique community to serve that community.

Jonathan Malm
It used to be the church down the road that you were comparing yourself with, but now we have Facebook groups. Oh, my gosh, this Yeah, good. But now you see 1000 churches that you’re not not as good, as you know. And of course, you’re seeing their highlight reel. You’re seeing that one great video they made that year, that you’re assuming that’s you know, you’re seeing everyone’s highlight reel all at once. So you assume that you’re just your inferior.

Mike Mage
Geez. Yeah, yeah, I think you’re, you’re pushing on a bruise for a lot of people right now. So Alright, so sticking with this Sunday Social stuff.

Jonathan Malm
Hopefully healing that bruise not pushing on it. I don’t want to make it worse.

Mike Mage
Well, maybe it’s like, it’s like a Shiatsu massage. You know? Yeah, exactly. It hurts a little bit, but it feels good. So okay, so what I love about the Sunday Social stuff, and you kind of you alluded it to it a little bit, when you were describing it was, it’s, I’ve been following it for a couple months, pretty heavily, you know, and the, through this through Instagram, through stories, and just the posts was, is the ability to stand out. Like, I really do feel like anytime I’m scrolling through is like, Wow, that is that is cool. Or Wow, they’re like, that’s, that’s, uh, that, that that does something to me, you know, like I want I want, I want to see that I don’t want to just keep scrolling. So as of this recording, so we’re recording this November 2020, you know, the world has changed, is changing. And especially the church adapting to the pandemic. And content right now is so, so important. Obviously, it always has been, but especially digitally. And now we’re just sort of outrightly more publicly just saying like, yeah, everybody’s living their life digitally, right. I mean, you and I are having this meeting through Zoom right now. So what would be some tips on creating marketing, or content that sort of is able to stand out or stand above the rest of the noise, because I feel like we are just completely flooded. So even though content is so important, everybody understands that, and they’re just like, pushing out so much right now. So like, what, what can we do to like, rise above that or stand above the noise?

Jonathan Malm
You know, I think the, working in the church space and working in like, we’re often we’re tech people, we love watching, you know, high quality movies. You know, I want to watch Tennant from Christopher Nolan. I love his movies. We just see this quality, we think ah, that is that is the goal right there. Right? Like the quality is the goal. And the problem is like quality, the ability to have quality has has become so much easier now that we have iPhones that have more technology, more technology in them than they used to get to the moon originally, right. Like, we have so many opportunities available to us. But I really think content is king. And you know, I’m going to do the thing that everyone does. Have you seen TikTok like, so you go on TikTok, and you see that these 13 year olds are making quality videos. Not good quality, actually. But the quality that like they’re compelling, the content is fantastic. They speak to you, they make you laugh, they make you so they have this quality to them. That man, like you get more like people are watching this like so I posted one video, it got like, 6 million views, right. Like, and it’s I think it’s like it’s like, it’s like five years worth of views, like how many how many the actual seconds people have watched it. And I’m like, and that was just, you know, like, that was just something that like, engaged people, right, like to just engage people the right way. So I think the key for churches more than anything, is to engage people. So we’ve been trained so often to think of like, Hey, listen, if you want to meet Jesus come to come to our building. Come to our building, you meet Jesus. And that’s how we do all of our marketing, where it’s like, we’re kind of baiting them to come into our building. And I think there’s been a bad side effect of that, where we kind of tell people that Jesus is only in the church and Jesus, not where they are. So COVID has forced us to realize, oops, we can’t do that. Because we know Jesus is not just in the building. Otherwise, that means they’re not going to tune into our service online. Right. So we’re having to, you know, de-centralize Jesus. It sounds horrible. It sounds like sacreligious. But we’re having to really try to show people that Jesus is where they are like, like Jesus, that I mean, Jesus, but like also just being able to like work out your faith, being able to go through discipleship is where people are. And yeah, you have people that are that are asking real questions that previously we said, Hey, all the answers are in our church, and now, they can’t be in our church. So we have to give people answers to the questions that they’re asking. And the questions people are asking is, man, I feel like I should read my Bible. How do I read my Bible better? Or like, how do I get through Leviticus, man, like, that’s tough book. Like how to I get through Chronicles that those are rough books, giving people really practical ideas and really practical tips. And speaking to where people are, like, what are the what are the needs they’re going through right now? A few months ago, during when COVID started as I created this, like, emotional needs list of things, people are going through that how can we speak to that? So they’re going through feelings of anger, feelings of fear, feelings of loneliness, feelings of man, I want to make an impact on this world. How do I do that? And so I try to craft content that answers those questions. That speaks to those emotional needs for people. And I think as churches, I mean, we do this in our services, in our sermons, you know. Every February is a relationship series, right. Like, right, every, every December is a money series. Because those are real felt needs, but they’re also emotional needs we can speak to, and that’s what will make your content stand out more than anything. Yeah, it’s good to have good quality, it’s great to have good design. But if you’re meeting someone’s needs, they’re going to keep coming back to you more and more and more.

Mike Mage
Sure. Well, and something I didn’t just think about until right when you’re talking about, you know, talking about this, and the emotional needs of that people have I feel like social media in general, has gotten its bump, has gotten like, you know, billions of people engaged because it is emotional. I mean, look at all of the things that especially you know, there’s been a lot going on, especially recently, but for a while now, about Facebook, and how, you know, people can the things that are amplified, there are basically the things that are emotional, you know.

Jonathan Malm
That strike that emotional chord.

Mike Mage
Yeah, exactly. And so, like, how can we as the church, you know, engage with people in an emotional way? Because it almost it’s almost like social media just hijacks our emotions. And, and can can turn people into like crazy people. Yeah, but you know, if we’re, if we are to be the church, we’re supposed to meet them, meet people where they’re at. And I think that’s, that’s awesome, man.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, that’s what Jesus did is, you know, Jesus said, you know, hey, like, I reached out to him, heal me heal me. And he’s like, well, you don’t really need healing, because like, this is just a temporary thing, like trying to do where it’s at. But I’m gonna go and meet that need. And then I’ll talk to you about the deeper truths. You definitely start where people are at, it’s tempting to say, like, Hey, you know, you just got to worship. But the problem is, I as a person, don’t feel the need to worship. So you can tell me 10 reasons I should worship or 10 reasons on how to worship 10 ways how to worship. Yeah, but unless you tell me, hey, worship is the solution for selfishness. And it’s the solution for probably treating your spouse badly, because it’s all about you. So I mean, you you connect with those real things that people are going through. I’m mean, to my spouse, we’re all mean to our spouse during COVID. Like, we all have this rage that’s going on, and we, we lay it out on our spouse. So helping people overcome anger, helping people just be nicer to each other, helping people be creative with their kids, whenever their kids are just driving them crazy, right. Like, those are real needs people are going through. And the cool thing about COVID, the one redeeming fact is that for churches, every single person in your congregation is going through the exact same thing for the first time in almost all of history, everyone in the whole world is going through the exact same thing, the exact same range of emotions. And we can be very skilled at speaking to those emotions. Because we know we know what they are, you know, when everything’s going great. We don’t know what people are, okay, we talk about drugs, but like the majority of people aren’t dealing with drugs, right, like, but we know what people are going through and you can speak to those issues.

