Executive Pastor Profile: Sam Beatty from Grace Church, Cleveland

Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to have with us Sam Beatty, the executive pastor from Grace Church outside of Cleveland, Ohio.

As our churches grow, they naturally become more complex. It’s important to keep them focused and drive towards simplicity so we don’t drift from the mission and vision. Tune in as Sam shares how Grace Church works to stay healthy and focused on the mission/vision so it can yield fruitful ministry.

  • Focus on the mission and vision. // Leading a fast-growing church comes with its own set of challenges. Amidst the growth churches become more complex and can start to be distracted by the complexities. During growth it’s important to stay healthy as a team and constantly evaluate if you are staying on mission and pursuing your God-given vision. 
  • Examine metrics. // Grace Church has a weekly staff gathering and devotes part of that time to examining metrics for the purpose of both celebration and determining possible opportunities. It’s easy to forget to celebrate because you become focused on the next step in your mission. However celebration is an important step in itself because it highlights what God is doing and contributes to church team health.
  • Heart checks. // Another way Grace keeps their team healthy and stays focused on the mission/vision is through regular check-ins with both staff and volunteers. By implementing “heart checks” every six months it provides an opportunity to ask questions, discuss experiences, and address any frustrations or concerns. Not only do these check-ins prevent issues from spiraling out of control, they also help to re-focus people in the right direction and get them excited about the mission and vision again.
  • Listen to others. // In your one-on-ones, have humility as a senior leader and let your staff know you hear what they are saying. Redirect people who have drifted from the mission/vision by asking more questions, rather than making only declarative statements and having all the answers. In our minds we can believe there is only one right way to do something. But often there are many ways to approach a situation. Listening to the other person talk about the way they see things allows us to see a different way too.
  • View opportunities as discipleship. // It can be hard manage the tension of not wanting to make things complex, but also wanting to create opportunities. When you view opportunities as discipleship and equip others to do them, it will multiply your impact without taking a lot of staffing hours. Grace Church uses vision dinners to bring ministries and groups back to the mission and vision of the church. These simple vision-casting events help to align people while empowering and equipping others for ministry.

You can learn more about Grace Church at www.gracecma.ocg.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Risepointe

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You’re in for a real treat today. I’m really looking forward to today’s conversation. Sam Beatty from Grace Church. This is a church in Ohio, had its beginnings back in the 1950s, and now is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Sam is the executive pastor there, which, you know, we love executive pastors here at, uh, unSeminary. On top of church online, they also have campuses in Middleburg Heights and Olmsted Falls, if I’m pronouncing that correctly, as well as a third campus where they serve an incarcerated community, uh, at the Lorain Correction Center. Uh, they’ve also planted churches across the country. Uh, super excited to have Sam on the show today. Welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Sam Beatty — Thanks so much, Rich. I appreciate you taking the time and inviting me to the show. And, uh, like I said, uh, we, uh, this is one of the podcasts I listen to frequently. So you and your guests have both taught me a ton, uh, over the years.

Rich Birch — Thank you so much, Sam. That, uh, we were joking beforehand. I was I’ve always been looking for my other listener, my mom and you. Now I know. So now I know who the person is. And so you don’t have to listen to this one. My mom will hear it, and we’ll be fine. So. No, I’m just kidding. I really appreciate you. Uh, yeah, I really appreciate you tuning in.

Rich Birch — Why don’t you fill in the picture a little bit? Kind of tell us a bit more about Grace. Give us a sense of of the church. Um, it keeps, you know, some of that kind of stuff. If we were to come this weekend, what would that look like? And every church, when we say executive pastor, it looks a little bit different. So kind of tell us a little bit about your role as well.

Sam Beatty — Yeah for sure. I, uh, I’ve been here for 17 years. Uh, we’re in the Cleveland area just outside of, uh, Cleveland. And, uh, it’s been a church that’s been been here for a long time, since the 50s, like you’d said. And just has a legacy. Uh, we’ve had two senior pastors in that amount of time. The second one is is currently here. So Donald Schaefer, uh, was the founding pastor, and, uh, now Jonathan Schaefer, uh, is also, uh, he’s as his son, he took over.

