Developing a Leadership Pipelinepodcaststrategy

Calling the Next Gen to Leadership: Insights on Empowering Emerging Changemakers with Brad Dreibelbis

Thanks for tuning in to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Brad Dreibelbis, Next Gen and Operations Pastor at The Journey, a church in Delaware.

How do you identify and find high caliber leaders, particularly from the next generation? Too many churches wait for young leaders to be trained in other places instead of raising them up from within their church. Listen as Brad shares how The Journey is raising up young leaders and providing opportunities for them to develop both character and competency.

  • Take risks on young leaders. // No church ever feels they have enough leaders, and at The Journey they’ve taken a proactive approach to this issue by investing in students and young adults. Think of it like Moses turning over the reins to Joshua and Caleb and leaving that legacy to the next generation. Help people early in their faith to grow in their character and calling to support what God is doing in their leadership.
  • Focus on the next generation. // The target demographic of who The Journey is trying to reach is framed through the lens of an 18 to 30 year old man. It’s important to have on-ramps for older followers too and remind them they are important in the church, but investing in and taking risks on the next generation ensures that you are building for the future.
  • Make disciples. // Brad’s team completes monthly reports that include identifying an 18-30 year old who could move into their leadership pipeline. Talking about potential leaders as a team adds a layer of accountability and encourages the staff to bring others alongside them and make disciples. It’s important to give young leaders opportunities even though it will be messy at times.
  • Play the long game. // Don’t neglect that your kids and student ministries are your best feeder for young leaders because they’ve already been baked into your culture. Start investing in them when they’re young children. Teach them biblical principles and give them chances to lead as they grow.
  • 90-day contracted internships. // There aren’t always open staff positions at The Journey so they have created 90-day contracted internships for young people in the church who have potential. The interns are paid as employees for 90 days and are in charge of a particular ministry or objective. This short-term opportunity offers young leaders a chance to grow and build skills while allowing staff to evaluate their character. After the 90 days, some interns may stay on for more growth opportunities or be offered a staff position.
  • Ministry boot camp. // The Journey runs a ministry boot camp for 10 weeks during the summer for students and young adults—anyone who has finished eighth grade through 30 years old. The camp is a 20-hour-a-week commitment to help young leaders grow in their relationship with God while learning practical ministry. Participants commit to attending 12 hours during the week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and then serving during weekend gatherings so they gain ministry experience while interacting with people.
  • Learn to listen. // All of us are wired by God for a calling, even if it may not be in paid ministry. Help young people at your church to hear from God and create enough space to prioritize their faith. In The Journey’s ministry boot camp, the first hour is spent sitting and listening to Him—a new experience for some of the participants.
  • Monthly focus. // Every month The Journey sets a different goal as part of their monthly focus strategy. This strategy sets a vision area that the whole church should be focused on, defines a vehicle to achieve it, and establishes measurable goals. Staff connects throughout the month to discuss how they are contributing to the goal and what they have or have not achieved. This approach fosters accountability and unity, aligning the entire church towards a common objective.

You can find out more about The Journey Church at and download The Journey’s monthly focus document here.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Man, I’m really looking forward to today’s conversation. This is going to be a good one. It’s going to be particularly helpful for you as you’re listening in and thinking about how can you help your church reach more people and build teams and all those kinds of things. Super excited to have Brad Dreibelbis with us today. He is from The Journey, The Journey Church. This a fantastic church, started in 2007 and has repeatedly been one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Its senior pastor is Mark Johnson. They have, if I’m counting correctly, three locations in Delaware. You know, there’s 1.8 million people living in a 30 mile radius of Newark, Delaware. And I love this: they call this region Journey City. They are owning their part of the country. Their dream is to plant locations all across the area. Brad is the Next Gen and Operations Pastor. Brad, welcome. So glad you’re here today.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, Rich, thank you so much. It means the world to have me on. I appreciate it.

Rich Birch — I’m so honored that you’ve taken some time to be with us. Why don’t you kind of fill in the picture? You know, so there’s lots we can learn from your church – that one of the things I just want to point out is people don’t wake up in Delaware and say, hey, we should go to church today. It’s just not, you know, this is like, if there’s if there’s the Bible Belt, this might be the opposite of that. I’m not sure what the opposite of the Bible Belt is. People just don’t go there. And this is a prevailing church in that context. And so I’m excited to share and for you to learn from you. But kind of fill in the picture, tell us about The Journey and then tell us about your role.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, very much so. And first I got a, I got a delineate. You know, I heard you say Newark, Delaware. And, we passionately say it is Newark, Delaware. We are…

Rich Birch — Okay. Okay. That’s a that’s my Jersey coming through. That’s my Jersey coming through.

