In The Trenches of Guiding a Church to Be More Outsider Focused with Chuck Fenwick

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m excited today to be talking with Chuck Fenwick, lead pastor at New Haven UMC in Indiana.

How do we build churches that are both reaching new people, and caring for the people who are with us? It’s a universal tension all church leaders face. Listen in as Chuck shares about how to identify your target audience and allow them to influence the decisions you make.

  • Create a basis for your target. // When it comes to decision-making at New Haven, sometimes people can have an “us” or “them” mentality where “them” refers to people that the church is trying to reach whereas “us” includes the people already at the church. So the New Haven staff focused on defining who their target audience is by creating a fictional family with names and a backstory. Now when faced with decisions, they ask how that fictional family would react to it. Would it interest them? What impact would it have on them?
  • Look at the community around you. // In creating the fictional family, the details about them were chosen based on what the church sees in the broader community around them. The age of the couple—35 years old—was common for those who have walked away from the church, but are considering coming back because of their kids. Identifying this target audience doesn’t mean New Haven doesn’t care about people outside of that age range. But it does mean that every decision made is based on this fictional family because the church wants to gain traction with this age group. It challenged the New Haven congregation about what it meant to really be a Christian; it’s more than just showing up to church.
  • Recognize the influence. // The this fictional family the father was responsible for 51% of the decision-making and the wife 49%. Why? Because the husband may come to church with the wife occasionally, but there is a difference when the husband goes of his own volition because he wants to. Many times if the husband decides to go, the rest of the family will too. But often if the wife decides to go to church, the husband may decide he’s too busy, and so she only goes with the kids. Winning the man over is that slightly bigger part of the process.
  • Help reach them. // Drawing people to church is one thing, but retaining them is another. One of the things Chuck tries to teach his people is that the people outside of the church’s walls need Jesus, but don’t realize it. That means they need you as a Christian to give them hope. The next generation needs Jesus, but they probably won’t come to you asking for Him because they don’t even realize they need Him. It’s up to each of us to reach out to others and care for them, because the pastor can’t do it all.

You can learn more about New Haven UMC at www.newhavenumc.com.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody. Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you and this week’s absolutely no exception. Super excited to have Chuck Fenwick with us. He is the lead pastor at New Haven UMC, located in Indiana. Ah, Chuck and I are both a part of Carrey Nieuwhof’s The Art of Leadership Academy, with a kind of team discussion leader type people in there, and Chuck is on there and is so helpful to folks. I wanted to make sure to get them on the podcast, wanted to spread some of that good here on unSeminary. Welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Chuck Fenwick — Thank you! It’s great to be here and yeah, do whatever I can ah share and also learn…

Rich Birch — Nice.

Chuck Fenwick — …because you’re the genius not me.

Rich Birch — I don’t know about that.

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, fill out the picture – tell us a little bit more about yourself, tell us about the church, that kind of thing.

Chuck Fenwick — Ah, well I came into… I’ve been in ministry most of my adult life, some as um, a lay person doing ministry with youth and even campus life youth for youth for Christ. And decided to go to seminary later, kind of as a second career. I worked in some um, kind of marketing things, even for a newspaper so talk about outdated…

Rich Birch — That’s funny.

Chuck Fenwick — Um which some people could relate that to the church in some ways but ah…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, and then I’ve been at this particular church—it’s a United Methodist Church—I’ve been here twelve years. And so for those that don’t know anything about the United Methodist Church, that’s odd um, we get we get moved…

Rich Birch — Yes, normally a rotator every four or five years, right?

Chuck Fenwick — Normally, yeah. We get moved ah we don’t decide where we go. And um so it’s odd that I came here as the associate pastor, and was working with youth and doing some other things, and they decided to make me the lead pastor a few years ago. And I’ve been here now um, a little over twelve years. And um, it’s that is bizarre that that happens. And we’re a church of about I’d say 200, give or take. We probably average a little bit less than that maybe around 160 to 180 on an average Sunday, and and probably about 300 or of 350 or so that call our church home if you will. So you know how that works and but…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely, for sure. So what…

Chuck Fenwick — So yeah, that’s that’s me and that’s…

Rich Birch — Yeah this the U the UMC… I forget what they call that that the system of moving people around. What’s that called again?