Sam Beatty — And, uh, Grace is just an amazing place to find healing. We hear that a lot. Uh, so we do a lot with Recovery Ministries. We do, uh, we find a lot of people who maybe have been wounded in the past at churches that end up showing up at our door. So I feel like God’s used us in that way. Um, and like you said, we’re a multi-campus church. Uh, we have one other physical campus. We also have, um, the Lorain Correctional, but but in addition to that, we have, uh, several cultural churches. We have an Arabic church that meets on site, uh, a Spanish church, and a deaf church.

Rich Birch — Okay, oh wow.

Sam Beatty — So just trying to see, you know, how can we take the mission and vision of, of Jesus to bring the gospel to the world? And, uh, and the Christian Missionary Alliance, uh, as a denomination really focuses on a global, uh, global mission. So that’s a big heartbeat of ours as well.

Rich Birch — You know, everybody wants to be a part of a fast growing church or not everybody. Lots of people are like, hey, that would be a great thing. Uh, but I know that leading from within one of those can have tremendous pressure. Uh, it can be hard to kind of keep everybody focused. What have you found on that front? How as a church are you keeping your team, keeping your volunteers kind of pointed in the same direction? Give us a sense of what that’s look like for Grace.

Sam Beatty — Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, um, I had a conversation with our founding pastor when I first came. He was my mentor, Donald Schaefer, and I remember he he had been asked he would be asked a number of times, you know, how is how is the church growing? You know, what’s your secret sauce, basically?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Sam Beatty — And he would say his answer for that was I just minister to who the person is right in front of me. So I think sometimes in the midst of as you grow and, you know, lots of people will tell this, you know, if you’re if your things are going well, you’re going to start growing. And as you start growing, you become more complex. And I think that’s the Craig Groeschel, uh, uh, quote there. But as you do that, then you start to focus on the complexities.

Sam Beatty — And, and I think what, you know, I’m reminded of is always pointing people back to what do, what are we here for, what’s our vision, what’s our mission? And really helping people to see, is this an opportunity that is worth, uh, jumping into? Is it part of our vision or mission or, um, or are we just going to be sort of distracting ourselves with more complexity? So I think it’s a combination of staying healthy as a team and then also evaluating, like, are we staying on mission? And sometimes that’s in the midst of complexity.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s good. I love that thought. You know as as our churches grow they can you know they naturally drift towards complexity. And we’ve got to find a way to keep them focused and actually drive towards simplicity and to try to, you know, drive towards more focus, at least. So talk to me about how how you’ve been able to help or how the church has tried to stay focused on vision and mission. What does that kind of practically look like at, uh, at Grace?

Sam Beatty — Yeah. Uh, so I think that, um, the challenge is to see, you know, are we striving to make disciples? And I think every church probably has, in some form or another in their vision, making disciples, as, you know, the vision of Jesus. But how do you how are you doing that practically? And I think, um, we’ve seen, you know, situations where are we just doing a cognitive approach? Are we just saying we’re just going to have Bible classes and just for the sake of Bible classes? Or is it just a relational thing, or maybe just an experiential thing? And the reality is, it needs to be a combination of all three of those pieces to be effective discipleship.

Sam Beatty — So I think a lot of it is, is being able to see from our team’s perspective, how do we come outside and take a look at the big picture? And really go through almost a sense of, are we looking through filters? Are we trying to raise people up, or are we just trying to hire for a position? Uh, because ultimately that can be the death of a of a church is when you stop having the people who are in your congregation do the work of the ministry. Uh, so I think always reminding people of those truths, uh, and reminding myself of that, uh, just to be able to see, you know, where, Lord, where are you taking us today, tomorrow, and then next year, you know?