Mike Mage
Totally. Okay, so let’s say the pandemic ends soon. Whatever that you know, who knows? So, you know, as of right now, you know, there’s there’s been reports of a vaccine coming, which is really great. And, you know, so maybe within the next six months to a year, you know, the vaccine works and doesn’t turn us all into, you know, zombies from The Walking Dead or something. Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
I Am Legend. I think that was the story in I Am Legend, right.

Mike Mage
It’s so funny. I was I was just thinking, today I went, I went out to a park with, you know, two of my kids and my wife today, because it’s like, beautiful out here in Florida. For the first time in a long time, and for some reason, I was just thinking about the vaccine. I was like, Oh my gosh, I remember thinking watching either I Am Legend or The Walking Dead or whatever. Just like how in the world would people just take a drug that you know, no one would have real

Jonathan Malm
No one’s tested.

Mike Mage
Yeah, it’s like, oh, this is how this is how that happens. So let’s just say,

Jonathan Malm
This has turned into a conspiracy theory podcast.

Mike Mage
Gonna get flagged. Okay, so let’s just say it all works. Everything’s great six months to a year from now, vaccine is, you know, firing on all cylinders, people are getting healed, people are coming. You know, it’s not as scary to go back outside anymore to be around people. Will I mean from your end, especially, I feel like not that you’re necessarily an expert on this, but I do feel like you with Sunday Social with Sunday Mag, even with a lot of the books that you’re you’re writing like you have your pulse on what the church is feeling and what the what the church is doing. So will the church go back to what it was doing for so long? Is there going to be like a sale?

Jonathan Malm
Not? Really. I mean, like, if we didn’t change through this year, then what are we even doing? Right? Like, I think one thing that COVID has exposed, and I was talking to my creative pastor, my church yesterday about this is, is it exposed that as a church, church universal, we’re overly focused on content. We’re overly focused on what happens in the Planning Center roster. We have boiled down church to worship, announcements, a message, and prayer. Those four things like that’s that’s the program of that right. And what has exposed during COVID is that like, man, I can tune in to my church online. But dang, Elevation’s quality is so much better, I’ll just tune into theirs. Because if that’s all we have is content, then we do lose because we can’t be as good as Elevation. We can’t be as good as Lakewood. These churches that do phenomenal job with that they’re so good at it. They have 10 people helping Pastor Furtick create the message and stuff. So if all we if the only thing we see in our church is the content, that’s all we’re giving to people, and it’s falling flat, it’s falling short. Instead, we realize man, the connection, the person looking in my eyes as they asked me how I’m doing and I say, Hey, I’m doing great, but the sadness in my eyes betrays me, that’s, that’s something we’re missing. The ability to connect with someone in a shared purpose to volunteer together. That’s something we’re missing. So there’s all these things that we realize, man, if we’re only focused on content, I do you believe content is important, obviously. But if that’s the if that’s the only thing we think we think we have to offer, that’s the only thing we sell to people. And that’s the only thing that they value. And there’s so much more to Christian walk to discipleship and content. Content can only go so far into creating disciples of Jesus.

Mike Mage
Oh man, that’s very good. Because I do, I feel like, you know, there is, we I mean, we’ve we’ve talked about it, but there it’s it’s almost like creating content is easier than actually engaging with those things.

Jonathan Malm
It’s great because it builds a platform, it gets thousands of followers, it helps you get that book deal. It helps you get on TV. Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s, it’s easy, it’s tangible, it’s easy to put into a box, it’s easy to put into a 60 minute segment.

Mike Mage
Yeah. And it’s almost like, you know, it becomes it becomes so alluring. And it’s you know, it’s great. But there is a both/and to that for sure. That’s really great.

Jonathan Malm
Exactly.

Mike Mage
And so well, one thing that’s nice, and I say that like super lightly, because I know this time has been terrible for everybody. And you know, a lot of people have been have been hurt by this pandemic, and all that kind of stuff. But it is is forcing creatives, it’s forcing the hands of creatives in the church to do new and different and potentially better things. And I actually actually think to, to our church, so our church, you know, I’ve been the worship director at a church here in Tampa, for you know, six years or so. And they’ve always had an online campus, you know, so for like, the past 10 years, they’ve had an online campus. And then, you know, over the past, like two years, we actually hired in an online campus pastor, understanding that, like, you know, online, is sort of this next wave, like we’re coming to it, and which I’m really glad that we did, because, you know, obviously, the pandemic hit and everything goes online, and you need the online platform to even be able to communicate to people. So I feel like we were we were slightly ahead of the curve, maybe not as much as we should have been. And it sort of forced our hand to do what we were going to do in two years into like, a six month period.

Jonathan Malm
I’ve heard that from so many people where like, my pastor finally said, Yeah, you do it and be like, but do it in a month instead of the two years that I was planning.

Mike Mage
Well, for real, I mean, we, we, we got all new cameras, we got we literally created a TV studio out of a room nobody was using because of COVID. And they’re just like, oh, that’s our TV studio now. So, you know, that was, again, his two year plan kind of thing. So what are some ways cuz again, like, I really do feel like you have your pulse on what’s happening in the church, what are some ways that people can sort of look to improve their ability to stay ahead of the curve? You know, what are some things where it doesn’t feel like they’re just recreating what they’re seeing around them? Does that make sense? That question makes sense?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is to I mean, this is just innovation in general, is you look at the need, don’t look at the product. It’s so easy for iPhone every year to say, ‘this is that this is our iPhone, how can we make it better?’ And what Steve Jobs blew everyone’s mind with was like, it wasn’t a phone that he was introducing. So if he thought, How can I make the phone better? that we would have never had the iPhone? But instead he said, How can I, how can I turn something that we hold on our, in our hands every day into the most powerful tool that we have? So if you start looking at what are people feeling, people are feeling isolated. So instead of saying, okay, we need to create another service, because that’s a product, our product is our service. Instead of saying, Okay, well, we got to try to somehow get get something else into into our service about community, isn’t that we say, Okay, well, what are some ways that people are creating community online? And how can we create environments and structures and systems to foster that for people to make it easier? How can we, how can we create conversation starters so that when they’re in, you know, a group on Zoom, where they’re not gonna be talking over each other, but you get to, like, get a glimpse into each other’s personality. How can we empower that? So really start from the need, don’t start from your product. That’s, that’s just what what unfortunately, churches and I love the church, I’m not hating on churches, but we’ve our solution to problems has been, we got to create another meeting. So Oh, marriage, we have some marriages struggling in our church, we better start a marriage group. And does that does help because content does help. But that’s not going to solve all the problems that need to be something greater to it. So you start with a need, then you say, Okay, now what can we do to meet that need, instead of how can we force a service to meet that need?

Mike Mage
Sure. Totally. That’s wonderful. Yeah, I really feel like, I’m not convicted by that at all. Man, I think other people will be convicted by that. And it’ll be really good for them to hear. So

Jonathan Malm
I was talking, so I was talking with this about my with my creative passion. I’m like, you know, to be honest, I don’t I don’t know that I have like, this is the solution. It’s easy, right? Like, right. But I think that’s, that’s what, that’s what that’s the beauty about ministry. And that’s the beauty about working with God is that the solution is not within our grasp, necessarily. We can we can achieve, we can try, we can we can we can take a step on the journey. And God loves when we partner with him on that saying, Hey, we’re gonna try this. God, we need you to step in, because we don’t know we need we’re reliant on you. We can’t solve this on our own. And if a service could solve it on its own, then we wouldn’t need God, unfortunately. So I’m glad that service can’t solve it. I’m glad that a Planning Center roster can’t solve it, because that keeps us reliant on God.