Chuck Fenwick — Well, we’re appointed.

Rich Birch — Appointed, right.

Chuck Fenwick — Um and that’s really about that’s about I’m not sure what else you’d call it. But yeah, we have appointment seasons.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — So every year in January, February, March the bishop along with the cabinet, which is district superintendents, get together and decide who goes, who stays. And we are we are allowed to tell them what we want.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Um and for the most part they’ll go with that unless they just say no.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Which they can. They say, no, we believe this is where you ought to be. But um…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — So I’m in Indiana and I’m my conference is Indiana, so I won’t unless I request it I won’t ever leave the state of Indiana. So.

Rich Birch — Right, right. Yeah, that’s an interesting system. I know, you know, there’s been we’ve had some folks on the past we’ve talked about that and and it’s ah you know there’s definitely some strength there and there’s obviously some some interesting weaknesses. And you know, one of the ah, statistically one of the stats of larger impacting churches is lead pastors who have been with those churches for ten, fifteen plus years that just seems, which makes sense, right? You need to build up some leadership momentum. So that’s fun.

Rich Birch — Well one of the things I want to talk about today, you and I had a brief conversation pre- ah pre-call around this whole idea around how do we build churches that both are looking to reach new people, and at the same time are caring for the folks that are with us. That’s such a a tension. It’s a universal tension that we we all face. Ah and you guys don’t face that at all. It’s never a problem at New Haven UMC obviously.

Chuck Fenwick — Never. Never.

Rich Birch — Just kidding. But…

Chuck Fenwick — I can’t imagine one time when it’s ever come up.

Rich Birch — Yeah, talk to me about that; talk to me about that tension. Why why is that? How does it come up? How have you seen that? What does that look like? What what’s that look like in your church?

Chuck Fenwick — Well anytime, and I’d say most UMCs just in general are a little more traditional. Um, our idea is contemporary is playing something that probably the the Bill Gaither band did in ’84 or something…

Rich Birch — Sure, sure, sure.

Chuck Fenwick — And so um and that’s only a very slight exaggeration.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And so it comes up sometimes with things like music, or um, one thing is we’re also a tradition that does ah, like a lot of pastors wear robes and stoles, and you’ve probably seen that. I I don’t. I don’t like them. Ah, it’s it’s not be… it’s just because I don’t like it. And so things like that, believe it or not, come up. And ah it’ll It’s a lot of well you know we like that. And usually the we is, you know, we’ve been coming here for a long time.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And no one ever says, I don’t like new people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — It’s just…

Rich Birch — No, no. People are too smart to say that.

Chuck Fenwick — Right? This is what I want to see, and what I like to see, and that kind of thing.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — And so ah that that kind of thing comes up and um, even at times – are we focusing too much on on reaching others but not taking care of us? And and I wouldn’t say it’s ever a in a mean way. It’s always: no, we know we want to reach other people, but I also want you to do these things for me.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And which I think is in life. That’s the way we all are, really.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Chuck Fenwick — Like, oh yeah. I’m all for that. Just don’t neglect me in the meantime.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And if I feel neglected—even if I’m not—if I feel that, then I don’t want that. And so, that’s it’s come up a lot, or I would say a lot. But most of the time when it comes to music or any change that we would make, um and when it comes to of course with all that comes budget items and okay, where are we going to spend our money? On “them” or us?

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah. I love that. And that you know I think this is like this is one of those things I think all of our churches wrestle with – this is universal. Does not matter, the size of the church doesn’t matter. You know if you’re into into robes or not, ah you know, it it is a you know this is that one of those tensions. So how have you kind of attacked that? What is that what does that look like at New Haven?

Chuck Fenwick — Well, we’re – it’s a little new for us.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s great.

Chuck Fenwick —Um I wouldn’t say we we’ve mastered it by any means.