Rich Birch — And and how what does that look like kind of at maybe at a team level or kind of an organizational level. How do you keep that in front of your people um, when it, you know, beyond just kind of individual conversations, you know, how do we how do we kind of scale that up? What is what’s that look like for you guys?

Sam Beatty — Yeah, we do, um, as a staff team, uh, and we have a, you know, a decent sized staff team. We do a weekly, um, staff gathering. And at that gathering, it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate where we are doing those things, because I think a lot of times we forget to celebrate because you’re always thinking about the next, you know, the, the next piece of that.

Rich Birch — True.

Sam Beatty — And, um, so I think celebrating is a huge as a huge one, um. Having those team approaches and saying there are certain metrics that we want to be able to to filter through and we look at, you know, is this an opportunity for us that, um, is going to allow us to grow in the right direction or not? So so I think some things are, um, more celebratory and, and other things are, you know, we’re looking through a number of lenses, and are those lenses things that are taking us in the right direction.

Rich Birch — Okay. That’s cool. One of the I know, one of the pressures, um, you know, in growing churches, let alone fast-growing churches is how do we keep our staff from burning out, from, you know, uh, flaming out, you know, ending up making all kinds of unwise decisions? How has, how have you avoided that at Grace? Or what have you done to try to avoid that at Grace? I know it’s not always a we don’t always bat a thousand on that.

Sam Beatty — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um, how what what have you done to try to build a positive team culture?

Sam Beatty — That’s good. I would probably even. I would probably even roll in volunteers in my answer to that question…

Rich Birch — Good.

Sam Beatty — …because I think, you know, our staff team is is one thing, but really we have a huge staff if you’re looking at a volunteer base.

Rich Birch — That’s very true.

Sam Beatty — As, as a, you know, a total organization. And there’s one thing in particular, before I was in this position at Grace, I was the head of the worship department. And so I would lead worship and led the teams. And and I think you, you, you learn about a lot about complexity and conflict management and those kinds of things…

Rich Birch — True.

Sam Beatty — …within the worship department area. And we started to to do this thing called heart checks. And the heart checks were things we would do every six months. We would take the entire team and we would meet individually with all of them. And this took a while. Um, but what we found is at about that six month mark, we could really help to re navigate people in the right direction.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — So where people maybe were getting, you know, to a point where there were frustrations bubbling up, but but they didn’t really have they weren’t open enough to bring it up, you know, in a conversation with you. But when you had an intentional time to sit down and, um, and go over that. And so what we did find is if we would skip that and wait like a year, then that’s where things would spiral with certain volunteers. And we’d find a ton of so we found a ton of health from incorporating those heart checks. And so I can’t speak enough for like, your one-on-ones with staff members.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s huge. Yeah.

Sam Beatty — Because what happens is you get off the same page. And even where you think you’re on the same page, you know, you think you’re going in the right direction together uh, you’re really kind of getting off page. So if you can have those strategic conversations more, more frequently, those are huge, both from a staff perspective and a volunteer perspective.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Let’s talk about that from a volunteer perspective. I don’t know many churches that do one on ones with volunteers. Like that’s that’s a that’s a huge investment of time, effort, energy, resources. You know, is the goal has that kind of rolled out for all your, your, your volunteer teams, like you’re trying to do them twice a year? Um, yeah, talk us through that a little bit.

Sam Beatty — Yeah, I’d say we try to do that with every ministry area that’s that’s looking at staff, uh, having having volunteer teams, I mean. And what we do is not program it in exactly the same way.

Rich Birch — Right. Sure.

