Dan is the the Executive Pastor of 12 Stone Church in Georgia. He’s been known as the “pastors’ coach” because he provides practical and encouraging insights for pastors across the country. In this episode Dan gives us a behind the scenes look at 12Stone Church and it’s Pioneer Campaign to launch 5 new campuses in one weekend in January 2014. Listen in as Dan gives practical insights into how they are structuring their ministry to get ready for this rapid expansion plan! This episode is an inspiration to all church leaders considering a bold move in their church in the coming years!
00:36 // Rich welcomes Dan to the show.
01:17 // Dan talks about the DNA of 12Stone.
02:40 // Dan talks about the history of 12Stone.
04:36 // Dan talks about launching five more campuses.
05:54 // Dan talks about the history and the learnings of going multisite.
07:44 // Dan tells us the advantages of lunching five campuses versus one at a time.
12:25 // Dan talks about their volunteer movement called ‘The Pioneer’.
14:33 // Rich and Dan discuss the difficulties of finding new locations.
17:27 // Dan talks about leadership development within 12Stone.
20:17 // Dan talks about preparing the congregation for the launch of five campuses.
22:11 // Rich and Dan discuss centralization.
26:01 // Dan talks about learning new skills which allows them to ‘build things while up in the air flying’.
27:35 // Before considering going multisite Dan advises you need to know it’s what God wants you to do rather than thinking it’s a cool intelligent thing to do.
28:25 // Dan offers some contact information.
Rich – Well hey everybody, happy Thursday. Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host around these parts. Super excited that you’ve decided to spend some time with us. We trust you and we’re so glad that you’ve decided to trust us to spend time with us today.
Today we have a real treat, we’ve got Dan Reiland on the phone. He’s one of just a few people that have been on the podcast before that’s back for a return engagement, so I’m so excited to have Dan with us. Dan thanks so much for being with us today.
Dan – Rich thank you for inviting me and glad to be here. I’m looking forward to this conversation and it’ll be obvious why.
Rich – Nice. So Dan is the executive pastor, for people who don’t know, Dan’s one of those guys that doesn’t need much of an introduction, a well-known executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Atlanta, a multisite church. Dan I thought what we could do, is we could start with you giving us a bit of the 12Stone story. Tell us about 12Stone.
Dan – Well, let me start with our DNA. I think with the DNA we have identified the culture. It’s one that really is who we are more than, we went away on a retreat and we came up with two clever things.
A way to grab hold of us really quickly is three thoughts. One is spiritual intensity, creative ideation and leadership development. That’s really who we are. Those three components of spiritual intensity, creative ideation and leadership development. If you want to climb in, you can’t be around us very long before you’re going to see those things, feel those things, hear those things. People will come and tease us and laugh and say, “You can’t be in 12Stone for four minutes without hearing someone talk about prayer or leadership development.”
Another three things you’ll hear a lot are the more visionary words of how we translate that. Those are lost, least and leadership. We’re about the lost, we’ll do anything to reach the lost. We’re about the least, we want to give ourselves a way and serve and we’re about leadership, we truly have passion for the next gen. and to raise up leaders.
Just for another real nugget, then we’ll go onto another question. 12Stone is 27 years old.
Rich – Nice.
Dan – I know and although we feel like we re-birthed with a new name and a new everything about eight years ago, some pretty God given kind of growth, but that’s not how it started. In the early days it was a rougher, slower goal. It took seven years for the church to get to 200 people.
Rich – Wow.
Dan – Then it took seven more years for the church to get to 14 – 15 hundred people. So it’s 14
years in before some things really began to grab hold and kick off and go forward. So it’s just not a flash in the plan deal, it’s a layer by layer by layer, for a long time. We’ve got to give major claps to the senior pastor Kevin Myers, who is the founding pastor; 27 years, a Godly man, he’s stuck it out the whole way.
Rich – I think that’s a really good thing to point out. I just want to underline what you said there. You’ll see where the conversation goes, I think it might be one of those things where people say, “Wow this is like overnight success, kind of like a crazy explosive thing.” It’s been 27 years of faithfulness of a leadership team, Kevin obviously at the helm of that that has brought your church to the place where you’re at today. There’s a lot of churches that are out there and they’re in the first seven years prior to that conversation, they’re at that point and who knows where God’s taking them in the future.