Rich Birch — No.

Chuck Fenwick —We’re still in the trial.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — But one of the things we did—and you talked about The Leadership Academy—one of ah one of my staff. She is our Digital—I don’t know—Director. I would call it Goddess, maybe, because she like…

Rich Birch — So good at it. Yeah, yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah, but she took one of the ah classes that was offered through that, like a cohort or something, and we really focused on, okay, what’s our target audience?

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Now one of the things we didn’t… it’s not like we announced this like, hey, here’s our target audience. I put this ah out for our leadership, and our staff, our key leaders, so it wasn’t just for everyone because ah we did we we put pictures to, and made created names, backstory, everything, ages. Um to a point of we we know where these their kids, what grade they are in, how old they are…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s cool.

Chuck Fenwick — Um and so it helped ah because one is they’re about 35 years old.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — And so it’s not that in there being the target doesn’t mean that if you’re um older than that, which I am… So let’s say you’re 50 or 60, it doesn’t mean we don’t care about you.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — It means that every decision we make we’ve got to make it based on this couple.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, we call it’s “Drew and Maggie” – we’ve named them.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Um so Drew and Maggie, we we say, how is this impacting them? Would they be into this? Would they want to show up? Would we, you know, what are we going to do in the community for them as well?

Rich Birch — I’d I’d love to dive into this – I think this is so great. So talk to me about Drew and Maggie. Give me the let’s let’s start there – like tell us a little bit about how to, you know, tell us about this these personalities. And then we’ll jump to how is that actually impacting some of your leadership decisions.

Chuck Fenwick — Well um I kind of… it it was key for us that that she helped me a little bit, but that I really drove this as far as who they are. And so one—I’ll give the quick background of Drew—is um, he’s happy with his life. Ah, he wants the best for his two kids. Um, and his parents were divorced and when he was young. Um and they his mom and stepdad forced him to go to church, and he got burned out. He saw hypocrisy, like who doesn’t. He’s not anti-church. Um he’ll bring his kids to some of our big events because of course he fictitiously lives in our community. Um…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Chuck Fenwick — And ah he just… it’s not a priority. And if he if there’s a reason for him to show up, he will. And he’ll show up even if he’ll bring his kids to VBS, he’ll show up for VBS Sunday. And he doesn’t it’s not that he dislikes it. He just… do I want to spend my time doing this? Um, so his kids are really his his motivation. And ah, and so and he’s about 51% of our target. And Maggie is 49%, if you want to look at that.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay, yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Which doesn’t mean we don’t care about her.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Chuck Fenwick — It just means because in her mind she would like to come. She doesn’t want to come without him, and she’s not mad at him for not coming.

Chuck Fenwick — If she said, “hey let’s go to church today,” he might not agree. But if he said, “hey I’m ready to go,” she’s all on board. So that’s why he’s kind of a little bit more of a priority. Um, she has she’s kind of the same background. She’s okay with church, but obviously it isn’t one of those things she pushes.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And um would do it, but and so that’s where they are. Their kid their kids are 8 and 4…

Rich Birch — Love it. Well the thing I think that…

Chuck Fenwick — …and we gave him hobbies.

Rich Birch — Oh what are their hobbies? I love it. I love it.

Chuck Fenwick — Oh well, he he loves listening to podcasts – all the time listen to pod… he listens your podcast.

Rich Birch — Doesn’t listen to this one?

Chuck Fenwick — No I don’t… ah he coaches a kid’s sports and he likes disc golf.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay.

Chuck Fenwick — I didn’t even know where that came… that popped in my head.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — So she likes gardening, running and reading because she hosts a monthly book club. This is…

Rich Birch — Okay I love that. So the thing I love about this is a great exercise. Obviously a great creative exercise, interesting. You know it’s definitely right-brain, gets us thinking about it. But you know, when it goes beyond just so some some interesting ideas, it can make a great impact on the way we do what we do. Talk to me about why you landed on some of those things about you know Drew and Maggie. What was it kind of in your in your experience at the church or some of your convictions that led you to that? Is this like a amalgamation of the kinds of people you think that have resonated with your ministry, or it’s like your heart drive for the kind of people you’re hoping, you know, that connect or what? Tell me about that.