Brad Dreibelbis — It is. It is. We had to we had to delineate within Journey city. Hey, we are Newark, Delaware. So anybody who is from the region, you know, what’s you know what’s being talked about.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay, fun.

Brad Dreibelbis — We’ve got a fantastic church. And just so thankful for what God’s doing and for the heart of our lead pastor and the vision that God has given him to reach those 1.8 million people that are in our region. And just so many of them need the hope and the message of Jesus. You know, we’re in a region where, to your point, not everybody wakes up every morning and says, hey, I want to I want to go and be a part of a church. So, Pastor Mark, whenever he planted The Journey, felt like the word that he got from God was to be a church that unchurched people wanted to go to. So we are ridiculously passionate about and even militant about keeping our focus on unchurched people, and having ways that that they can come and experience God.

Brad Dreibelbis — So if I had to guess for our people that call The Journey home, I would say that at least at least 60 to 65% of them, The Journey is the place that they would consider their first home church, since they’ve put their faith in Jesus, or become a follower of Jesus.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Brad Dreibelbis — And it’s just been the great entry point into their their spiritual walk with the Lord. And so our mission is to help people find Jesus and follow him fully. And, I’m so thankful that we get a chance to do it in a region where, to your point, it’s not the Bible Belt. There’s not a church on every corner. And, there’s there’s Bible literacy that is lacking. And, there’s no place that I’d rather do battle than, than do it here.

Rich Birch — So good. Pumped for this conversation. Well, that’s probably a great place to start. You know, too many churches when you look at where they get their, their, their young leaders, their kind of next generation, the people who are going to push the church forward, if you if you peel back the, the wrapper, you figure out, oh, like, these were leaders that were identified or trained in other places, and then we’re just kind of like taking their transfer growth. Like we’re, you know, and when you’re experiencing 60 or 65% of your people are coming in with some sort of, you know, unchurched background or like, you know, having some sort of fresh experience with Jesus, man, that’s got to be hard to find to identify and find high caliber leaders, to kind of make the church happen. Kind of pull that apart, help us understand that problem a little bit. What does that look like for you guys?

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah. Well, I mean, if you look at if you look at the church as a whole, you know, every I don’t think there’s a single pastor in America that would say, you know what? I’ve got all the leaders that I could ever need. I’ve got all the people on the team that I could ever want to be a part of it.

Rich Birch — Right, yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — And, you know, the average age of our staff is 24, and they’re just killing it. They all love Jesus, are fully committed to God, and it’s just amazing. You know, no one’s saying those things. But we don’t just want to be a church that has leaders for the sake of just leading ministry and helping people find Jesus. We want to have next generation leaders. We want to have people that we can pass it on to. We want to like if we are, if we’re Moses, we want to have a Joshua and Caleb that we can turn and hand things over to and say, hey, I’ve got I’ve got something that’s going to leave a legacy, legacy that’s going to go beyond me. And so that’s part of what we’re doing here that especially in our in our next gen environments, this is where I first started leading in our student ministry. You know, in those next gen environments, we are we are teaching kids and students how to how to know God, how to understand who he is. And we are starting from a very base level, like they have zero Bible literacy.

Brad Dreibelbis — And then so many people, we’re we’re one and a half miles from a from the University of Delaware, which has 25,000 students from all across kind of this northeast region. And basically, if you look at it, I mean, they are coming in, they they know Jesus as a name. They do not know anything about him. They don’t they don’t even know, like feeding the 5000…

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …is not even something that registers in their brain.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — They like, if I ask who’s Jonah? They don’t have an idea.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — Like if I ask who’s Daniel? The first word is is not like lion’s den.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — It’s just they just don’t even have a have a clue. So a lot of what we’re doing with these young leaders is we we are having to take some risks and take some shots and help people who were, you know, who are early in their faith, grow and develop in their character and in their calling so that that can support what God’s doing in, in their leadership and how that can kind of translate. So, you know, that’s that’s what I’m really passionate about, that we are we’re taking some risks on people.

Rich Birch — Totally.