Mike Mage
Right. Yeah. And I think you’re totally right. I think that it has this whole thing has really, like you’re saying a little bit before, but has exposed a reliance on the content as opposed to, you know, the community. And, and yeah, it’s, it’s extremely hard to form community when you can’t really see each other. So you know, that that’s a it’s a very strange barrier. But yeah, and I think that that’s, that’s huge. So alright, so let’s switch gears here, just a tiny bit. So obviously, you know, you’ve done all this stuff online, and really cool stuff, but you’re also an author. And, you know, a couple of books you’ve written: Unwelcome, Created for More, and The Comeback Effect. All great. I haven’t read Unwelcome or Created for More. I did I listen to The Comeback Effect. It was

Jonathan Malm
Oh, nice.

Mike Mage
And my sister, she’s actually the experience director at our church. And so she said, you should, you should listen to this. This is great. But I want to talk about your most recent book, which honestly, I didn’t realize was that I knew it was coming out. Because when we had a conversation with Nick Goodner, the creator of Creative Church, he was talking about you and I looked it up and was like September, Okay, I gotta remember. And actually, I just download it right before this. So I’ll be listening to it on Audible. And so the the newest book, The Volunteer Effect, the tagline is “how your church can find, train, and keep volunteers who make a difference.” And so what led to you and your co- author, Jason Young, to writing this book?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah. So we wrote, Jason and I wrote The Comeback Effect, which, you know, he’s he’s the guest services, or he was the guest services director at NorthPoint ministries. Andy Stanley’s like five campuses or something heard of it? Yeah. It’s, it’s it’s a it’s a growing church. Yeah. Yeah, so so you know, I’d written Unwelcome which is kind of a similar book, like 50 things that can drive people away from your church, right. And I’m pro tip, by the way on that- if you if you have a book you want to give to someone, what I’ve discovered is you highlight the things that you think they’re really good at, and say, Hey, I read this book, and I highlighted the things that I think you do really well. And then they’re going to look for those highlights. But if you’re lucky, they’re gonna look for the things that aren’t highlighted and maybe learn from those too. That’s my tip there. Yeah, so he reached out to me, he’s like, Man, this is like a book I wanted to write. Let’s write a book together. And I was like, Okay, let’s do it. So he gave me some charts and stuff that he gives his his teams and we’re like, ah, and I saw one in particular, I’m like, Dude, this is this is a book a book. topic, right. So Baker Books, help us help us publish that book. And it’s done great. And then they approached us and they’re like, Hey, you know, you guys both work with volunteers a ton, we would love you to write something about volunteers. We feel like there’s nothing in that space. So we’re like, well, let’s, let’s think about it. So we thought about it. We’re like, yeah, I think I think I think we have some content there. So we thought about the three things that we feel like we consistently have either felt or heard from volunteer leaders. It’s hard to find volunteers. It’s hard to keep them because they always leave. And it’s hard to make sure that they’re motivated and doing their best. So we felt those three pain points, then we said, okay, what are some, what are some of the like, truths about how you find volunteers? And you how do you get them? How do you get volunteers? And so we kind of listed those down, and we just sort of developed this content. It was it was really a, like, this is the need, how are we going to solve it? And how have we seen it solved and how we solved it personally, or how we wish we would have solved it whenever we were, you know, in that situation. So, um, yeah, I’m really happy with the content, I think. I mean, hopefully I’m happy with the content, we wrote it. But I, I don’t know that we had some, like, we didn’t have like, I don’t know, sort of like talk that we developed, like, we got to make this into a book. Like, it was no, like, business thing. We just like, how are we, how are we gonna help people meet needs? And that’s, that’s what we put together.

Mike Mage
No, it’s super cool. When I love that, that’s the foundation of pretty much how you do everything, whether it’s Sunday Social, or the Church Set Designs, or even, you know, this, it’s really, I more people need to start with that as like their primary source of of how they’re going to do things from now on. But so yeah, but out of all the questions I get from pastors and worship leaders, and you know, other leaders in the church, whatever is how do you get more volunteers. And I honestly don’t know what to tell them most of the time, you know, like, I, I feel like a lot of the people we have on our worship team, like, it just sort of happens. It feels like there’s this Enigma, you know, around solving that mystery. And so if people read your book, there’s like, 100% guarantee, right. They’re gonna have like, 200 people on the worship roster, right? This?

Jonathan Malm
It will, it will help. I think if they actually take the principles and apply them, I believe that it’s actually the case. Because, you know, the first thing is, there’s just paradigm shifts that are necessary in this. So the first, the first chapter is the idea of inviting people personally. And that sounds so simple, and it sounds sounds like how is that going to fix things. But there’s this paradox, I was just talking to a friend who runs a business about this, there’s this, there’s this Paradox of Choice. They found that the more choices that you have, the less likely you are to make a choice. So you know, they found that, you know, Baskin Robbins has its 23 flavors, or however many flavors they have. But the number one and two most common flavors are vanilla, and chocolate, because people they love this, it’s whenever you’re faced with so many choices, you don’t make a choice, or you make a bad choice, right. So the thing about inviting someone personally is so often what we do in our churches is we say, Hey, we have this volunteer opportunity, will somebody volunteer, and nobody volunteers. But then if you were to go up to someone individually and say, Hey, you know, I, I, you’re such a good people person would you be interested in in helping people feel welcomed when they come to church on Sunday morning? So immediately, whenever you invite me to that, it says, Wow, you’ve seen something in me, that makes me feel like, wow, I have value. I have something to offer. And yeah, I would love to help people make people feel welcomed. So you get a far larger response by inviting people personally than you do by inviting people on stage. So even though you have 200, 300 however, many people that are listening to your announcement, you’re probably gonna get zero signups. Whereas if you invite someone personally, you’re probably going to get 80% of the people to say yes. So you’re going to get a larger group that way. And that’s just one. That’s the first chapter. And that, you know, we go into more details about that, how to do that and how to invite personally, whenever you don’t necessarily know everyone in church, there’s all sorts of complicating factors. But just a little paradigm shifts like that will make a huge difference in the way that you work with volunteers.

Mike Mage
Yeah, it is so funny, because I feel like even at our church, you know, and this is, I feel like this is pretty, pretty common around most churches, if the senior pastor gets up on the platform, and announces whatever your ministry is doing. And A, you think that that’s the only way that that can be done. And B, if no one comes, you have this sort of like learned helplessness or just like, Well, you know, I tried, you know, we really tried to get it out there.

Jonathan Malm
And that can become a self fulfilling prophecy because, you know, I tell this fictional story in this book about this person who, they kind of hated the job and they felt like everyone at the church didn’t want to help. They didn’t want to be involved in ministry. They didn’t really take ministry seriously. And we can get this mentality about our church were like, Oh, yeah, Elevation church can get people to volunteer, but no one in my church volunteers. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy because if that’s how you see your people, that’s how you people are going to act. I love Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People. He says, Give people a fine reputation to live up to because if we you know, like, If we compliment man, you guys are so faithful and giving you guys are so sacrificial with your time. That’s what they say, Oh, that’s what I need to live up to. And I’m going to live up to that. But if we say, Man, you guys are stingy, you guys are lazy. All right, I’m stingy and lazy. Sure, I’ll act that way.

Mike Mage
And that’s great. Well, so this book, obviously, about volunteers, what has been different about this book compared to your other ones? Like, have you uncovered something about the church that you feel like you didn’t know beforehand?