Chuck Fenwick — Well, a couple of… the the age group is one that at least I’ve seen in in our local context that kind of have walked away from church.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — But they’re about that age when they or if they consider coming back…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — …that might be it, mostly because of their kids. Um, if if the kids are really into it, fine I’ll sacrifice my hour to take you there. So that was a lot of it, and knowing that okay, that’s an age group that we have lost…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — …um in general and so what can we do to to gain that to gain traction with that age group. And as far as his attitudes for church, I see that so much. And um I heard ah I heard another pastor tell me one time and this—and if I need to clarify you can tell me as long as doesn’t sound too horrible. So there’s there’s something I love and something I hate, even though hates a strong word. I love Christians, but I hate church people.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Chuck Fenwick — And I’m like well I don’t know if we should use word hate or not…

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — …but it was kind of the idea of that, especially for Drew, Christianity isn’t the problem.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Essentially it was church people that was the problem.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Chuck Fenwick — And I probably don’t even need to define the two the differences obviously but. And so that’s where I thought okay as a church we need to be more more Christian than just church. And um, those things supposed to they’re supposed to go hand in hand…

Rich Birch — Totally.

Chuck Fenwick — …but they don’t always.

Rich Birch — Well and there’s that I think it was Bono that said, I like Jesus, it’s just as friends I’m not sure about. And, you know, it’s that same idea, right?

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah.

Rich Birch — It’s like I really like Him and I think what He has to say is true and right, but but man the way that’s worked itself out is is ah you know can be pretty negative. I want to underline for listeners the thing that you I think have hit on here, particularly when it comes to people’s motivations for coming I think you’ve you’ve said a few things there that you just skipped over that I think are really critical. I think there’s there is a there’s a key piece around kids ministry. We’ve said this multiple times on unSeminary that leading thriving, growing churches are disproportionately engaged in next generation ministry. They are thinking about kids and youth. It’s not it’s not a secondary thing. It’s not a like we’re babysitting those people. It’s like wow we’re going to we’re going to double down there and we want to do a great job on that stuff. And then the other thing, you know, talk to me about the 51/49% thing there – the male/female. I’m going to push you on that a little bit – tell me about that.

Chuck Fenwick — Okay, well good, good. Because I don’t want somebody to hear it and think oh the guy is since you’re a guy, the guy is more important.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, honestly, this is from what we’ve seen in experience.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, and I wouldn’t say we and nowhere. Do we have this in writing.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — Um but it’s the idea and that we have seen and we have couples that um yeah, he might come with her occasionally. But if he says—and and I did some interviews with different I wouldn’t say interviews I asked different people.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — Um but and it did come down to if if he is in, the male of the couple would say, you know, “I I want to go this week,” almost always families will go. Um, if she says, “I really want to go this week,” there’s a good chance maybe he’ll go, but most likely she’s going to bring the kids and go.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And not that he’s going to, forget it I’m bailing on it. It’s just, I’ve got other stuff to do. Maybe it’s projects around the house. Whatever. Um and that, even at all generation levels, that that seem to be the thing. And so that’s why it’s not like a 90/10% thing. It’s more like we know if we if we get him, there’s a good chance she’ll: okay, yeah, let’s do this. Um, and so I…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — I almost don’t like saying it always because then it all all of a sudden it’s like, wait a minute…

Rich Birch — Right. And well and…

Chuck Fenwick — So which isn’t true at all.

Rich Birch — Yeah and I think you are hitting on a dynamic that we see in a lot of churches, or I would say in all churches, right, that oftentimes when you just look at who is engaging in what we do, you know it skews 60, 70% female. Um, and you know we do have a harder time attracting men. That’s just true.

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Like that’s a you know there’s a ah, there’s just truth to that. That’s like you can’t argue with who’s actually sitting in your in your rooms, and I I appreciate that that you’re even flagging that as like hey there’s something we need to think about. Here’s we we have to think about what can we do to try to um, you know, to try to entice him to to to want to show up to you know…

Chuck Fenwick — Right.