Brad Dreibelbis — And just like Jesus with the with the disciples, they were they were all young people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — They were not 45 seasoned, you know, ministry veterans. They were fishermen. They were people who had everyday jobs. And Jesus said, hey, come follow me and let’s do life together. And, you know, that’s what he did.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — So we we follow that same model going, we’re going to take some risks on some people like Peter and some people that just say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, create a mess, and we’ll walk up behind them and just kind of scoop up with a shovel and, and, you know, follow up and try to help clean up where we can. And when it gets off the rails, we we’re quick to correct it. And we, we do our best to kind of temper, but we’re always we’re always trying to take risks on some young leaders.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Let’s double click on that. Particularly the the young leader piece of that equation. So you know, challenge us a little bit on that. I think this is one of those, so this has been one of the things I’ve noticed, as I do coaching and consulting with churches all across the country and have had a real privilege to be and help with some of the fastest growing churches in the country. And one of the things that I would say is a stark difference that I noticed when I’m engaging with those churches, churches like yours, that there are a lot of young leaders around that, that it’s it’s like a, it’s a it’s very normative. Where when I look at stuck in stagnant churches, I’ll, you know, if I’ve ended up interacting with some of those, it’s like, it’s like the opposite. It’s like, man, these are a lot of people who are holding on in their 50s and 60s. Double click on the why, particularly next generation. Why young leaders? Why do you think why have you kind of articulated internally, it’s like, hey, that’s an important it’s not just that we’re looking for leaders; we’re looking specifically for next gen leaders.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah. And I’d give a little bit of a qualifier to say we we are still growing in this. We’re not like killing the game left and right.

Rich Birch — Yep. Sure.

Brad Dreibelbis — We we honestly have had to grow in this out of necessity, going, hey, who do we have? So, you know, average age of our church target demographic of our church is a is an 18 to 30 year old unchurched guy. ‘Cause we say if we can get that 18 to 30 year old guy to come to our church, he’ll he’ll bring his girlfriend or he’ll bring his, his wife or he’ll bring somebody that’s important to him versus if you if you’re targeted towards a young, a young woman, so the guy will kind of sit on the couch and go, okay, have fun. And he clicks the remote and keeps watching TV kind of thing. So everywhere from the beginning part of our target demographic of who we’re trying to even reach as a whole, as a church, that is framed through the lens of this next generation, this 18 to 30 year old. How are we doing it?

Brad Dreibelbis — Now obviously, there’s on ramps for everybody, as there should be in the body of Christ. In every church there needs to be on ramps for the 75 year old person who has tons of wisdom and has been following Jesus for 65 years. I want them to be a part of this. But if we say disproportionately we’re going to put energy here, it’s going to be on that next generation, that target demographic, that 18 to 30 year old unchurched guy. And so the same thing gets translated where we start doing that when we start talking about leadership. So in in like, to get real practical, like in some monthly reports that I get from members of my team that report to me, I have a section where they have to list their leadership pipeline. And in that they must record a person who is between the ages of 18 and 30 who is, they think, could move into leadership. And so every single month they have to report a person. And I don’t let them keep the same person on, or I don’t let them, you know, go several months without putting somebody there, without a conversation going, hey, who are you investing in? Who are you taking a shot on? Who are you who are you kind of bringing in to come alongside of you and just check this out?

Brad Dreibelbis — Because you have to give opportunities. You just have to say, hey, come follow me and recognize there’s going to be a mess because it’s messy. Think about all the times that Jesus had to correct, had to rebuke, had to clean up, had to reorient the disciples, had to point them in the right direction. The same thing is true with us.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — And yes, everybody wants the 27 year old person on their team who has been following Jesus for 30 years who wants to be paid $30,000 a year…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — …who doesn’t have a family and wants to work 94 hours a week at the church.

Rich Birch —Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, everybody wants that person on their team, but they don’t exist. They’re like a unicorn. You look at them and you want. So what do you do? You find the next best thing. Who’s the sharp, young, talented, hungry, driven, loves Jesus, is pointing their life not not perfection, but they’re aimed in the right direction. They’ve got a teachable spirit. They’re likable. They light up a room, like, who are those people? And then just invite them to do life and ministry with you.

Brad Dreibelbis — That’s the entry point that we’ve started to to get behind, and we’ve started to see some success stories there…

Rich Birch —Love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — …which has been really cool to watch.

Rich Birch — Well, let’s dig into the some of the practicality of that. So what kind of what are some kind of approaches… you know, I’ve talked in other environments, I’ve talked about like what are the fishing ponds? Where are you kind of out finding these people? Help, you know, how are you engaging them kind of moving them from there attending, or maybe they’re in a group or they’re on a team to like, hey, we want to move you into a leadership role. What does that look like?