Well the thing I love about those, even your core values there; spiritual intensity, creative ideation and leadership development, is there anything happening at your church these days that brings all those to bear? That’s obviously a loaded question, we know what we’re going to talk about today, at least I know. But is there anything happening that’s maybe bringing all those to bear for you, particularly this pioneer campaign I’ve been hearing about, coming out of 12Stone?
Dan – Absolutely. You see the biggest God-sized vision we’ve ever had or the craziest thing we’ve ever done and maybe Rich a little bit of both, but we are birthing five campuses. We’re going to go from four campuses to nine campuses on the week of January 11th. We’ve been in process of 18 to 24 months of really, you know, discipline diligence preparing for this. When we think about the difference, my wife likes to say it this way, the difference between birthing one baby and birthing quintuplets, it’s very difficult to compare. Even though I can’t claim to know what that feels like, I think I can almost say that now. So yeah, with God’s help we’re going after birthing five, at one time, on one weekend.
Rich – What were some of the factors that led you to that decision? How long have you been multisite and how long have you been doing the campuses thing and then what brought you to the point where you kind of saw a bit of God’s handprint to say maybe this is the next step for us?
Dan – To go back to your first question, we’ve been doing the multisite since about 2008, actually 2007 I think. We launched our first one which made us two campuses, that was Hamilton. Then we launched Flowery Branch that was our second. Then we launched our third, actually I’m saying them backwards because that’s technically our fourth campus. But we began learning things along the way, we began discovering things along the way. Nothing is like we’d planned or dreamed many, many years ago. We thought we would have a bunch of McMillan McDonalds; little shops all over town with 350 seats or something like that and we learned pretty quickly that was just way too small. It didn’t work, we had leadership engines that could do more than that but we also knew that we didn’t have the leadership engines to do…
like a few multisites, they’ll launch with 2000, they want to launch with… It took us a long time to find out, to discover that we’ve launched, our zone, our fastball is a room with about 750 chairs.
So we’re building toward that, re-gearing everything to develop, except central, to that number of seats. A lot of it was discovery, a lot of it was stewardship, a lot of it is what we learned from our third campus. For example, that was the first one where we didn’t go straight into a building. We went into a high school for two years first, just because of the financial implications, so that’s where I come from with the stewardship thing.
Actually if you want we could jump from there to why five at the same time?
Rich – Absolutely why not, that seems crazy.
Dan – It kind of does, it kind of does and I think for us, there’s three or maybe four thoughts behind that. The first one and this is kind of cool, because these are things bigger than we could have ever thought of. But momentum, the first answer is momentum. We’ve learned that it’s possible, in a large church environment, when you launch one campus, it can almost be a bit of an outlier like, “Hope it works.”
Rich – “Good luck.”
Dan – “Good luck out there,” and of course that’s not the vibe but it could feel that way. Where here, in contrast, when you launch five, everybody’s affected, everybody’s affected. 1700 adults are leaving the current campuses. 1700 and that created this massive section of well over a thousand holes, where volunteers were set… over a thousand of those 1700 were serving. So it’s this sucking vacuum thing of a need for people to rise up. So there’s an inspiration that comes from the momentum that no one’s untouched.
The second we’ve talked about, but I’ll go into a little more details, is stewardship. We quickly discovered that we could launch five campuses for millions less dollars than we could build one. Millions and I started to talk about that a moment ago, that’s why I switched to the other question. But we went to Sugarloaf, we went to the high school for two years and said, “Let’s get some traction, let’s see if we can build this thing to a thousand people or something,” which we did before we moved into a building. That worked and that was good and that obviously provided much more intelligent stewardship kinds of things.
In this learning growing process we’ve learned that another layer is necessary. So we actually have a strategic design now as a result of eight years of learning. It’s a three-phased thing. So phase one for all these campuses is mobile rental. Just in and out, mobile church in two years, we don’t know, three years whatever, they’ll all grow at different speeds. Then three to five years in a strip mall building and then in a builder building.
Rich – A stand-alone building?
Dan – Yeah and so we’ve just learned that the debt, the money, the stuff, we need to those
phases and you know what, maybe if we were smarter we would have figured that out from day one. It took us years to figure that out.
The third thing is teamwork. There’s something really cool about watching these five campus pastors and five worship leaders and five children’s and five… They’re so in it together, they’re so in it together.