Rich Birch — And some of this is just practical. Like I, in other contexts, same principle but just apply differently. Um, you know for years I’ve said to student ministry and kids ministry people I’m like we have to program towards the most cynical person in every age group. Like and so like if I’m programming you know grade 1 to five year olds and it’s a mixed group. The the 5 year old guys are like the… or grade five ah, but guys are like the hardest dudes to to connect with in that room. Like they’re they’re, you know, we’ll have like so you know, we can get girls, unfortunately, you know, not unfortunately, but just you can get girls to get up and dance and sing and do like funny, you know, actions and all that. And then you see at the back of the room, here’s a bunch of grade 5 guys who are like totally disinterested.

Chuck Fenwick — Yep.

Rich Birch —And so we we have to think about those grade 5 guys if we who is that most cynical person? And I think to your, you know, similar kind of way to think about Drew is that you’ve described the most cynical person, right? 35 year old, you know, divorced parents. Um you know is ah disaffected by, you know, stuff that’s happened in the church. How do we, you know, reach them? So talk to me about how Drew and Maggie have have impacted maybe you personally as you’ve thought about leading, and then more broadly as a church.

Chuck Fenwick — Well personally, and I guess a lot of it’s internal, just the way I think…

Rich Birch — Yep, yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — …the way I deliver messages or craft messages. I found this out. I said it by accident I don’t use a lot of notes on Sundays. Um I write down just a couple of key transition words. And so sometimes something pops in my head. Ah, or when we record our online service, because we don’t livestream. That’s a whole nother story and we won’t ever livestream. But um, if it pops in my head sometimes I just say it. And one of the things I said was, here’s a challenge. And so I kind of laid out a number of days and said—this was on a Sunday—if you start this tomorrow, however, many days—I don’t remember the details—but it was basically I’m challenging you to start it tomorrow. And then what popped out of my head was, but I get it. For some of you guys you’re just like me and because I said start tomorrow, you’re waiting until Tuesday. I already know it. And I had multiple and, when I say I don’t mean a lot—4 or 5 guys—come to me and say, you’re right. The moment you said tomorrow I thought, I’ll wait until Tuesday.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Interesting.

Chuck Fenwick — And and so I just started thinking of this idea that, okay, I need to have him, that guy in mind. Because for her she would say, oh yeah I should start this tomorrow. He’s saying, oh you want me to start tomorrow, then I’m going to wait at least a day.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — And so that some of that’s just for me. As a church we just had a really big decision. We we got a grant. It was very substantial. It was over a quarter million dollars um ah, from our state. Um, and it was for ah basically for our preschool. Um, so I didn’t want you to think, what the state is funding church stuff? It’s for our preschool…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — …um and child care and we’re going to redo our our playground, make this thing huge. And because we’re we’re pretty much at capacity. But one of the things came up as, well we could also use some of this money for other stuff. And the other stuff wasn’t bad stuff. It’s all improvements that we could do, and ah fix that air conditioning unit, and and all of it’s great. Do the kids need air conditioning? Yes, they do. And this came up as far as our target audience going, Okay, yeah, they want their kids to be comfortable when they’re here, but I know from my perspective when I see when my kids were younger if I at that age, and luckily we have ah we had 2 people on our board about his age who have kids and said, When I see a fancy playground, you may say, well do we really need to spend this money? I see that you care enough about my kid to make this happen.

Rich Birch — So true.

Chuck Fenwick — And I would say I wouldn’t say that completely everybody just said, oh you’re right, let’s go ahead and do it. We did decide yep, we’re going to spend it on this playground. We’re going to rock this thing out.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, and a couple other things. But it was one of those that we we say this is our target and let’s let’s make decisions based on our target.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that.