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, So I think of a couple of different things. You know, the most natural one is don’t don’t neglect that your kids and student ministries are your best feeder for young leaders. So if you are not seeing young leaders come through your church that have baked in the culture of your kids and student ministry over the course of 10, 12, 15 years in your church, you’re you’re just missing out.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — Like something’s wrong in your kids and students programs if they’re not graduating out some young, hungry leaders. So there’s a there’s a young woman who’s on her team who just turned 21. We just hired her in a part time role to be our students director. And she grew up in our student ministry. I mean, she she got she took shots and she went through, she would tell you if she was right here with us, she would tell you, hey, I ran away from this. I spent, you know, six months in Mexico doing my own thing. I, like, went through the whole kind of story of her running away from God and eventually came back. And God’s like, I’ve called you. I’ve put something on your heart. Just say yes. And so she did. And we took a shot on her and gave her gave her a chance. But that’s a seven-year long game that was baked into our student ministry, where when I was the student’s director, it was her over at our house eating dinner with us. It was her spending time in her basement when her mom got deported. It was it was all those kinds of conversations that like, you just have to do as a in your kids and students programs that bake in this ability to build up leaders.

Brad Dreibelbis — So my my number one encouragement is like, hey, play the long game and recognize…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — …if you want young leaders, you’ve got to start when they’re in second, third, fourth, fifth grade.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — Start when they’re two. Like, teach them the biblical principles, and then from there give them chances. So we didn’t just hire this 21-year old. She taught in our student environment when she was 15. She led teams when she was 17 and did a crappy job at it, to be honest. But we gave her a chance.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — And we cleaned up everything behind her. We gave her a shot at a part time contractor, an internship on our team, going, can she get there? I don’t know. And 60 days in went, I don’t know if she can make it. And eventually she turned the corner and had a moment where she settled it with God. And so we gave her another 90 days. And here she is on a permanent role on our team. And so it’s just like, you got to play that long game.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Brad Dreibelbis — It’s a little bit of a case study, but that’s what’s really worked for us.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Let’s pull apart. One piece of that you mentioned in there there was like an internship. What does that look like for you guys? How has that, you know, what is what does that look like? Is it a paid thing, is it volunteer? What do you mean when you say intern? It’s like, that’s one of those…

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …like, you know, it means something different and lots of different locations and, yeah, help me, help us understand that.

Brad Dreibelbis — Sure. So we, we’ve done multiple iterations of this, all kinds of different ways that we’ve made it work. We’ve tried paid internships that are, you know, one way. We’ve tried, hey, we’re going to do all volunteer internships. We’ve done it, you know, a student internship model that summertime focused. And really, you know, we’ve tried different things. And right now we’re about ready to innovate for this summer. We’re going to be rolling out what we’re going to call our ministry boot camp for the summer, which is basically a ten week accelerated program where students and young adults, anyone basically who has graduated or finished eighth grade all the way through age 30-ish is what we’re trying to say.

Rich Birch — Wow. wow.

Brad Dreibelbis — So we’re going to put them in a room. They’re going to get a chance to spend time with God and grow in their relationship with God. They’re going to connect with other like minded young people who are trying to grow in their leadership and explore their calling. And we’re going to give them practical ministry. So they’re going to plan our summer camp for students. They’re going to plan our our outreach events that we’re doing this summer. They’re going to plan and run gatherings and weekend environments. We’re going to put them in production where they’re shot callers. We’re going to have them be in environments where you just let them do it, like let them be a part of it.

Brad Dreibelbis — I think that’s what Jesus was trying to do. Just let them go, do it. And now you don’t let them by themselves. Don’t worry. Like if it gets messed up, we will make sure…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — …that like church doesn’t fall apart on a weekend.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — We are at that scale where we need to make sure it doesn’t fall apart, but we’re going to give them shots. So that’s this ministry boot camp that we’re going to do that none of those people are paid. It’s just this compelling vision of, hey, do you want to grow in your leadership? Do you want to grow in your calling and understand what God’s doing in your life? Then come be a part of this. And then we’ve got a couple of young people in our church that we want to that we just, like, see God’s hand on their life. We’re not even sure that there’s like this ministry opening or this staff position that they’re best tailored for. We just see God’s hand on their life and we want them on their team. So we’re creating these 90-day contracted internships where they are paid…

Rich Birch — Okay.

Brad Dreibelbis — …they are part time employees for 90 days, and we give them clear deliverables. They’re in charge of a particular ministry area, or a particular thing or objective. So last summer we did this – that 21 year old that I told you about, she was in our student ministry as an intern. So she got paid for 90 days to help lead our student ministry and plan our summer camp and run with it and really, really explore what that looks like.