Sam Beatty — But we say at least twice a year, have a touchpoint with your with your teams. And, and so as far as the worship department would go, we would take, uh, we would do it four times a year, split up between two different departments. You know, the musicians were every six months and we’d stagger three months and do…

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — …vocalists. And, uh, and so we would meet with them for 10 or 15 minutes, make it very quick so it was not this long thing. But we would just say, what’s God been teaching you? And what are some, you know, things that you what’s something that you want to tell us that you haven’t told us? And just amazing things would come out of those times. And we also found, interestingly, a lot of them were thematic. We would see the same thing happening with a number of people.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Sam Beatty — Um, but the whole next, you know, the next few months, people are just pumped – they’re excited. They see the mission and vision more clearly. Uh, and I think you’re just on the same page.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s cool. Well, let’s talk about that then, at a staff level and maybe bring it back to the vision/mission piece. You know, talk us through. I’m sure this has never happened, but theoretically, if you were engaged in a conversation with a staff member where you felt this person is straying a bit from the mission, or maybe their area is, there’s a little bit of vision leak there. We’re not quite pointing in the direction we should. Um, talk us through what does that look like? How do you engage that person? How do we kind of keep them, you know, how do we try to steer them back? Those kind of talk us through what that would look like.

Sam Beatty — Yeah. And, um, I think this is an opportunity um, it’s an opportunity. Really, you know, when you’re in ministry, this is an opportunity to always help take people two degrees in the right direction.

Rich Birch — Yeah, sure.

Sam Beatty — Because what’s going to happen then is you’re going to head toward, you know, toward the right, uh, the right thing, get people back on mission and vision. So the way I like to do that, and, you know, where we’ve discussed with other staff members is seeing, how do you feel like things are going? You know, you ask lots of questions. And I think a lot of times where people get into trouble, especially as they’re overseeing others, is they make more authoritarian kind of declarative statements to people, as opposed to making it more of a question.

Sam Beatty — Like, you know the right answer. We read the same Bible. Like, we just need to ask the question and people will think like, oh, wow, that that’s true. So I think being good at question-asking always helps people go. Taking a humble approach. I think humility is so huge. Um, especially when you’re in more of a senior leadership. Uh, because people will say things that will offend you. Or you’ll think like, hey, I was, I, you don’t know, ten things that were happening in the background. But just to take a humble approach and say, I hear you, I hear what you’re saying, and we need to heal together in those situations, you know.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Years ago, I had a coach, uh, say to me, we had to, you know, person that helps teams for a living. Um, and, you know, they spent some time with us and with our teams, and then it came to some feedback from them, and we were, you know, we were deliberately saying like, hey, we want to we want some help, how can we get better? And this leader said to me, he said, you know, Rich, um, you should you should ask way more questions than you answer. And I was like, oh, that kind of hurts a little bit, you know? And it’s true, right? How do we we need to position ourselves as question-askers, not as question-answerers. I think particularly as we as we become more senior in an organization, it can become tempting…

Sam Beatty — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Because and part of it’s true, it’s because like you’ve seen a lot of stuff, you’ve done a lot of things. Um, but man, we need our people to really grow into that. That’s, uh that’s good.

Sam Beatty — I think I think, too, leaders are inherently problem solvers. I think I’ve found a lot of good leaders who are really good problem solvers. Because that’s what happens – problems arise and you make the right decision. So I think often we can go into a conversation with another staff member or a volunteer, and we already have the right answer in our own mind. But there’s often 10 or 12 different ways to do something. And so asking the question gives them the opportunity to help you to see a different way as well. So I think having the humility to say, I’m not always right…

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, exactly.

Sam Beatty — …I think it’s important.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s so good. Good stuff. Well, I know one of the functional problems we face as our churches grow larger is it’s actually the fact that they grow larger. And, you know, I made the joke before – the only people that like big churches are pastors. You know, most people, if you talk with them, they would prefer a smaller church just because of all the stuff around, you know, who do we who do I connect with and all that? How are you facing that at Grace? What are you doing? You know, this is a big organization. Lots of people, lots of staff. What are some of the practical ways that you’re attempting to try to make Grace feel like, you know, it gets people, can still get connected and be a part of, you know, what’s happening here?