Jonathan Malm
So there’s this chapter in here, which I wasn’t sure the publisher or my co writer would let me keep in. It’s, it’s this idea about motivation. When I went to business school in college, there was this motivation theory. And this is probably way too big for a five minute segment in a podcast. But there’s this, it’s called the Hertzberg two, factor, two, factor, two factor theory or two, factor, whatever, of motivation, idea that there are certain things that will motivate an employee. And then there are certain things that will cause an employee to be dissatisfied in the job. But so like, for instance, okay, pay is one of these things where if there’s not, if I’m not getting paid enough, as employee, I’m going to be dissatisfied in my job. And so the default thought line of logic would be well, okay, that means that if we pay them more, if we pay them double, they’re going to suddenly be extremely motivated, right. And the thing that they found in research is, that’s not the case. Pay is one of those, it’s called a hygiene factor where it needs to be there, otherwise, you’re gonna be dissatisfied, but it’s never a motivating factor. Um, so there’s things like that in our churches that we think oh, my gosh, this is this is going to make people love to be a part of our church, this is going to make people want to volunteer, this is going to make people want to give Yeah, and there are things like logistics, having welcoming teams, having great parking, great seating, having a stage design, having great message, great worship, all those things. But to be honest, those things are called hygiene factors, where if they’re not there, we’re dissatisfied, but they never motivate us to volunteer, they never motivate us to get more involved, give more. So that’s one of the things we talked about in the book is is what are the things that you need to focus on, you need to have them there, you need to have a baseline things otherwise, people are going to be frustrated at your church. But what are some things that you can get people to really be motivated, invite their friends, volunteer, sacrificially give, things like that. And those are things like personalization, you know, something that’s speaking directly to me things like creativity, things like, you know, life change, which is kind of outside of our control, unfortunately. But they’re, they’re these things. And so we talked about in the book, and that’s, that’s one of the things that I was really excited to finally unpack because I’ve had this in my head for 15 years. And I’m like, how am I going to explain this to people? And I think we found a really great way to do that through the book.

Mike Mage
That’s awesome. Well, I feel like there’s that I’ve never heard of that principle before. But it’s kind of cool. Like how it’s almost like a Venn diagram like some some of them, you, you need to have some of them, you know, they’re they’re mutually exclusive. But they all sort of they sort of play together, obviously.

Jonathan Malm
They work together.

Mike Mage
Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
And that’s it. That’s the funny thing is we have conferences about preaching better. We have conferences about leading worship better, we have conferences about being more creative about having better Guest Services. And we think if we do this one thing, our church is going to grow. And we do that one thing, and then Nope, it doesn’t grow. I mean, some of the best pastors in the world have step tiny churches. Why? It’s because it’s the mix of all of that. That’s so important.

Mike Mage
Well, and it’s it’s funny, when I think about some some of our churches that, you know, we’ve we’ve had contact with, we’ve been in contact with, you know, they’ll have really great worship, but yet, not a whole lot of engagement from their people. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Or, you know, they’ll have an obvious and this is all based on worship, I guess, because I’m, I’m a worship person.

Jonathan Malm
You’re a worship leader.

Mike Mage
Yeah, I’m involved in that area. But like, you know, the worship will be terrible. But people will be so engaged and so excited to come, because there’s some other extenuating circumstances that maybe aren’t actually a bit more motivating than, you know, what could potentially be seen as just like a simple performance on a stage, you know.

Jonathan Malm
Yes. And that’s that’s the irony yet again, is we focus 90% of our time on that Planning Center roster. And none of those things in that Planning Center roster are motivators.

Mike Mage
But you’re right, you know, you need like that the baseline you need it to not be bad, but it but you know, the difference in good to great isn’t going to return on your investment as much as maybe some other parts in the church. That’s incredible. Well, I feel like that that lends itself back to kind of what we were talking about earlier with the content. And, you know, you need to be able to meet people’s needs, as opposed to just like, push at them content, you know, oh, yeah. Which is, which is really great. So,

Jonathan Malm
yeah, I mean, everything that I think is all kind of centered around a few ideas, but like, right, yeah, I really milk those so.

Mike Mage
yeah. Well, they’re good and they they work. And I think that, like we were saying earlier, I mean, it’s what Jesus did, you know, if you’re meeting people where they’re at, that’s something that’s timeless and will never get old. And and everyone has needs. So, well Jonathan like this has been incredible man I’m so I’m so glad that you’ve been able to join us. What’s what’s a couple ways some people can obviously I mean, we’ve talked about a few of them but what’s a couple of ways people can sort of stay engaged with you and updated on the things that you’re doing?

Jonathan Malm
Follow me on Instagram, just Jonathan Malm. Follow me on Facebook. Just get connected with me. Obviously JonathanMalm.com has all of my projects and books and if you’re interested in one of them. Just came out with another book that’s a companion to The Volunteer Effect called The Volunteer Survival Guide. And that’s like a $3 book that churches can give their volunteers that will really I feel like help them thrive in ministry and thrive in volunteering so highly recommend that but yeah, grab one of my books and then reach out to me and say hey, what what you liked what you what you disagreed with. I love talking about this stuff.

Mike Mage
Awesome. Well, very cool. Well, Jonathan, this is this has been incredible. Thank you so much for for being on this and for talking to us about some some really important stuff. So it’s been incredible.

Jonathan Malm
Of course.

Healthy Church Growth Podcast – There is Hope for Difficult Conversations

How to handle the challenge of firing a staff member or volunteer. 

Hiring and firing people are the most important things you can do to maintain the health of your organization. In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, hosts Mike Mage and Justin Price, founder of Vers Creative, discuss how to master the art of having those difficult conversations. 

On Instagram:  @Mikemage @techjustinrp @vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We’re so glad you’re here joining us today. Today, we are continuing a conversation that we started on our last podcast. In our last podcast, if you haven’t listened to it, I encourage you to go do it. Because it is a, it’s probably a lot more fun and happy than the one we’re talking about today. Today, we’re going to be talking about firing slash letting people go slash having really tough conversations. But before we do that, before we, you know, dive right into that, just want to really say thank you. Thank you so much for getting involved in this conversation. Thank you so much for getting involved in what healthy church growth looks like.

It’s been incredible to hear from you, the audience, to kind of hear what you think healthy church growth looks like as well. We want to continually make this a journey for all of us, because we know that God has called us to very unique places and unique locations and has gifted us all uniquely. So it’s an incredible thing to be able to talk about. But Justin, today, we are talking about letting people go or fire them, arguably one of the hardest topics, practically speaking, that we could probably cover and frankly at topic a lot of us do our absolute best at avoiding at all costs

especially within the church. And I haven’t had to have like a lot of these conversations over the years. But I know for you being sort of the leader of a creative agency, you have sort of had to have these conversations a good bit, right.

Justin Price
I would even say my challenge for this topic would be that I would say we did not want to fire anybody. Okay. And so my challenge to you is that healthy church growth looks a lot like not firing people. Now that’s going to resonate and feel a lot happier than the set-up you just gave us.

Mike Mage
I guess

I want to establish the groundwork that we’re about to go into. Yeah.