Brad Dreibelbis — We had another person, very young, new to her faith, probably been following Jesus two years, but I mean, God’s hand is just on her life and her potential is astronomical. So we just said, are you good at communication stuff? Can you run our social media page? So we made her the communications intern and we said, hey, can you run the social media page and make sure that emails go out whenever they’re supposed to and help us think through communication as a church? And six months later, like we we extended her internship as well because we said we think we need to see a little bit more before we turn the reins over…

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …because we’re like, we don’t want to have to fire you for character things, or we don’t want to have to let you go. That’s a whole different kind of conversation. But we did all of that vetting over the course of six months while she was doing it, and then she just was a part of the team afterwards. We transitioned her into a permanent full time role after that. So recently she sat in our pastor’s office, and I think this is a good case study. So if you’re a pastor listening to this and you’re like, what do I do when I take if I take risks on these young leaders? This young woman sat in our pastor’s office, Pastor Mark. And she said, hey, I’m scared that one day you’re going to wake up and realized you hired me for something that I have no idea how to do, and you’re actually going to let me go. And he said to her, Yanni, I didn’t hire you to do communications. In fact, that’s the role that you have to do right now. I hired you because I see God’s hand on your life, and I see the potential that you could, could be.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — I see what God is doing in you, and your character can support that right now. So I’m giving you a shot. I don’t think your role is going to be communications over the next ten years. I think your role could be limitless if you’ll raise up people and empower people and lead teams. But right now I need you to do the communication stuff.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — So know your spot’s secure on our team. We love you. We’re for you. Go charge hell with a water pistol and let’s go get after it kind of thing.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Brad Dreibelbis — So that’s that’s what we’re doing where we’re just giving some shots to some young leaders. And ultimately, I mean, 90 days at $17.50 an hour times 20 hours a week. I mean, you’re talking a pretty minimal financial commitment to this…

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …that as long as you’re clear on the front end not dangling any carrots. I’m not saying that this is going to go for the next, you know, nine years or whatever. It’s a 90 day thing. And we actually have three last summer, two of them, two of them swam and one of them sunk.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Brad Dreibelbis — And so we let the third one sink. So.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah. Yeah, I love that. That’s such a clear, that’s a great idea, a great tactic and a great ,you know, there’s, there’s that idea of like, hey, let’s just provide a, it’s a test case. It’s a we’re going to it’s a project. It’s a short run. Let’s see where, you know, where you can do. And hey, we can always roll those into longer. On the ministry boot camp, so, you said there’s a bunch of stuff there I want to loop back on. The one thing you said on the ministry boot camp, you’re saying it’s ten weeks this summer? Is that, like a full time thing for those ten weeks, or are they are they there for like, a part is it like a 20 hour week thing as well? Or how’s that how’s it work? What’s their time commitment?

Brad Dreibelbis — We’ve done different things where we’ve tried to make it a 12 hour a week…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — …where basically you just need to be there on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then because we have multiple gatherings, we said, gather one and serve one.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Brad Dreibelbis — But this year, what we’re doing with this ministry boot camp is we’ve, we we want to put some more skin in the game. So we’re saying it’s a 20 hour a week commitment. It means that you’re going to be here Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings. You’re going to be here every gathering on the weekend. Because ministry happens on a weekend. You want to explore your calling, get in the café and talk to people. You want to learn what it looks like to like, do ministry or to serve people…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — …or [inaudible] people. Get around some people don’t. Ministry doesn’t happen in an office with an email address. Ministry happens with people. So you got to get around those people.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — So that’s what we we do with them is give them a chance to do that. And they have a practical ministry lens. So, you know, they they basically have to be here Tuesday, Thursday. But then the other, you know, 6 to 8 hours of the week, they’ve got clear deliverables and clear projects that they have to work on and come back, whether it’s, hey, you need to build out all the tracks to make sure that our worship team is ready to go. Or you need to work on kids programming because you want to have a kids focus. Or you’re coming back with what’s the cool, creative, fun, crazy idea that we’re going to do for our student summer camp?

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — So you want to buy, you know, inflatable bunnies that do whatever. Okay, fine. Go buy every pool noodle at Walmart and come back. So yeah.