Then the last one, which really is the big one, and I hate why I don’t start with it, but I can tell you and I really appreciate something you don’t know I appreciate, that you just did a moment ago, you started with the God factor. You started with a God vision. I appreciate that about you Rich, because many times, didn’t really care that I’ll start with that answer if somebody’s asking and they’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. God, God, God whatever.” But that’s the truth, here’s the truth, God pulled Kevin Myers to do that. A couple of years ago at our 25th anniversary he launched the vision of five campuses in five years and that was God’s voice to Kevin.
Since that time in our prep, it has changed to, for the reasons I’ve just told you, five campuses at one time, but I have to say, since God spoke to the senior pastor.
Rich – That’s amazing, I think those are kind of well-rounded, I can see that in a lot of churches, in your church obviously, what God’s at work to make that happen. Let’s dig into some of the specifics a little bit. I saw a number on your site, it’s a huge number of volunteers you’re having to mobilize, you said there’s 1700. So how have you gone about finding those volunteers, what does that process look like for you?
Dan – 1700 adults are leaving. We’re raising up a little over 1200 maybe to a place of volunteers. This whole movement, we’ve themed it ‘The Pioneer’, five pioneers, five campuses. So we have the sending pioneers, the second phase where it’s a step up. So in other words, for those of you staying, you can’t all leave, those that are staying, who will step up to fill in the gap? We did all of the typical things and fun things; T-shirts, step up t-shirts, step up rallies and stuff but that doesn’t mean things work right?
Rich – Right.
Dan – But the people have been amazing, God has moved and we have been inundated with people rising up. So we have cast a vision, we’ve communicated the need, we’ve told how many are leaving, we’ve told the people who we need and they are literally stepping up and coming… Of course, as you know as a pastor, there’s a difference between sign-up and show-up.
Rich – Yes.
Dan – And we’ve been blown away, the show-up is a huge percentage of sign-up and they’re already moving through training. So the momentum has really gathered, but what I would say to you and a bigger answer is, this recruiting is really visionary recruiting. Now was there a plan and gathering and all kinds of..? All of that, yeah, yeah, but really it was attached to vision more
than, “Wow people are leaving, now what’re we going to do?”
Rich – Absolutely. Now we have four campuses and you know, we’re eyeing more in the future. We’re in the Northeast here in New Jersey, locations are tough for us, we have a hard time finding rental locations. To be honest, the part of this that takes my breath away is finding five locations. Can you give us a bit of an insight into that, how’s that process gone, what’s it look like?
Dan – If I started listing the problematic challenges, I would list that toward the top of the list of the absolutely unanticipated level of difficulty. It was hugely difficult. We’re still, in this moment, fine tweaking some of our contracts and things. When we began the process, like probably everybody does, we kind of looked at a huge map: Where are our people the most? Where do we think God wants us to go? Where are the population clusters of current 12Stoners? Where are our growth sections were, the high schools and junior high. The typical things you would do if you were going to plant a church.
We were, maybe only me, maybe I was a little naïve. Naïve on the bad side, full of faith on the other side, but thinking they’ll be dozens of high school and middle schools, not true. We found that about a third of them weren’t interested in having us there at all. About a third of them already had a church. About a third of them either couldn’t, weren’t big enough, it was just really complicated and we did not anticipate one city didn’t want us there. They didn’t even want us there.
Rich – Right, even if they had the space they weren’t interested?
Dan – Yeah so we underestimated that but God’s helped us and we have an amazing team, a logistics team, but we have been through dozens and dozens of buildings. So here’s how I’ve kept myself pumped up. If Rick Warren can do 54 buildings before he moved in, we can do it.
Rich – Yeah absolutely.
Dan – We can do it.
Rich – Yeah it’s funny, we’re in a similar season in that we’re really trying to flush out future locations. We’re 400 and some odd facilities in on the research side for future campuses.
Dan – 400?
Rich – Yeah 400. What we’ve done is we’ve cast a very wide net and we’re trying to cross off stuff that, even at the beginning, just we know, like I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work. But we want to actually go down the road of saying, we’ve talked to the people there, we know exactly how many people they can fit in their ballroom or auditorium – no it won’t work. Partly because we just want to know right? We want to be sure, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned. So I can image that process was crazy to try to do that for five, that’s incredible.