Chuck Fenwick — So that was one of the biggest things we’ve done.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. That’s a great practical example, right, where the rubber meets the road on these things…

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …that like yeah, if we’re if if we say we value next-gen ministries then that should reflect in our actual spending, like we you know it…

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …it should show up. That’s that’s Interesting. So now I…

Chuck Fenwick — I say it I don’t say it a lot but with their last name is “Wellman” – I don’t even know where I came up with that.

Rich Birch — That’s funny. I love it. I love it.

Chuck Fenwick — But and I every now and then I’ll say well what does this do for the Wellmans?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Chuck Fenwick — And um and it’s still new enough that occasionally people go, wait, what? And then our target remember they oh yeah, the Wellmans. So it’s kind of funny that that’s kind of been the mantra whenever we have a kind of bigger thing, and okay, what about the Wellmans. So.

Rich Birch — Yeah, okay, cool. I love it. I think that’s great. Again, practical takeaway. I love this idea. I think it’s a great, you know, framework for you to think about. I know for years at at when I was in New Jersey, I would talk internally we didn’t have it as clearly or as succinctly um defined. We had a similar convictions around the male but you know female thing similar age group. And you know there I used to talk about um, you know we’re trying to reach the guy who on Monday morning gets on a train and goes into New York City, has some sort of highfalutin’ job there, and um, has zero time, thinks he’s super important. Um, and you know we we have to speak that person’s language because their own kind of their thinking about the way they their self-perception and the way they think about themselves, if we don’t address that, if we don’t if we’re not thinking through that filter, we’ll miss them consistently. Because in that case and, you know, it’s partly a um, ah, regional issue, it’s like the the folks that are in that kind of target ah they are so kind of self-obsessed, they’re so self-concerned that if we don’t figure out a way to connect with them ah, they’ll they’ll just, you know, we won’t we won’t as a church be able to reach them. It’ll be very difficult for us to to move forward. And so so I love that idea. Now how does this connect with then the reach and keep thing? The okay, so that gives us a clearer sense of the people we’re trying to reach. How do we balance that off with the people who are already here and caring for them? How has this approach helped that those conversations?

Chuck Fenwick — Well, we’re and like I said we’re still at the very beginning of it.

Rich Birch — Yeah totally.

Chuck Fenwick — And so I toward the beginning so we’re still working through that. But one of the things we’ve really tried to push recently is that the the Drews and Maggies, the Wellmans out there, they need Jesus – they just don’t realize it…

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — …which ultimately means they need you as as a Christian and they need you to to act like a Christian. And I think I’ve even said it not a church person act like a christian not a church person.

Rich Birch — Yes. I love it.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, ah because we’re we’re not trying to necessarily say, come to the church. We’re trying to give them hope, which is through Christ. And so that’s really where that part has come from. As far as the caring for each other, um because okay we know that has to happen. And unfortunately and also fortunately for this church, um I’m horrible at pastoral care. Like I can’t express there’d be no way to describe how horrible I am at it.

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — And ah everybody knows it around here.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Chuck Fenwick — And some are not, you know, it’s not like I make everyone happy with it. But it means that because of that our people have to step up and do that. And so they have done that we have some teams that will visit and take care of each other, but then also for the ones who, Okay, yeah I want this to be about me, they still understand that this we we’ve got to handoff. And it’s always got to be handed off to the next generation. And they need that. They need Jesus. You’ve already got Jesus. That’s awesome. Now they need Jesus. And um, they probably won’t come to you asking for Jesus because they don’t even realize they need him. And that’s kind of where that has come from. And some and that’s been right at the it’s that’s been a broad stroke kind of stuff um. We’ve and I guess really quick one practical thing…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — …is we started a big community garden. It’s huge. Way bigger than we thought it was going to be. And we get all the food away.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Chuck Fenwick — Now we have a meal that we do here every week. And there and one of the ideas, well why don’t we use some of this food for our meal? Basically it will save us money having this meal.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And my wife who’s in charge of the garden said, you know, that’s that’s a great idea. But we’re not going to do that. We are giving this food away 100% to our three local food banks. We’re not even going to distribute it to people because we’re not going to reinvent the wheel. They know how to do it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — We’re going to grow it, harvest it, give it to them. They give it away. And that’s been one of those things of of it’s small, but it’s the, and I wouldn’t say the people who said we could use this… So for our our meal because people from the community come to our meal, so it’s not selfish…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Chuck Fenwick — …but it’s one little thing in a practical way that said, no, this really isn’t about helping us and our budget. It would help, but we’re not going to do that. We’re giving it away.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Chuck Fenwick — And so I think it’s going to be a lot of little things like that that make the difference.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love the idea of yeah, um, we ultimately like discipleship or helping people grow closer to Jesus, act more like Jesus, is ultimately the journey of denying ourselves, and saying it’s not about us. It’s about other people. It’s about being other-centered. It’s about how do we reorient all of our decisions around how can I help other people? That’s that’s what discipleship is. And so I love that idea of yeah, in your care systems, in that, you know, even something like the, you know, the community garden, I love that – I think that’s so fantastic. How have you helped motivate, or what does it look like to get people involved on the care side? Maybe drill into that a little bit more. How have you been able to because I think that is a key place where folks, you know, frankly in a church of your size, that the thing gets stuck because of that. Because it’s like okay, we can’t we we can’t get more people involved in…