Rich Birch — Love it. Okay. Okay, that makes total sense. And something you’re saying, I’d love for you to kind of talk a little bit more about—you’ve used this language multiple time—explore your calling. You know, helping people wrestle through and think through their calling. I do think, one of my theories is the reason why, one of the reasons why we have a leadership crisis in the local church is at some point in the last—and listen, I’ve been at this long enough, it was it was during my generation, sometime in this Gen X time—like in the last 20, 30 years, we dropped this idea of calling as a regular… Like there was I remember when I was a young person, there was like, you went away to youth camp and there was the like, get to know Jesus call. And then there was the like, hey, Jesus may be calling you to go into full time vocational ministry.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Come to the front now, we’re going to pray for you. And we dropped that somewhere along the line. We dropped that. But I love that you’re picking that up and using that as, help us think through that. How do you talk about that kind of language with young leaders? How do we challenge them? Think about those things.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, that’s so good. So my story is I had a moment when I was 16 where I just felt like God told me, go up on the hillside. And whenever I went up on the hillside, I heard from God. And I heard him say, Brad, you’re going to be a pastor. And so it was a very clear moment for me that any time I’ve gotten discouraged, shaken up, wondered what I should do, even all the mistakes that I made early in ministry. I got I got kicked out of a volunteer role once. I got told I wasn’t going to be hired at The Journey because I was arrogant and unteachable. My pastor told me that. And I still gutted it out and stayed because my calling was the thing that I kept going back to.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — I had heard from God, I’m going to be a pastor. And I want young people, I want everybody, but especially young people, I want them to hear the voice of God. Maybe not the audible voice of God, but I want to teach them how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what he is leading, because I believe that every single one of us has a calling. Every single one of us is uniquely wired for a purpose that God has for us on this planet.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — And it’s not limited to vocational ministry. So that’s where some of those summer camps, I think, might have gotten it wrong. They said, maybe you’re called to ministry.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — It’s like, that’s not the only way to be called. Maybe you’re called to go start a business that makes $50 billion a year, and you’re going to fund the next wave of ministry happening. That’s your calling. Maybe you’re called to be the best killer stay at home dad that has ever walked this planet. And in a fatherless generation, you’re going to father your kids well, so that they change the world for Jesus.

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — Like I want people to hear from God, and that’s what I’m trying to help them see and help them step into.

Rich Birch — So good.

Brad Dreibelbis — So I’m having conversations. How do you how do you create enough space where you can listen to the Holy Spirit, not just listen to the voices when you’re scrolling? How do you create enough space where you’re prioritizing your faith, prioritizing what it means to hear from God? So that’s why our ministry boot camp, the first hour of it, the first hour is sitting and listening to God.

Rich Birch — That’s good. So good.

Brad Dreibelbis — Spending time connecting with him. It’s there’s worship music playing in the background. If you don’t want to be in the room, go somewhere else. Journal, pray, do something.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — And yeah, there’s a bunch of 14 year olds in the room that have never spent an hour connecting with God in their entire life. But what God will do with twice a week, one hour a day, that’s 20 hours of connecting with God uninterrupted…

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …that they’ve never had before.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good.

Brad Dreibelbis — And that’s where they get to hear their calling, and just explore what could it be. If they can build that muscle, when they turn 22 or 27 or 29 and God opens their eyes to see what’s next, they’re ready to flex that muscle because they know how to be sensitive and hear from God and say yes to the opportunities that are in front of them.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — Or be corrected whenever they need to be corrected so that they can say yes in the future.

Rich Birch — So good, so good. This has been a rich conversation so far. One of the things you’ve talked about is you referenced there this whole kind of in some conversations, it’s like a dichotomy between character and competence or between, you know, who we are versus what we do. And how are you helping young leaders…because we for sure have a character problem in the broader body of Christ. Right?

Brad Dreibelbis — Sure.

Rich Birch — Like there’s sure like we are always it seems like we’re always a few weeks away from some major blow up at some church, unfortunately, right?

Brad Dreibelbis — Sure.

Rich Birch — That’s it’s just what we seem to see. But I love that you’re, you’re, you know, you’re tapping on that issue. Hey, we want we want people to think about who they are, not just what they do. Because I could see in these kind of training environments, could lean towards like, we’ll give you the skills to be an amazing host or be a great video person, or being a great kids person, but then not actually deal with some of the character stuff. Talk me through what that looks like for you guys.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah. So we always look at it as it’s it’s not something that can be resolved. It’s a tension that needs to be managed.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — So there’s always this tension between do I focus more on character, or do I focus more on on competence? Do I focus more on helping you be a great preacher and teacher and host on stage and be great with kids? Or do I really just help disciple you to be a better follower of Jesus?

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — And the answer is yes.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, that’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — The answer is both. And different seasons require different things. So it requires this leadership art that every person who’s a pastor, or every person who’s listening to this podcast, you’ve had to do this. But I think sometimes we get it wrong, myself included, where we think, oh, what this person really needs is character development, or competence. They need to grow in their ability to do something. And it’s like the answer is both. So it’s this tension…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — …where if you can, if you can help somebody grow in their ability to to hear from God, to submit their life to the Holy Spirit, to be renewed each day, if you can help them grow in that, that’s going to carry them further than their competence ever could.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — Because you can always teach new skills. I can teach you how to run a social media account. I can teach you how to, you know, look at a spreadsheet and make sure that all the finances are right. I can teach you how to do it because guess what? That was me. Nobody, nobody came alongside and said, oh, here’s how you be a pastor, and here’s how you do it. I just did it.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Right, right.