Sam Beatty — Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that’s such an important piece because as people stay anonymous, you know, if there’s an anonymity, that’s where they just don’t feel like this is part of my family. And I think part of the this is where the complexity issue comes back in. Like, um, is there a positive to being complex? It’s only if your folks still focused on the strategic pieces. So offering within, you know, men’s ministry, for example, having lots of opportunities for people to be at consistent tables, you know. And that’s that’s kind of like their small group where I’ve seen a number of churches say we do only life groups, and it’s only this way, it’s only this specific program. So you’re sort of programming out an ability for people to to engage with others in the way that God might be sparking them to do. And so I think giving lots of opportunities, but also keeping things very strategic, uh, is, is is important. And that’s I think that’s where we’ve seen a lot of healing. So we have a lot of recovery ministries where people would say, wow, if I miss, I’m people are going to know I’m missing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — Uh, or you’re at a, you know, a smaller, um, we do the thing called Ladies Latte. It’s kind of an outreach opportunity. Our senior pastor’s wife, Mary, uh, speaks at that. And and people go there, and they they build community with just that table.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — And they look forward to it every month. So I think being able to have those those opportunities are important.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s how do you balance those, the tension of those two off of, um, you know, wanting to create opportunities, uh, on one side while on the other side, trying to keep things simple and not, not complex. How do you… there’s no easy answer to this question; I understand that.

Sam Beatty — Yeah.

Rich Birch — But what are some of the ways that you’re wrestling with that tension? It’s probably a tension to live with rather than a problem to solve.

Sam Beatty — Sure. Yeah. I think if you’re not living with that tension, you’re probably not growing. Because you’re always, you know, having that complexity back in your face, so to speak. Uh, I think as long as you’re looking at.

Sam Beatty — So, for example, if you are, um, given an opportunity – somebody is starting a ministry or they’re excited about something and you can you can empower someone, you can equip them to do it. It’s not taking a ton of staffing hours, but but you’re really equipping that person. You’re doing you’re really doing discipleship. So when you see the opportunities as more of discipleship opportunities, and if you’re constantly equipping others to do them, then then you can have a broader sense of, we could have 10 or 12 things happening. But the reality is we’re not we’re not investing 10 or 12 times our current output.

Sam Beatty — We’re having one…another thing, I mentioned the heart checks, but another thing we do sort of staff-wide, ministry-wide is really challenge people to have a vision dinner or a vision cookout or some kind of vision-casting event. So no matter what, if you’re in men’s ministry and all these different guys are going all different directions, there’s, you know, some complexity there. You still have a central point of vision-casting…

Rich Birch — Oh, I love that.

Sam Beatty — …where you’re doing that for everybody. So that’s the bigger picture.

Rich Birch — And that’s that’s at like the ministry level…

Sam Beatty — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …like, hey, what are you doing this year? Because I think a lot of times we, we look at like a lead pastor or someone in your seat, executive pastor, and we’re like, well, that’s kind of their thing. They’re the people that are the vision people. But I love that idea of of saying, hey, at a ministry level, we’re expecting you to do something around casting the vision.

Sam Beatty — For sure. Yeah. And we all have different, you know, every ministry area will have different things that they desire for their purpose to be within the scope of that vision/mission. But we make very clear, like children’s vision and mission is equal to men’s is equal to women’s is equal to small groups. Like that it has to have a central vision and mission. And then within that you can have your own purpose. But that’s an opportunity for them to really cast that when they have something like a dinner, or something to gather together and do that. Yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s cool, I love that. That’s again, I don’t I don’t know that I know anybody that does that. That’s a great, you know, I think we we see it typically roll out as like a corporate thing. It’s like a hey, we’re kind of doing this as an organization. That’s that’s a, that’s a really cool. Well pivoting in a little slightly different direction. Talk to me about your, you know, campus, the ministry that’s connected with the prison. Um, how does that all work? That’s a, you know, tell me a little bit about that kind of fill in that picture, and how does that connect to the the vision/mission of the church?

