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Executive Pastor Profile: Matt Piland from Bethlehem Church

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Thank you for joining in for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we have a fantastic conversation with Matt Piland, the executive pastor at Bethlehem Church in Georgia.

Bethlehem Church is a church that’s 110 years old and for years it was in decline with about 200 people in attendance. Eight years ago Jason Britt came on as the senior pastor and today the church is thriving with about 4,000 people attending services, and is preparing to launch its third campus.

Matt is with us today to talk about the areas in the church where he’s been stretched and what he’s learning about growth and staff development.

  • It’s okay not to have the answers. // One of the things the staff has learned during the church’s growth is that they don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. Many fast-growing churches are highly strategic, but Bethlehem tends to be more on the opportunistic side. This approach requires a lot of patience and waiting on God to open the right doors at the right time.
  • Maximize the growth season. // Bethlehem Church has revitalization in their DNA; when it comes to their campuses, they look for churches that are declining and are open to revitalization by becoming part of Bethlehem Church. This approach is where their focus on opportunities comes in and where they need to exercise trust and patience. As an example, when the team at Bethlehem stepped out in faith to find a location for another campus after waiting for a time, they were immediately shown God’s plan for a different location than the one they were first planning for. So they changed direction, following God’s leading, and have experienced growth as a result.
  • Vision, structure, and staff. // Vision determines the direction you will go. Structure and strategy determine the path you’ll take. But the staff determines if you’ll get there. It’s typical to focus on vision and strategy/structure, while leaving the staff as an afterthought. Bethlehem Church focuses a lot on pouring into their staff. Matt gives a lot to his staff emotionally, as well as within his schedule and leadership. As he explains, he’s learned to want more for his people than from them, and seeks to always put himself in a position where he’s serving them.
  • Leadership development group. // As a way of cultivating a culture of being a servant leader, Matt teaches a monthly leadership development group that encourages the leaders to use one ear to listen for themselves and one ear to listen for the team they lead. This teaches them to be attentive to the needs of those they lead and Matt also models servant leadership with them. Within the group they focus on different topics, such as problems to be solved vs tensions to be managed, as well as work through books on leadership.
  • Let staff know you care. // If a staff member is not performing as expected, Matt reminds us that conversations in this area are easier when the staff member knows you care. They are harder to talk with when there isn’t a relationship there and the staff member feel you want more from them than for them. Matt has an open door policy to allow the staff to talk with him about any issues, both personal and professional. When it comes to difficult conversations, let your staff know you care for them and are invested in them. Affirm them and honor them at the front of the meeting, and leave them with dignity at the end of meeting.

You can learn more about Bethlehem Church at bethlehemchurch.us and you can find Matt on Twitter and Facebook.

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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.