Brad Dreibelbis — So that’s part of what happens is if I had somebody helping me grow in my character, calling out whenever I would, whenever I needed to be. My pastor called me arrogant and unteachable so that I would grow.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — And I leaned in. I didn’t lean out. I leaned in.

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — And from there, because my character was strong and was getting stronger each and every day, I got more opportunities, and I got more chances to flex some new competence muscles in a new way. And ultimately, that’s what helped.

Rich Birch — So good, so good. Well, pivoting in a totally different direction. This is something you had sent this to me ahead of time and I want to I think this is such a great, simple tool, powerfully, you know, deceptively powerful in its simplicity. Talk to us about your monthly focuses as a staff team. As a, you know, as a church, you’ve kind of defined these. You document them, you track them. And you’ve given us a PDF version of, of kind of like a one pager that kind of shows these. But talk us through how, how does these, how does this work at The Journey. And, you know, work us through this. Talk to us about this talk, this document.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah. So this is, I would say this is our, our ministry superpower right now as a church.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — This is like our secret sauce. This is this is the thing that, like, when we trace everything back, this has helped us the most, practically speaking. So, you know, as we’re as we’re thinking about raising up people and raising up leaders, we came into this month of March going we need to focus on leadership development. We need to raise up some young leaders. So we have an existing mechanism in our church that we call our monthly focus, which means that we have a particular vision area of our church that we’re that we’re trying to focus on.

Brad Dreibelbis — So for us, our vision as a church is to gather, connect and serve, born out of Acts 2. And so we said, okay, serve is the area that we want to focus on this month. Then we have a vehicle – that that’s what we call it. It’s the thing that is the tool to help us get there.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Brad Dreibelbis — So for us, our vehicle is steps of leadership. We’ve created these different abilities for people to have different levels of leadership, different steps, different ways that they can have influence. So that’s our vehicle. And then we have a goal associated with that where we say this month we want to see 30 people fill in a steps of leadership assessment, basically raising their hands, saying, I want to be in leadership. I want to I want to have some influence. And now what we can do is every single month, everybody is rallied around this…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Brad Dreibelbis — …from a staff member to a J-team leader to, you know, anybody that’s in our church, they’re aware of what this monthly focus is.

Brad Dreibelbis — We’re talking about it on a weekend. Pastor Mark’s mentioning it in his messages. We’re talking about it in our pre-gathering huddles, getting everybody fired up. Pastor Mark always says every tag-in, every meeting, every conversation, every department meeting starts with, hey, here’s our monthly focus. Here’s where we’re at.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — We’ve even built-in this mechanism where our staff meets once a week. And we have to come together, we share some quick wins and life change stories, and then we do this, Hey, what’s one thing that you can do to contribute to our monthly focus? And we actually review what somebody said last week. So the whole staff standing in front of each other. And if they said, I’m going to talk to Bill about filling in a steps of leadership assessment…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s so good.

Brad Dreibelbis — …I leave the environment and go, hey, Rich, did you talk to Bill last week because you said you would? And the staff member has to go, yeah, I did. Great! Or no, I didn’t.

Rich Birch — No, I didn’t.

Brad Dreibelbis — All right. Let’s hold each other accountable.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — But that way we’re all focused on the same thing. So it’s become this this monthly focus where it’s not just about the goal, it’s about the vision area of our church…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …and the vehicle that we think is most important. And ultimately we measure it with a goal. And so it’s become the superpower for us, where if you look at that document, you can see our different monthly focuses over the last couple of months and how they’ve had influence. And it’s been really cool to see how it’s helped us push the ball down the field and stretch, in really cool ways how God has shown up when our entire church gets focused on one thing for the power of those 30 days and then we pivot.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great. I love it. And are you okay if we link to this in our show notes for people to see this? Are you okay…

Brad Dreibelbis — Absolutely. Go right ahead. Steal everything. Put your church name on it and take credit.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Redo this. The thing I love about this is, well, I think the focus piece of it is so critically important. I think to, you know, you get up over ten staff and there’s people do wonder. They sit they sit at home or they sit at their desk or whatever. They wake up on Tuesday and they’re like, what am I supposed to be doing today? And by providing the clarity of like, hey, this is the thing that we’re focusing on this month, here’s the big win. So I love that. I also love that you guys have the guts, and again, friends, I encourage you to click the show notes and download this to actually take a look at it. You know, each of these a lot of these have, in fact probably all of them, have like some sort of goal that’s a measurable goal. And then there’s you’re at the end of that month tracking that goal. So it was like last month’s February 2024, to see an average of 3,100 people gather across all locations. And it was 2,998 was the actual average. And that marks as a as red NO, did not meet that goal.