Sam Beatty — Yeah. Um, that’s a great question. We we had a guy who, Mike Swagger, he’s he works for a ministry that works in the churches. And he approached us. And this is where I think coming with that if an opportunity comes to you, you’re not always just turning it down because, well, we’re too complex already; we just have to turn things down. Um, but he approached us and, and really said, here’s, here’s the issue. The issue, we we do discipleship well in prisons. We don’t have any church feature that’s healthy. It’s not like a community that’s gathered together. And, uh, and the other thing is we don’t have anything for families. So what we sort of came up with and Scott Lessing, one of our associate pastors, he was the men’s pastor at the time and ended up being that campus pastor. So that’s part of his role, did a phenomenal job with it. But what we offer is we we go in multiple times a week. There are lots of different things happening. And the guys have an opportunity to hear the service. So we do it in a very similar way to that we do our other campus, our other physical campus. We have a video of the sermon. Uh, they have their own worship team inside the inside the prison. And, uh, we have a whole team of people who do kind of announcement type things and gathering and praying for people. So it’s a it’s an opportunity to bring volunteers in. And it’s really almost all volunteer led at this point.

Sam Beatty — Um, um, and, and what we’ve found is some just some amazing things where guys are getting out of prison and they’re coming to our, uh, one of our campuses now. And, and one interesting conversation in the beginning of this is that the guy who is proposing that we we do something had already approached another large church, and they said, well, actually, if if those people are going to come to our church, then we’re not going to do it. We thought, wow, that is not the heart of Jesus.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Sam Beatty — And so so what we’ve seen is not only people beginning to come, but also the families of the incarcerated guys are able to attend or watch live stream. And so you have this separated family that’s both now gathering and worshiping in the same way. Um, in obviously a different, you know, a couple different ways. But, uh, one other thing cool that’s happening within that. And this all sort of birthed out of seeing opportunities and really taking advantage of them. Um, but we’re starting a school of ministry within the, the prison itself. And the school of ministry is now training and equipping, uh, incarcerated guys…

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

Sam Beatty — …to be ministry leaders, really to be pastors.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Sam Beatty — And the CMAs on board, their their you know, it’s been complex just trying to figure out the how do we…

Rich Birch — Really?

Sam Beatty — …license somebody to be a pastor… Yeah. How do we license somebody to be a pastor and he, uh, you know, is is currently in prison.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — Because it’s separated into, they call it the cadre. And the cadre are long term guys that have been there for a long time.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Sam Beatty — And so the goal is, as these guys can travel around the state of Ohio, they can be given opportunity to minister to others as well.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Sam Beatty — So so a lot of cool things happening. But I think it birthed out of that, you know, that are we taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives us?

Rich Birch — Yeah. I just want to underline two things I want to underline there. First of all, like I, I love your heart and I appreciate what you’re saying. Like, hey there, you know, there might be other churches that are like, man, if those those folks are coming here, uh, we don’t, you know, we don’t want them here. You know, to be honest, I think that’s probably the way most churches would react. We wish we wouldn’t, but I think, you know, lots of us would have that kind of reaction. And the fact that Grace, your church, your leadership would say no, like we should do something here. You know, we’ve seen this time and again that fast growing churches, there’s always a sizable portion of their ministry that is it is about reaching people. It’s about making the community that they’re in better, even when it’s it doesn’t when it seems selfless. It’s like, hey, this isn’t this is not really a huge benefit, or at least it’s a long term commitment. you know, literally if guys are in for a long time, you know, before, you know, we’re going to see some trickle down, you know, these this isn’t going to solve a staff thing next week. You know, this is going to be a long time.

Sam Beatty — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And so um I just love that. And I also just want to underline the opportunistic thing too, that it’s like I think we all should be looking for where is it that, you know, it’s the old Henry Blackaby thing. Where is it that God’s working and how do we get alongside that and say, hey, I want to be a part of what’s going on there. So yeah, I love that. Yeah. When you… Sorry. Go ahead.

Sam Beatty — No, I was just going to say we, we’ve, we’ve seen a number of different models, prison campus models. But the most common is Monday morning you drop off the DVD and then the guys can just watch it. You know, this is this is much more than that. This is actual ministry. Our senior pastor goes out there, I think, every 6 or 8 weeks and preaches.