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah.

Rich Birch — It’s like if if, you know, if Pastor Chuck doesn’t show up, it’s ah you know, I’m not being cared for. So what does that look like in your context?

Chuck Fenwick — Um it hasn’t been easy.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Because there are times when I’ve heard people say something similar to, well no one from the church even came by.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And I and sometimes I’d say, well I thought—and I’ll even name some people—or I thought we had some people that were visiting, and did I not hear that correctly? And, well yeah…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — Like the and their our friends from the church. And and so then I, well but they don’t count?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And so and I don’t say it that way. I’m like, ok well yeah, so they were visiting you. And I just kind of say it that way going, Ok good then you did have someone that was visiting you.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yep.

Chuck Fenwick — Um and it it’s really been we’ve just said it. Our leadership has been on board with it right from the beginning. Ah because of course early on when I was the lead pastor and we we said okay just keep in mind every time somebody stubs their toe and goes the the clinic the pastor’s not going to show up.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Chuck Fenwick — And so our leadership had to get really on board because they had to have my back.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Because of course people aren’t going to come to me. They’re going to go to one of them and say hey did you know he didn’t show up? And like that’s good. Did someone show up? Because if not, the system’s broken.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Um, otherwise if someone came, that’s what we’re after.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And it’s really been doing that. And I haven’t recruited a lot of people, I’ll admit. My I keep saying my wife, ah she only works part time for us but has about like 19 different jobs…

Rich Birch — Sure sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Love it. Love it. Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — …in the church that she does. And 1 of them is working with people doing that. Um, connecting with people, and then ah those who visit and that kind of thing. And so the toughest part has been, like I just said, ah what represents the church. Because if you’re my friend and you show up, you’re just my friend showing up. Um is least the way some of them or I think some people see it. You aren’t the church showing up, you’re my friend showing up. And that’s been a little hard even though I say, ok so you did have someone there.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — Um and it’s not like I want to say well see you’re wrong. The church did ah.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right, right. Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — So but people hearing it and realizing. Okay, we can do this. It’s not a big deal for me to go see a person who’s at home, or recovering, or whatever. And and so it’s taken a while; it’s taken a maybe ah probably the last 3 to 5 years of a shift in our our thinking. And I wouldn’t say we always get it right. I tend to make people mad on ah about daily, no, we’ll say weekly basis. Um, but yeah.

Rich Birch — Well and I think that the principle to pull out there is there is something about making the implicit explicit, right? like it’s actually like. It is finding a way that’s not like um, it’s not obnoxious. It’s not like oh, like well you are being cared for, like stop whining. Ah, but it is it is being as clear as, hey at our church this is what care looks like. Care is really important. And my experience has been you have to be as explicit as as exactly what you’re saying, which I’m sure you’re doing this, Chuck, where it’s like yeah like you might be used to a church where you know the pastor is going to come every time there’s you know something going on, but we’ve just found that doesn’t work partly because I’m no good at it. And because that is, you know, if it’s just about me we’re not going to be able to reach more Drew and Maggie’s in this world. It’s not going to happen.