Justin Price
So I think there’s actually a ton of hope for anybody who’s in a particularly bad team. I really, you know, the one that my heart kind of breaks for is for a young worship leader who maybe has some volunteers who suck, who show up and don’t practice, who you know, really hurt the whole like dynamics of the team. And they need to somehow figure out how to let them go. And even the nuance of firing a volunteer is super relevant to the conversation I want to have today. So, Mike, I’m glad we’re doing this. We’re doing this speed lightning round, I’m gonna try to crank it up. It is early for us. Mike and I are both hiding from our families in our closets. And so bear with us this morning. If it takes us a couple minutes to get the blood pumping.

Try

Mike Mage
it

We’re trying, we’re trying.

Justin Price
but

But man, and also, I don’t think talking about firing is something that would really get the blood pumping. But

we’ve got we got three things I got to go first last time, Mike and I thought it would be only the polite thing to do to let you go first. So you’re gonna set the pace here. Hit us with the lightning round. We both have three things. We’re going to ping pong back and forth here. Get out your notepads. Challenge it. Before we actually jump into this. Can I say it’s been really encouraging to see you guys participating in the conversation of what healthy church growth looks like. It’s been really cool to hear other people who are working and serving inside of a church, whether it’s volunteer or staff, to say, finally, a conversation that is about a healthy culture, not about hype culture. A conversation that’s about what we believe is really good for the church and not necessarily just what will grow the church.

So thank you guys for jumping in. It’s been really encouraging. I think Mike and I are fed by getting the the feedback and the ideas and even just hearing your thoughts on that. So as Mike said, thank you, I just want to I want to echo my own thank you. It encourages me, it energizes me to keep doing this. I’m really, really grateful for how you all are jumping in on the conversation and to see, hopefully an impact of people feeling like we can actually make our church cultures healthier. And that that ultimately is, is the best thing that could come out of this podcast. So thank you guys for implementing some of these things, challenging some of the things we’re saying and finding what is the healthy church culture for you.

Mike Mage
Well, and sort of to tack on what you’re saying and sort of pivot us into this, you know, conversation, I think that you know, you and I like we’re not 100% experts on this topic. Like I do think, you know, over the past, however many five, six, ten years or so, like I have

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
Okay, so diving face first in here.

gotten to understand more and more about what it looks like to hire, to bring on people well, what does it look like to maybe fire or let people go well in a way that’s healthy, and productive, and hopeful, kind of like you were saying, however, you know, like hearing from other people, also helps all of us grow. So we need each other in this in not just this topic, but in all the things that we’re talking about. So,

Justin Price
absolutely.

Mike Mage
Okay, so hidden diamond face verse in here,

Justin Price
Number one from Mike Mage is…

Mike Mage
So, first thing you and I were talking about here is I’m a nine on the Enneagram, which means I’m a peacemaker, and which just even thinking about the topic of either firing people or letting people go, what terminate however you want to word, it fills me with the utmost terror. I naturally want to never talk about this topic. And I creating conflict is one thing that I just genuinely want to avoid. It’s just part of who I am as a person. So knowing that however, this is this is something that I’ve begun to learn is not one, like giant moment, in either my life or someone’s life, like this is a constant thing that is happening over time. And so you know, I think when I when I, when I opened myself up to the idea, that firing slash letting people go slash terminating them, whatever, when I opened myself up to the idea that like, this is an ongoing thing, and isn’t just like one like nuclear explosion that happens out of nowhere, it sort of gave me a lot more peace in in all of this to like, begin to build guardrails and pathways for not just myself, but also my team. So that’s sort of my preamble from a number one here. So my number one is, you must set expectations. So just like every good parent, just like every good leader, whatever, you know, you must set expectations. And then once you set your expectations, you have to do it again. And then you have to reinforce it. And then you have to reinforce it again, and then reinforce it some more like this is the top priority, anywhere you go as a leader. And if you didn’t do it, when you first got into your role as the leader, then the best time for you to do that is right now. So you got to start now if you haven’t done it. And then yeah, like I said, when you set those expectations, you must over communicate them. You can even preach them to your team and figure out a way

Justin Price
to do that. Because the moment that when you set those signposts in the ground, and then you continually come back to them, people will understand what your culture is supposed to be about, they will understand,

even maybe before they mistake when they make a mistake, or when they make a mistake, you know that like, oh, we’re always pointing back to these things, these expectations were already setting. You know,

Mike Mage
writing them down, there’s another practical thing. I mean, Justin, I know for you, you guys at Vers, you guys have probably written down your expectations somewhere. I know that’s not mind exploding, or whatever. But you got to write them down. If anything, just so your team has actual access to the exact wording of your expectations and all that kind of stuff, you have something physical to point back to. And then you know, just in writing in creating your expectations.

One thing I really tried to do, Justin, is I always try from the very beginning, it should be a privilege to be on the team that you’re leading, whether you’re working on it, whether you’re volunteering, it should never feel like an obligation to people. I think if you can make those if you can make those subtle shifts, if and when you’re setting your expectations, that is the start, that’s the the groundwork, that’s the foundation for you know, for a really healthy team. But also, it can help lead you into whenever you have difficult conversations, it can sort of help you in guiding you through that. So I know that it’s not like specifically having to deal with firing or letting people go like in that moment. But like I said, as as an Enneagram nine, like I have to view it as sort of this long term arc that happens. And it sort of helps to reinforce the relational aspect of it.

And you know, like you and I were talking beforehand, I know when I was the leader of a small church, man, I feel like my primary job even not even just as an Enneagram nine, but my primary job was to avoid conflict at all costs to try and keep my team happy, as opposed to try and keep my team like moving in a forward direction, continuing to do great work. So

Justin Price
I like that Mike, maybe a response to that is the the stat that runs around is somewhere in the 40 to 45% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down. So writing down expectations if you’re going if you’re going, you know, ‘hey, we set these expectations and people just aren’t meeting them.’ My first question is always, ‘Hey, have you written it down?’

Mike Mage
Totally.

Justin Price
If you if you want a really quick lift on achieving goals, write them down. Absolutely. So my first point that I would like to just kind of get the elephant in the room out of the way out of the room, so we could focus on some healthy things is moral failure. So my lightning round thought to get off of the table is moral failure. Mike was talking about, so moral failures can be really big, and they can be really small.

I’ve often said that, hey, don’t, you can’t, you really can’t trust somebody on your team

if they’re, if they’re doing something small, wrong, they’re gonna, they’re gonna do something big wrong. The way we do one thing is the way we do everything in the sense of moral grounds. And so one of the peacemakers biggest issues is to try to say, ‘well, that smaller moral failure is okay with me, and I’m just going to look the other way,’ and not realize that you’re setting yourself up for potential cancer that can grow really quickly, or could infiltrate your whole team. And so the hopeful, helpful tip here is that, if you can think about the whole team, think about the whole congregation, think about your whole organization. And even if this is, even if you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m like third or fourth on the totem pole here, but I’m leading worship.’ You’re 21, you’re leading worship at a church, a larger church, and you see some moral failure. And you could look the other way and say, I don’t really want to ruffle feathers, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s so and so is maybe misusing some funds, maybe so and so’s misusing some equipment, maybe so and so’s misusing doing this. Or maybe there’s a lot of flirting happening in the green room. It just doesn’t feel right.