Now the campus piece in this significant. A lot of churches will say that’s been their biggest,
their toughest nut finding one for their next campus, let alone five. Now you guys are a leadership development, that’s one of your prongs of your three part, three legged stool, so you must just have campus pastors lying around there, just waiting, so I’m sure it’s easy.
Dan – I wish.
Rich – Exactly.
Dan – No it is true and that is who we are and we have 25 residents and they are phenomenal and of course most of them get hired by other really cool churches, but we get to hire, we do have the advantage to pick first, you know?
Rich – Yes.
Dan – If the timing works and we have an opening. So we do have a pipeline of phenomenal worship leaders and phenomenal young pastors. But most of the residents would not be commonly going right from the completion of a residency to campus pastor. More might go into student pastor or some other role first to get some more development.
To answer your question, currently and I’ll tell you why I’m using the word currently, three of our campus pastors were raised up from within, from the (unclear 00:18:11). Two of them we went outside within a network of people that we knew really well. These guys, we had a really good sense of who they were and I think God’s hand is on it, because the two of them are both named Dan; Dan Mack and Dan VanderWall. Both of them are like family now, the culture means so… our preference, probably like you Rich, is raise them up from inside because the culture of DNA transcripts every…
Rich – They do yeah.
Dan – They do, but these two young men are just us, we love them to death, they’re in sharp and of course we’re in the same process with worship leaders. We are more willing to have a worship leader, who’s got a little bit of a younger timeline there. A worship leader to come right out of residency and go right into a…
Rich – A campus?
Dan – If they’re ready yeah.
Rich – Yeah, only if they’re ready, okay.
Dan – You’re right, it’s a big deal. I don’t know if this is of interest to you, so I don’t have to go on about it, but for (unclear 00:19:21) we actually don’t have. One of our guys who (unclear 00:19:30) to senior pastor, we asked him to step in. He actually was one of our lead guys at Sugarloaf, very experienced, very good, he’s now leading that 5th campus, for many, many months if needed, while we go and find the (unclear 00:19:48).
Rich – Now that actually begs another question for me, how much of, both on that front… So obviously you were able to declare, “We’re going to this area without the final campus pastor nailed down.” Then also the facilities side, it sounds like there were still a few balls in the air but you had declared you’re going to this community. There’s a faith step there obviously; we’re going to go in here, we don’t have it all nailed down yet. Can you talk through that, how did that work out on both of those dynamics?
Dan – We were very open with the congregation. Normally our style in the past is all locked and noted and everything’s done on the four that we have. Here we really just were very open saying, “Here are the nine areas that we’re praying about,” and congregation surveys and praying with us, not that they’re voting but they’re giving really massive input, because if they don’t buy into this it doesn’t work. If they don’t do it doesn’t work, so they helped to narrow it to the five.
There was a combination of, we’re going, a bold step with faith, a bold step with… If we need to be in a tent, we’re going. I think when the congregation senses that boldness and that resolve, it’s amazing what gets unlocked when you say, “We’re going, we’re doing this.”
Rich – Right, interesting.
Dan – Then they come out of the woodworks sometimes; I know somebody and they know somebody and did you guys check out that building and all that kind of stuff. Obviously we don’t want to be foolish but I think there was enough homework and preparation and prayer in advance that there wasn’t anything foolish. So we needed boldness to say, “We’re going.”
Rich – Well you obviously had earned the right, earned the chips with people to do that. You ministry has been stable and well thought out and well planned, so that’s actually a great growth point for people to see like, “Wow, okay they are bringing us along in this,” but that doesn’t create mistrust or like, “What are these people… I don’t know what they’re talking about.” It’s kind of a next logical step because you’ve built trust with your people, as opposed to if it was your first campus, that may not be the best decision on that.
Dan – So the campus pastor thing is very important, but also we have spent a lot of years now, working on and learning the number two thing. The number one thing by far of course is the campus pastor but not far underneath it and then everything else pails, everything else pails. It’s centralizing, where you are on the continuum of highly centralized, or highly independent. At launch one and launch two we had no idea, we had no idea. They’re all entrepreneurial guys, go and get them.
Once you hit four, that doesn’t work anymore. So we have massive amounts of energy into, how do we define, for us, centralizing.