Chuck Fenwick — Right.

Rich Birch — And so ah so we have it set up like this. And you know, and then explain what that looks like. And then like you say if if the if someone’s not being cared for, that’s the thing we need to flag.

Chuck Fenwick — Right.

Rich Birch — If if someone’s not being um, you know, loved in the midst of all of that, that’s the problem we have to figure out how to to ensure that. Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And occasionally that happens, you know, you’ll hear someone or literally no one, and no one knew…

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — …and no one got a message. And like okay we got to solve that one.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — But that isn’t necessarily you weren’t there so it doesn’t count. Um, and I’ll tell you if if seminaries fail us, that’s one of the places right there. Is it’s always about how you as pastor we’re going to train you how to care for people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Chuck Fenwick — And no one ever talks about or at least my seminary which I think was a great seminary…

Rich Birch — Yeah yeah.

Chuck Fenwick — …just it was more about you as the pastor. You do the care. As soon as that baby’s born, you better, get there. And I was even told that – you’ve got to get there, especially if ah, it’s say a Methodist and a Lutheran, and they’ve married, and now they have a baby, you better get there before the lutheran pastor.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Rich, I wish I was kidding. I was told that like.

Rich Birch — Wow! Wow. Yeah, that’s crazy. Yeah, yeah, that’s crazy. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Chuck Fenwick — So it was. But and I’m not, you know, I know that’s kind of the education system.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Chuck Fenwick — But it’s the idea of going wait a minute I mean this is pretty scriptural, right? Even even Jesus walked away.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And and even the disciples after he left said, No, we can’t do all this. We got to get other people who do this. So.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s interesting. Well this has been a great conversation. I’ve really appreciated this get to know you a little bit better, and get to know the church. Is there anything else, you’d like to share, you know, when you’re thinking about this whole area of how do we create a kind of church that really is transitioning from being kind of insider-focused to outsider-focus, saying hey we want to reach people. We want to really be for New Haven. We want to find a way to to love the people around us. Anything else you’d you’d like to ah kick around today?

Chuck Fenwick — Well, we really have pushed for New Haven because we’re about this community and that’s what it really all needs to be. And and I guess the biggest thing, and I hear this often and I don’t want it to be cliché, but the the why far more than the what and the how. Um talking about the the Wellmans, Drew and Maggie, and this is why. We can we can have ah a church that caters to all of us and eventually we won’t have a church.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Chuck Fenwick — And then that’s if that’s what we want, that’s okay. And no one really wants that. But ultimately it’s why are we doing this? It’s because if we’re following Jesus it’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s bottom line

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Chuck Fenwick — And that’s where it comes from is we’ve got to focus on why we are for our community and not just for ourselves.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Well if people want to track with you or with the church, where do we want to send them online?

Chuck Fenwick — Ah, the easiest place is our website which is newhavenumc.com.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Chuck Fenwick — And the .com is important because if you go to dot org you’ll go to New Haven—what is it—somewhere out east. It’s the big Connecticut.

Rich Birch — Okay, oh that’s funny. Love it.

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah, we we had some ah we had some people watching us online and come to find out they were they thought they were watching the church in Connecticut.

Rich Birch — Oh hilarious. Oh that’s hilarious.

Chuck Fenwick — And and even talked with us and then was like oh this isn’t the same place.

Rich Birch — Oh funny

Chuck Fenwick — But newhavenumc.com…

Rich Birch — Love it. Great stuff.

Chuck Fenwick — …so that’s where you’ll find everything.

Rich Birch — Well, Chuck, I really appreciate this I appreciate you being here just you know, thankful thankful for you thankful for your leadership…

Chuck Fenwick — Thanks, it was great

Rich Birch — …and I appreciate being on today.

Chuck Fenwick — Yeah, thank you very much. It was great to be here and great talking to you.

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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.