You guys, the the best thing I can say is, is to, to stand up for it, to to confront it while it’s small, and either get rid of it at that point, try to help that be removed before it turns into something bigger. Because if it does turn into something bigger, say that flirting turned into to an affair

that you guys that ends up hurting so much. Those affairs hurt churches, we’ve seen that for the last 10 years, almost every major leader in the church get taken down with affairs. And so I think just as a as a culture,

looking for those, like weak spots where people kind of come in, and I’m not judging people who are flirting or having an affair. I’m not, this isn’t a statement against those people being bad people or saying that, hey, but but the idea that you can say like, well, it’s not that bad, I really shouldn’t confront I really shouldn’t, shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t handle it. If even if you’re not the the shot caller, if you’re not the executive pastor, if you’re not at a high level feeling like well, that’s their problem, guys, you should you should confront the person, you know, if you’re seeing those issues, and it’s in the same way of firing, if you are in a leadership position

in a smaller organization, and you’re going Hey, well, I need that person that’s not that big of a deal. That that that small moral failure, when it turns into something big, it will take out a lot more than just that one person. So take that person out, now, address it and get it in. And the rest of the thoughts are, you know, just the the idea that

the it’s just you just never win by trying to push something away, no matter how big or justifying it no matter how big or how small. So when it comes to firing, the moral failure part of it for me is more of a non negotiable. Dave Ramsey has some really great stuff in the Entree Leadership book about his philosophy on he even says that he if you cheat on your spouse, if you have an affair, he says I won’t, I will, I will immediately let that person go. Because if they’re willing to cheat on the person they committed their whole life to, then they will definitely cheat on me. You know, they will definitely not follow through. And some of you guys may hear this, you may say, I totally disagree. I embrace that conversation. But for me, I haven’t seen a scenario where this is has has gone wrong. And so it doesn’t mean that you have to excommunicate somebody, it means that you can lovingly come around them and help them and support them through working through a moral failure.

the whole rest of the team is still going to feel that conflict every time you guys jump on stage and that bass player who doesn’t ever practice plays the wrong baseline and Mike, you know, you’re just like, hey, just turn them down in the mix. You talk to that keyboard player, you’re like, hey, just cover the baseline. It’s gonna be…

Mike Mage
We got it in the tracks. Yeah, and we got in the track.

Justin Price
Yeah, we got it in the track, just just don’t have what everybody else who’s hearing that base, you know, in the mix anywhere else they’re feeling and it’s like, Whoa, it’s okay to show up and not practice. It’s okay. It’s, there’s never any, like, the expectation was written. Mike wrote had us all write down that we’re gonna practice we’re gonna show up and know our stuff. And I’m not talking about having a bad day, talking about consistently bad pattern expectations. Yeah, we all have bad days. But when we start to see those patterns, you are missing out on the opportunity, you are creating conflict for a whole team, because you are trying to avoid it for one person. So that’s the cancer kind of get it out early. Get it out while it’s small. Address conflicts when they’re small, they only grow. They never get better. It’s just like cancer, it’ll feed it’ll attract more bad things. And next thing you know, you know, you’re you’re losing organs instead of just chopping off a finger.

Mike Mage
Totally. Well, yeah. So Justin, you’re not pulling any punches here in the beginning.

Just opening, opening lightning round with a haymaker here. I think that I think that what he said, it’s, it’s a really great thing to tackle right up front. And like, I also think that integrity is never something that you shouldn’t fight for. That should be always something that needs to be the backbone of your ministry of your organization. Because it’s bigger than what you’re doing. It’s who you are. And you as a person, and as a culture as an organization, need to be, you know, like, there needs to be something bigger there. And so, yeah, I think that’s incredible. And really dovetails sort of nicely into what my second point here is, is. So when a team member is underperforming, failing to meet expectations, moral failures, all that kind of stuff, you as a leader, you must address it. So. So you set your expectations, somebody does not meet those expectations, moral failures, whatever. You have to talk about it, do not let it go on. And, you know, like, there’s the this, if you get it in the beginning, if you try if you nip it in the bud, this, this has the potential to grow into a much larger problem. And kind of like you were just saying, Justin is, you know, this could grow into a cancer and you start to lose way more than you even thought was possible. And on the flip side, if you actually have these tough conversations at the very beginning, you can actually potentially gain way more than you could ever dream or imagine. So even when you think it might be too difficult a conversation to have whatever it may be, what you are doing is bigger than the problem you are facing, you have to remember that your your job as the leader of it, volunteer team, or staff or some combination, or the both is to set the culture. My pastor always has this really great line that he uses all the time. But he says that we are to be thermostats, not thermometers, because as leaders, we designate what the room feels like, what the team feels like. And the biggest culture drain is having someone on your team, underperform, or worse, someone who’s failing to meet those expectations, and not addressing it. The worst thing is not having someone underperform or not meet those expectations, the worst thing is them doing it and you as the leader not coming to terms with it, you start to lose…

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
You start to lose the trust of the team around you. And that’s where the cracks start to really settle in. It’s not when people don’t do the things that they’re supposed to do. It’s when you let them go unnoticed or untalked about.

I’ve been in some…

Justin Price
Preach.

Mike Mage
I’ve been in so many situations where leaders try to create team culture, or they really force team building or, you know, you have some sort of staff retreat or some sort of stupid, you know, game that you do at staff meeting or, you know, whatever, or we go to lunch and you go go ahead and sit next to someone, you don’t talk to or whatever, as a way to like build team culture. But the things that that really build team culture is when you address elephants in the room, like that’s the, that’s the thing that builds team culture, it allows us to know that we’re all held accountable for something that’s bigger than just your tiny mistake. And like, and I know you said on the last podcast, and I’ve heard you say before, and I’ve heard other people say, but it is so true that we’re only as strong as our weakest member. And I’m not saying that you must address it amongst the rest of your team and like in fact, like 95 to 98% of the time, these are private conversations that you have.

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
And their private conversations that you constantly have and

Justin Price
you know, like, it’s it again, like micromanaging, is not holding people accountable. So I feel like so many people go well, I don’t want to micromanage people like no, the primary area where most leaders fail is the greatest opportunity for growth is constant accountability, like it’s not micromanagement you have to engage with these problems. And so the last thing here, too, just to sort of finish up this big lightning round, from this point to is addressing problems when you see them. At the very first one, when you first see them, it does three things that allows you as a leader to thrive, but it allows your organization to thrive and your culture to thrive. A- it shows that you care, it shows that you are invested in what your people are doing. And that is such a great gift, it shows that you see what’s happening. Second, it allows you to stop potentially large problems when they are small. If things start off is like a golf ball, then it’s so much easier to deal with a golf ball than when it like blows up into a giant beach ball. Third thing, it strengthens your resolve to have hard conversations, not just as a leader, but with your team members specifically. So this hard conversation might be hard, but it’s going to prepare you for the next hard conversation, whether it be with that person or with another person. And it continues. It’s just like creativity. It is a muscle that you need to build as a leader to walk into a walk into your office to bring in somebody and have a tough, engage in a tough conversation with them.

So my first point was a moral failure is really the only grounds to eliminate quickly. And you were saying on any grounds, address conflict quickly. So great, yeah, great dovetail there. So my next point would then be to set checkpoints. So my point number two is now getting back on the the main path I’d like to be on which is not firing. And so kind of you’ve already set the path for this a little bit. But it is that as a leader, if if you can set a three month or a six month regular check in to check in on the goals and the expectations. To use your analogy with the thermometer. You to set the temperature you have to be able to communicate and

Understanding everybody is going to be in a little bit different place on your team. Volunteer or paid, they’re all going to be a little bit different place. Now you can still talk about the temperature, you can still talk about expectations to everybody. But understanding where to help people truly grow, to help your team achieve their expectations and to find the spots that they’d need the most focus on, it should be done individually. And so setting those regular check ins and setting an expectation of check ins is super, super valuable. This is what this is this is so important if you can set that that expectation that that’s happening every at least every six months of just making sure you know that you tell people, ‘Hey, you’re meeting the expectations. And I’m really glad to have you on the team.’ Instead of just thanks for being here this week, instead of just thank you guys. Hey, great Sunday.