Rich – So would you say as you’ve launched you’ve actually become more centralized rather
Dan – Far more and some of the churches that started very, almost Big Brother, they’re our ten out of ten, they backed off to an 8.5. We started more entrepreneurial, we were more in the two or three, “Guys, go out there and go for it. We know you’re us so go and do us and we’re good.” I think that if a church has two or three campuses only you can do that. From four campuses and I don’t know why four is magic, but that leadership network and everybody on the planet has agreed; four and up is a game changer. If you aren’t aligned and have systems and are centralized, at least to some degree agree upon, that’s why we call it 5.1. We want to stay as close as we can to who we think we are, a little more entrepreneurial. So for us 5.1 is a way of keeping it as close as we can to freedom and empowerment.
Rich – Yeah that makes sense. I was talking to a 14 campus church a couple of weeks ago and the leader there said something I think is smart. They’ve gone both ways, they started very centralized, went decentralized, more decentralized and actually have gone back to more centralized. This leader said something that I thought was really insightful, she said they’ve found that actually just that change of changing the pattern of work a little bit, they found helpful because it forces leaders to look at things a little bit different. It forces the central folks to think through campus stuff. It forces the campus people to think through centralization. I think there’s some wisdom there. She was saying like, “Hey instead of seeing this as a finished state, it’s just this is where we are today and that may grow and change as we look to the future.” So I thought that was another interesting point of view.
Dan – It is too and I think one of the things that helps people relax in the centralizing thing, if they are resisting it, is that the majority of stuff is already centralized and nobody cares. IT is centralized, finance is centralized, building security… There’s a lot of stuff that’s already centralized and everybody goes, “Well dah!” Really the only thing we’re talking about is the core center of ministries, that’s all.
Rich – Yeah campus pastors are afraid to do their own accounting. There’s no one saying, “We want to do our own books,” nobody’s saying that.
Dan – No one wants to do their own IT or their own…
Rich – No it’s very true. Alright so what are you learning in this process? That’s obviously a big question, but kind of, here you are, this interview is a couple of months out from launch, so what would you say are the front burner things you’re learning today?
Dan – One of the things is we’re learning more and more how to build well in flight. We’re at a… we use the words speed and pressure, we’re at a flight path of trajectory or whatever you want to call it, that no longer allows R&D to have like a… we’ll go downtime R&D in the summer and we’ll do our new deal, but it can never ever stop. So we’re actually learning a new skill of how to build things while we’re up in the air flying. That’s a new skillset for us and we’re getting it, we’re figuring it out, because it’s different than, slow it down, let’s target for a minute,
let’s figure this out. No we’re 30 thousand feet, we’re going 700 miles an hour. We have to build these five while we’re running the… Do you know what I mean? So we’re learning that.
Rich – Interesting.
Dan – I think we’re learning that no matter how much we plan and anticipate, we’re going to encounter problems. We can’t anticipate all the problems. That requires intense, resilience and resolve. Like locations, we’ve got everybody dressed up and no place to go.
Rich – Rich exactly, exactly.
Dan – So that required resolve.
Rich – Absolutely, interesting. Well anything else you’d like to share with our listeners before we close it up.
Dan – You know when it comes to multisite, I would say please don’t think of it like a program, don’t think like it the cool thing I heard on conference, because it’s infinitely more difficult than one box and I would say be sure that God’s telling you to do this and you feel like this is a vision, it’s a true vision that you’re owning, rather than this is the next cool thing that everybody’s doing. Because the guys who are doing that, because it’s an intelligent cool thing to do, they’re not doing so well. You’ve got to know this is what God wants you to do.
Rich – Absolutely. Well Dan I really appreciate you being on the show today. If people want to get in touch with 12Stone or with you, just kind of learn more about what you guys are up to, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Dan – Depending on what they’re looking for they can just email me at [email protected] or just go generically and look at the staff and see who they want to talk to. We have a lot of resources, if they go on our website we have resources for church leaders and they’re all free. We’ve invested quite a bit to give ourselves away. So if church leaders want to cruise that site they can find some cool stuff too.
Rich – Nice, well thanks Dan I really appreciate you being on the show. I’d love to have you back if you’re open to it, after launch, because I’d love to know what you’ve learned and what it looks like actually post January ’11.
Dan – I think that one could be the interesting interview, so let’s do it.
Rich – Yeah let’s do that for sure. We’ll wait a couple of months, two or three months after and then I’d love to hear that. So thank you so much.
Dan – Alright thanks Rich, have a good day.