Rich Birch — Wow, wow.

Sam Beatty — And he and he’ll just, uh, you know, preach the same message he did on Sunday. And they know him because they see him every week. You know, he he’s on the screen for them.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — But to be able to gather with them and, and pray with them. And we’ve just seen God move in some amazing ways, even within the, the correction officers and the, the leadership of the of the prison, and so forth. Yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing. That is uh, I love that. You know, I think that’s inspiring. What would you say to a church who’s, you know, maybe there’s a leader or two that are thinking that might be something, or maybe God’s already put something on their heart and they’re they’re hearing this and they’re thinking, maybe we should take a step towards that. What would be step one, step two that you would suggest, hey, here are some kind of initial steps to even take to explore, you know, beyond reaching out and talking with you? I would suggest that. But, you know, beyond that, are there any kind of steps that people should think about if they’re thinking about prison ministry?

Sam Beatty — Yeah. And we’d be we’d be glad to come alongside people. But I, I think the biggest thing for us is we, we had that connection. So there was a connection point with a ministry that’s currently in a prison. So I think if you’re looking to get involved, uh, that would be probably the first step is try to find another ministry that happens to be in there and partner with them. So we’re not trying to redo what you’re doing from discipleship standpoint. We’re trying to make a church and and also incorporate the families. We have other teams here in our, you know, current campus, um, that minister to the families of and that’s been cool to see, you know, and when people get out, there’s a whole process where we meet with them. We help them get jobs, we help them get. So there’s all kinds of things cascading from that.

Sam Beatty — Um, but but I think, uh, another thing that you would want to do is really contact the warden. Uh, the warden is sort of the… if the warden doesn’t want it, it is not going to happen. So.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Sam Beatty — We’ve even thought about do we go to a couple more around us in the Cleveland area and, and just jump in and we thought, oh we really need an open door.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — So I think having some of those conversations and, and knowing where there’s a successful, uh, it’s successfully happening. If you were to have that warden talk to our warden here, um, she would tell you, wow, there’s amazing things happening. Like, you should do it, you know, and I think can be an advocate.

Rich Birch — Right. Interesting, interesting. Well, this has been a great conversation. Um what else is going on in Greece. Anything else you want to share? Just as we we look to kind of land today’s episode.

Sam Beatty — Yeah. I, um, I think one other cool opportunity that we’ve seen and taken advantage of is being able to, uh, incorporate cultural churches within our congregation. So we found that, um, being in an area Cleveland has a larger immigrant population. Um, we have more languages spoken than probably a lot of places around. And.

Rich Birch — Right.

Sam Beatty — So what we decided was, is there a way that we could have, you know, churches or campuses that are in different languages? And that’s been something I think that’s been really, uh, uh, a God thing where, where we’ve seen a lot of, uh, people who can’t speak English, uh, come coming out. But I would say just in kind of in closing, uh, as a ministry, I think the more that we can focus on being healthy, the healthier what comes out of you is going to be.

Rich Birch — Right, so true.

Sam Beatty — So no matter what God is directing you in, you know, you may not there may not be a prison opportunity for you, but your opportunity might be small groups or something else. The goal is always to say, how are we making this healthy? And when we when we talk about things like heart checks and vision meals – these are all areas to to bring greater health, you know, to to people, congregants, volunteers and staff alike.

Rich Birch — Yeah. So good. Well, Sam, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate you spending some time with us today. If people want to connect with you or with the church, where do we want to send them online?

Sam Beatty — Yeah, we have um, if you just go to GraceCMA.org, GraceCMA.org, uh, and then there’s a whole staff page there. You can look me up. I’m the only Sam on staff, so feel free to email me. Happy to have you email me and check and reach out. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Well, I really appreciate you being here today. Sam. Thank you so much for your time.

Sam Beatty — Thank you. 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.