To say the expectation was that you always show up and know the music, the expectation was that you, you know, you’re talking to your video guy or your graphics person, or however the team is all structured out. But saying like, ‘hey, you’ve you’ve been meeting these expectations that we wrote down. Great job, thank you. What’s next?’ That not only fuels them to continue to grow and to be better. It gives them a point of connection to say, hey, yep, I’m hitting the mark. And as as people underperform, you need more checkpoints. So immediately, if you see a lot of red flags on a on a review, you know, some people call these performance reviews. And that may feel really weird. Again, I keep trying to think back, you’re 21 year old worship pastor, you’re leading a volunteer team, and you want to see growth in your church, you believe that you are being placed in this church, and you might even be a volunteer yourself.

And you’re like, yeah, I’m not doing performance reviews for the 45 year old keyboard player I have, you know, he’s not gonna do it. But I’ll tell you what, you can still meet with them. And you can tailor a performance review to feel like coffee. Like, hey, what what are your goals? Like? What are you doing playing keyboard at our church? Like, why are you Why are you here? Why do you show up every week? Why are you showing up every once a month to play whatever the schedule is, but talking about that you can talk about in framing in a way to be a good leader does not mean to have a formal structure. To be a good leader means to truly communicate expectations. And so sometimes you just have to think about spinning it a little bit depending on the scenario that you’re in. So I want to challenge you, no matter where you’re at what you’re doing. My second point is to have regular

check ins where we’re writing down the goals, we’re reviewing the goals and we’re setting new expectations. So call them goals, you can call them expectations, to meet the culture. And that’s how you set the temperature, you cannot set it by just thinking about it and hoping that everybody else somehow figures out what is inside of your brain, or by just modeling it and figuring out that everybody else is smart enough to see what you’re doing. And that that’s the the expectation. No, you have to communicate it with them, like Mike said, over communicate over communicate over communicate. And why does that mean you don’t have to fire people. Because the the second or third meeting you have and this is why I said if you’re starting to see red flags, you need to have more meetings more often. Don’t let it go six months. By the second and third meeting, we’re just like, ‘hey, the expectation was for you to know your music. Hey, the expectation was that we’re not doing Facebook posts once a month, what we’re doing Facebook posts everyday. The expectation was that, that the graphics are done on Thursday, not Sunday morning, as the sermon is getting ready to go up.’

Any of these expectations that often get unmet, if you if you set those by the third time, these people will start to understand that that they’re not able to meet the the need. And so people do not like to stay in an environment where they do not thrive. They also do not like to stay it’s uncomfortable to, when we know like we’re not hitting the mark, and when we’re reminded that we’re not hitting the mark, in a lovingly loving way, and loving communication, we want to remove ourselves rather than wait to be removed. And most people who suck in their job at their job, don’t have a leader who is communicating well that they suck. And it’s just letting them kind of do it. But in they just kind of know that they’re not really all that great, but they’re just kind of doing because like, well, no one’s ever told me I suck. So I’m just gonna keep doing it. Keep doing what I’ve been doing until you know, something else comes along. So that’s it. Set regular things, this doesn’t just happen naturally. It can, you can make it feel like to other people, like it’s just coffee, or if it’s with staff, you can set very formal, very regulated performance reviews. I know for me, and for our team, that it has been huge, it’s been a great time to even call out opportunities to shift positions to sometimes say, hey, you’re killing it over here, you’re not killing it over here. Your your position would look better if we transform it, if we don’t schedule those meetings and we don’t make that a priority because it’s hard to do, you know, we don’t have enough time in the day, we’re missing out on the opportunity to help our team be the very best that they can be.

Mike Mage
Well, I think too man, if if you don’t make it a priority, and you let the only time that you actually have conversations with your team members, be the times when they’re doing something wrong. Or, you know, when they have failed to meet expectations. Rather than having like a set time that you know that you’re going to talk about it, it starts to really eradicate sort of a trusting relationship from you know, like your, from your leader to the rest of your team members. Because like crap, well, the only time that we’re going to talk is when I’ve done something wrong, or I’ve done something bad. You know, that’s the if that’s the general mood that’s going on with your team, like that’s not a great place to be. Right, you want to be able to communicate with them when it’s good, and when it’s bad. And

my third one, the lightning round here is, is probably the most practical I’ll get. And this comes with the the actual conversation, when you actually have to let someone go, fire them, not have them back on the volunteer team, whatever that may be. That actual conversation should never be a surprise. So I’m gonna say that again. If and when you actually have that conversation to let someone go fire them or not having them back in your volunteer team. It should and will never be a surprise. That’s because you’re doing what Justin just talked about. And that’s having conversations with them. That’s because my point previously before Justin’s, you have actually engaged in those difficult conversations you have set your expectations. You have, you have kept your integrity as an organization. And you get to this final moment. And it is not a surprise to anybody. And it shouldn’t be. You know, just recently in our church, we actually had to let someone go on our team who actually had some sort of moral failure, I’m not going to get into it super big. But you know, there was some sort of failing in some way, shape or form. And because the leader didn’t talk to them once didn’t talk to them twice. But he talked to them three or four times. By the time he actually got to the actually got to that conversation. It was not a surprise to anybody. And because it’s not a surprise, that means that this conversation does not have to be long and drawn out. The time for questions is over. Like there is no time for questions like it is it’s pretty apparent for everybody that this is going to happen.

Justin Price
Yeah.

Mike Mage
So, yeah, I learned this from one of one of the guys at our church who was really high up in like a very, I can’t remember, an accounting firm or something like he was in HR, and, you know, had been doing HR for decades. And he basically said that, like, you know, when you have this conversation, it needs to be like, five, maybe 10 minutes at the most, and at the end, and even label it as a conversation, you know, you put conversation in air quotes, because it’s not much of a back and forth. And, you know, I just, I think that the, it, there needs to be some sort of finality to it. And then, you know, moving back to, especially in like a ministry way, these are not things that that need to be, that need to be like relationship killers, you know, I think in some way, shape or form, like the relationship does change, because it has to, but again, to your first point, Justin, if someone you know, has to be let go because of a moral failing in some way, shape, or form, this is our job as it as a church, as a worship leader, as someone who is involved in ministry, this is our job to say, hey, our professional relationship must change here. But it does not alleviate you, as a leader in the church to also help offer counseling in some way, shape or form. You know, I don’t know some sort of some sort of, of moral support, if there’s especially there’s a moral failing, obviously, you need to set specific and appropriate boundaries for that. You know, you can’t get involved in someone’s, you know, addictions in the sense that, you know, like, it has the potential to really drag you down. However, there is a lot of things, creative things that we can do to actually help people out. Because we care about them more than just the job that they do. That should be the overall culture, the overall feeling of your ministry of your organization is you want people to be the best that they can be not just the best at what they do. So final final point here is even when you have that conversation, it’s a conversation that air quotes and should not last long, nor should it be a surprise at all.

Justin Price
I love that point. Mike. My third point was actually going to be a kind of a weird point. And that was actually to talk about a time where I failed at firing.