Rich Birch — The thing I love about that is I think too many times in the church we, we feel, well, we don’t have the guts to put down a goal like that. And then we don’t have the guts to say, like, let’s actually follow up on that. And we would just we kind of get spongy, and we’re like, well, but we did. We were two short of 3000.

Brad Dreibelbis — No.

Rich Birch — Like, that’s good enough.

Brad Dreibelbis — Nope.

Rich Birch — But to to say no, like, hey, that, you know, we weren’t there. So I just you’ll see lots of examples of it. That’s not to be hard on your people, but it’s to say, let’s keep let’s keep the goal out in front and keep, you know, keep conversations going and have the guts to be able to talk about it.

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Have has that been helpful as you’ve looked at those in internal conversation?

Brad Dreibelbis — Absolutely. I mean, it’s the only way to hold people accountable.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Brad Dreibelbis — We’re we’re recording this podcast in the middle of March Madness…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — …and nobody would watch the tournament if there was not a scoreboard.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — What would be the point?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Brad Dreibelbis — People that are highly motivated on teams, in staff and leadership positions, especially marketplace leaders…

Rich Birch — Yeah. Yeah.

Brad Dreibelbis — …they want to know that there is a goal and a scoreboard, and they want to know if they hit it or didn’t…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. Love it.

Brad Dreibelbis — …because no marketplace leader is in their business saying, well, I just kind of maybe fell short or I’m not really sure. No. Did you hit it or did you not?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Brad Dreibelbis — Now don’t wallow in it. I’m not, you know, punching people in the mouth because they didn’t do something with like, hey, this is really heavy-handed. No, I’m sitting there going, here’s what we learned. Here’s what we should have done differently. Here’s where we dropped the ball, and here’s where we went forward, and here’s what we’re going to do next.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — And if we won, Rich, it’s not this place of it felt good. I’m excited that we won. No. Here’s why we did it. Here’s how we did it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it connects back…

Brad Dreibelbis — Here’s to be celebrated because of it. And we do that in every all staff meeting every month. The person who was responsible for that monthly focus, like who the buck stopped with, they give a report…

Rich Birch — Right.

Brad Dreibelbis — …and they’re the ones that say, here’s what happened. Again, accountability for the whole team so that you get your worship guy thinking and caring about steps of leadership. And you get your kids person thinking and caring about groups.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Brad Dreibelbis — And you get your finance person thinking and caring about weekend attendance.

Rich Birch — So good.

Brad Dreibelbis — We’re not in our silos anymore. We are one church helping people find Jesus and follow him fully.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s so good.

Brad Dreibelbis — And we are all focused on one thing these next 30 days.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. It’s great. Again, I encourage people to to take a look at that. And and it’s probably a whole conversation we could have right there on that. So that’s that’s a fun that’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Well, we’re coming to the end of our our episode here. Anything else you’d love to share kind of in this neighborhood of of calling up young leaders and, you know, motivating folks to reach the next generation and raising up, you know, folks for our teams.

Brad Dreibelbis — I mean, the only thing that I’d say is, is a little bit of what I talked about at the front end. Just be willing to give somebody a shot.

Rich Birch — That’s so good.

Brad Dreibelbis — If you’re if you’re a pastor here listening to this, somebody gave you a shot before you were ready. I’m just telling you they did. You had some area of hidden sin in your life that you did not submit to God.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so true.

Brad Dreibelbis — And someone let you be on a platform or be in a meeting that you had no business being a part of. That’s my story.

Rich Birch — So true. So true.

Brad Dreibelbis — So put somebody else in that place.

Rich Birch — That’s so good.

Brad Dreibelbis — If they’ve hidden some area of sin, try to flesh it out. Try to get what you can. Trust your gut. If you’re like, hey, I can’t put them in front of somebody, don’t do it. But don’t let this you have to be an expert with a with a seminary degree. You have to have graduated from, you know, Southeastern or you have to have graduated from Highlands College. You have to have, you know, a degree of something. Guys, ministry is with people. And the disciples did not have any of those certificates, degrees, or anything. They just did life with Jesus, who was the ultimate leader. And that’s what we need to do together.

Rich Birch — So good. Brad, this has been so helpful. I really appreciate you being on the show today. If people want to track with you or with the church, where do we want to send them online?

Brad Dreibelbis — Yeah, our website is and is a great place to to see any of our resources. We’ve got we’ve got stuff that we will give away. So if you want any of this, my email address is on there and we’ll be able to help you.

Rich Birch — Thanks so much. Appreciate you being here today, Brad. Have a good day.

Brad Dreibelbis — Thanks, Rich.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.