From Steep Decline to One of the Fastest Growing Churches in the Country with Todd Elliott

Thanks for tuning in for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today’s guest is Todd Elliott from Beach Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Beach Church was founded in 1992 and Todd began as the Small Groups Pastor in 2007. During that time, a falling out between the lead pastor and executive pastor led to them both leaving the church, followed by some staff and about half of the congregation. Todd and the rest of the staff were left to pick up the pieces and step into leading the church during this tumultuous time.

Now more than five years later, Beach Church is thriving and even became one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Todd is with us to talk about how the church moved back to a place of health and growth after so much loss.

  • Do some triage. // After the lead pastor and executive pastor left Beach Church and many others followed, the staff and congregation were in shock and grieving over what happened. Many feared that the church they loved was falling apart. During painful times like this, make sure to listen to your people’s concerns and grieve with them. But also help them to understand that the church will grow from this place to a healthier future. Cast vision for what that future could look like.
  • Use an ethos statement. // As Todd and the staff at Beach Church began to pick up the pieces they sought to chart a course that would give them momentum moving forward. Beach Church had an ethos statement that helped give the church something to aim for. Their ethos statement is: “To become a connected people, captivated by Christ, whose changed lives are changing lives.” Unlike a mission statement, the ethos statement describes who the church wants to become. You can use an ethos statement as a map to lead you into a healthier place, and healthy things grow.
  • Become connected people. // Beach Church addressed this process of moving toward health in phases. First they sought to come together in their grief and connect to feel like a church again since they had been split apart. Todd planned events on the church calendar that would bring the people together such as a Fall Kickoff, Super Bowl Party and Baptism Picnic. Each event was an opportunity to connect, celebrate and invite friends to experience community and a taste of the church. What are some things you can add to your church calendar that bring your community together?
  • Captivated by Christ. // Being captivated by Christ was all about Beach Church developing a vision for evangelism. God spoke to Todd about the sermons, challenging him to craft messages and an environment that the everyday person shopping at Walmart would be drawn to. This gave Todd a picture of who Beach Church should be targeting as they reached out to their community.
  • Changed lives are changing lives. // To help people in their spiritual growth, the church used a resource called S.A.L.T., which stands for Seven Areas of Life Training. These organized trainings included workbooks that midsize groups would go through together, helping people to take next steps. It served as a bridge between attending a weekend service and joining a small group at someone’s home. Consider a midsize gathering at your church to help people move forward as disciples. As people took their next steps at Beach Church, they began to have a more missional mindset and become more outward focused to serve their larger community.
  • Connect vision to giving. // When Beach Church was struggling to get back on its feet, financially they encountered a lot of challenges because they’d lost so many attendees suddenly. Moving forward the staff has connected vision to giving so donors can see the direct impact they are having when they give. Throughout the year different ministry departments share stories demonstrating life change and missional opportunities the church has had, all thanks to people’s giving.
  • Take stock of what the needs are right now. // With Covid, Todd is revisiting and brainstorming with the staff the Connected, Captivated, Changed, Changing ethos to see how it applies to people both online and offline. Knowing the needs around you will help you to focus on what should be done for the people in your community. Whether it’s physical needs such as food and a place to stay, spiritual needs, or even emotional needs such as dealing with anxiety in today’s world, thinking about your community’s felt needs will inform the different areas of your ministry.

You can learn more about Beach Church at www.beachchurch.org.

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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.