I worked with somebody who I love very much. Who I poured a lot of time into, had a long working relationship with them.

You know, and seasons change, you know, people go through different times different seasons, and we had multiple reviews, we even went on to a probationary period. To me, I felt like it was crystal clear. You’re on probation. Performance is not where it needs to be. Here are the problems that I’m seeing, and I need to see these things change during this period. Or else we cannot continue to work together. I thought that was clear enough.

I think that it was kind of clear that performance didn’t change. And then when we sat down to have that conversation to end it quickly, that person was surprised that they were being let go. And so I think one of the issues when we’re working with with people in church is that we feel like well, I’m not, I mean, the church can’t like fire me cause, it’s a church. And so some people

come into these relationships and feel like the relationship is job security. And the reality is is that it’s not.

Mike Mage
Yeah, that’s so good.

Justin Price
And so the point for me that I took away from this is that I have to over communicate.

When I feel like we’re at a point where that person’s job might be on the line. Because I do care about the people that I work with, I do care about their livelihood, I do realize that this is going to affect their family. Yeah. And so if I love them, if I care about them, if I really do want what’s best for them, I need to work as hard as I possibly can to communicate clearly how severe the situation is, and I cannot use my dislike for conflict or my desire to like protect them from hurting their feelings, to make it end up them not understand the severity of the situation. So now I’m probably over overly communicative when I see a red flag. When I’m like, oh, man, things are not going good.

I’m also I’m also much slower to hire now, after going through a couple of like hard, hard fires. Now it’s like, oh, man, I’ll just I’m gonna definitely ease into any new hire because like, I don’t want to have to go through that again. I don’t want to. I don’t wanna have to have that that situation and to lose that relationship because I didn’t

communicate clear enough. And so on a very on a very personal level, I’ve been fired out of the blue, when my performance reviews have been through the roof. That changed my life.

I was working for a church, we had doubled the church, the attendance had almost doubled. I was in Tennessee, I loved the area, I built a house, a block from the church, in a small town in Tennessee, where like if, if I was not creative directing at that church, I would definitely not stay in Tennessee. And I walk in one day, and I had even I my wife was, was sick. And she had been off of work for a while. And we had even gotten word from the executive pastor that, hey, we’re, you know, we just want you to know, you’re good. We’re gonna take you like you guys have a job here you have job security. All this we were we were like, we were cruising along. And I walked in one day, and they were like, Hey, we want to talk. And they said, we’re changing directions. It wasn’t a moral failure, it wasn’t a performance thing. And if it was a performance thing, they had never communicated it previously, and they had not communicated it then. And they they took the opportunity to give us a great severance, they did treat us lovingly in the in the way that they let us go. And it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me because it caused me to move back to Florida with where my family was at. And it changed my life. It’s why I own an agency now and why I’m not still working. I did end up working for another church. But when I started that next job at that church, I came into it a completely different person.

Mike Mage
I bet. Yeah.

Justin Price
because I was determined to never set myself up in a position where I where people would, would not value the work that I was doing for their church, after growing multiple churches so significantly to be to be let go like that with such disrespect, the lack of communication and not even bringing me into the conversations. For me, it was it was a life changing experience. And so when I when I failed to communicate that and when that was a surprise on my first fire, the first person I fired, that was a surprise.

That was another big, big aha moment for me. And so I would just say, hey, if you think that you have even been slightly ambiguous, over communicate. If you think that you are at potential of firing them, tell them do not skirt around this, let them know what’s at stake, so that you can give them the fullest potential, the fullest opportunity to say, well, then this job isn’t for me, or this job is for me, and they will fire themselves.

And that level of communication for me ever since that bad fire has I have not fired anybody. So we’ve been able to have really great conversations, people have been able to say this isn’t the right fit for me, or move themselves inside of the organization because of good communication. So there it is. That’s my not as lightning as last time.

That’s my third point, Mike these uh, it’s almost like we practiced and talked about these, they were really almost all the same dovetailed into each other just like the first time.

Mike Mage
Yeah, well, I think that, you know, I think that’s a good thing.

And you know, like, it’s tough for us to separate those two would be the wrong thing when you agree.

Justin Price
I agree. And I would say, if there’s one thing that we could take away from this is that if you care about having a healthy culture in your church, then caring about hiring and firing is the biggest thing you can do. It’s not about whether you should use Pro Presenter or not. It’s not about it’s not about whether your team’s on Slack. It’s not about technology, it’s not about meeting schedules, it’s not about anything else.

It is literally focusing on how you hire how you fire. I think that all of these things are rooted in this concept that is super generic, which is the idea that we we really have to treat and love the people that we were working with. We need to treat them as if as as Christ has called us to treat them and that sounds like super Sunday school. But I think that the difference between firing somebody the wrong way and even hiring people the wrong way. You know, I told you at the beginning of this like I try to talk people out of it when I’m hiring them because I want to make sure that this is what’s best for them because I want them to be thriving in their workplace doing that because a place to for of love for them and love for my the rest of my team. You know sometimes even making those hard choices, isn’t,

it’s not easy for me to do the hard choice, the conflict, the conversation, when I’m just thinking about the impact on me. The thing that usually will push me over the edge to actually have the conversation to have the hard thing is when when I hear another team member complain. When I see it’s affecting the other rest of the staff. Now all the sudden I’m like, I can’t brush it under the rug for me anymore. I’m hurting my team. And I love my team. And so I’m actually making a hard decision or a hard conversation out of out of a place for love. And guys, that when you let somebody go, the severance package, always stepping up, always doing what the best that you can, for people, is going to be the best. And sometimes you can’t do a lot, you know, sometimes you’re financially in a bad spot, sometimes you know, your organization’s not got a lot because of a bad person caused you to lose quite a bit of donations this year. You know, there’s you got a moral failure from a pastor, you’re probably going to be down a little bit.

And so it’s hard to be like, well, we’re gonna still give you a ton of money too. So sometimes you can’t do as much as you even want to, but do the most that you can do what you can and to leave people with as much respect and as much love as you possibly can. And I would say I don’t have any of this figured out, these are some things that have helped me be from like, terrible at this to a little bit better. I’m not in a good to great situation, like from like a worst to like, not as bad as where I’m at right now, Mike. So I would echo your hearts for I would love to hear more stories from people who do this really well. I’d love to get more tips from you guys. And I it’s something that as my career as a leader continues. I know it’s one of the most valuable things I can invest in is getting better at hiring and firing. I hope you guys are taking a lot away from this. If you are young leader, you can do this, you can lead up if you’re in an organization where you’re frustrated, because you’ve heard all of this and you’re like, Well, my leadership isn’t doing this. Bring it to them. Bring it to them and make it happen. Bring it to your team and start implementing it on any level that you can. You can lead up and you can say I want to review, can you you can schedule a meeting with your leader. And you can set your own reviews. It doesn’t have to come down and you can ask them what are your expectations of me and write down their expectations of you. And what are the goals that you want to have? You can write that down with them without having that system and don’t let your bad organization or your bad culture that’s being led by anybody else stop you from making a healthy church culture that’s going to grow your church deeper and wider. That’s all I got for you today, Mike.

Mike Mage
Well, that’s a great place for us, for us to cap this off. This has been an incredible conversation. Justin, thank you so much. And thank you to all those people who are listening and sharing. We’re so grateful for you. But thanks again for listening to the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.