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Inside a 4X Growth In Group Engagement at a Growing Church with Joe Boyd

Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Joe Boyd, lead pastor of Grace Fellowship in Minnesota. They are one of the fastest growing churches in the country as well as a church-planting church and have started 28 churches during their 34 years of service.

Jesus changed the world with a small group. Groups help fulfill discipleship and fellowship functions, create a connection and family, plus are a critical component to helping your church close the back door. Listen in as Joe talks with us about how Grace Fellowship shifted their groups culture and saw a huge increase in engagement.

  • Take a look at the groups. // When Joe first stepped into his role as lead pastor at Grace Fellowship, he took a look at the small groups within the church to gauge their health. Within his first three months in leadership, Joe visited each of the small groups and found that only 23% of the adults in the church were participating in groups. The groups that were in existence were strong and the members enjoyed them, however no new groups were being started.
  • Create a plan ahead of time. // At this point Joe and his team made the commitment to shift from being a church with small groups to a church of small groups. They didn’t want to rush into things, so made a plan to launch more groups nine months out. Grace Fellowship looked to the Rooted experience at Mariners Church to provide training and brought their staff through it before rolling it out to the rest of the church. Both adults and youth were exposed to Rooted and the result was a 70% participation of adults and 100% participation of teens in groups.
  • Drip it before you drop it. // Before relaunching groups, Joe dripped the topic to the congregation by talking about groups over and over. After the staff went through the Rooted experience, the church rolled it out to their leaders. By reimagining small groups, by modeling it, and then by challenging their leaders to carry it out, Grace Fellowship began building a new culture.
  • Devote the resources. // As Grace Fellowship rolled out their plan for groups, they devoted a significant amount of time, money and key people to leading the process. They also built a campaign around the launch of groups through the fall and didn’t allow anything else to compete with it. This was tough on one hand because the church didn’t grow through the fall, but Joe saw existing people at the church consistently engaging and taking ownership of the church.
  • Make it a priority. // While growth didn’t come in the fall for Grace Fellowship, it did come at the beginning of the new year. Now people were confident that if they invited their friends to church, they would have a positive experience. Make it a priority to get groups right because it will give you the foundation to grow and not have constant turnover.
  • Slow down and work together. // If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others. Slow down and spend time getting your team together to talk through a plan for groups. Not only does it allow everyone to bring their gifts and talents to the table to develop the plan together, but everyone will be bought-in when it comes time to roll out the plan.
  • Have a leadership structure in place. // Some lead pastors may think that churches become successful and grow based simply on their outside appearance – making themselves look attractive and fun. But the secret behind a growing church is having a leadership structure in place that is focused on developing and retaining leaders.
  • Focus on groups. // Looking to the future, Joe believes one thing that will scale up will be groups and group pastors. In groups you have to care for leaders and identify additional leaders for new groups so that you can make room for the number of people coming into your church. If you want to be a church of small groups as you grow, you need more leaders in the groups ministry than just about anywhere in your church. This will add to the success and health of your church moving forward.
  • Grow slow and strong. // A lot of times we get hung up on fast growth in our church. But Joe reminds us that compound growth that is slow over time can actually grow our church into one of the largest. We can have plans to grow, but we need to actually focus on and care for the people rather than just the numbers.

You can learn more about Grace Fellowship at

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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 know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you and I know today is going to be no exception to that. Super excited to have my friend Joe Boyd with us. We’ve known each other for a few years and it’s so exciting to have him on the podcast. We just were catching up from not having talked for a number of years – so good to have Joe with us. Joe is the lead pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in the country. It’s called Grace Fellowship in the Minnesota part of the world. They have one location, church online, it’s one of the fastest growing churches, they’re doing lots of incredible things in the Twin City Metros area. Welcome to the show, Joe; so glad you’re here.

Joe Boyd — Rich, it’s great to be back and great to see you and catch up and I’m looking forward to to sharing some insights that we’ve had around small groups this year.

Rich Birch — Fill out the picture for us about Grace Fellowship kind of paint the picture a little bit tell us a little bit about the church. Give us a a bit of a flavor of the church.

Joe Boyd — Yeah, um, Grace Fellowship is a church that’s 34 years old. It’s actually one of the few churches in the country that has that it’s a church-planting church in their bylaws and we’ve started 28 churches in those 34 years.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

Joe Boyd — Um, and so there’s a long history of ah reproduction in this church and I’m the second pastor.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

Joe Boyd — So the first pastor was here over 30 years and then they had a little over a year interim, and I answered the call to come up from Kansas to the Twin Cities and take over and, man, it’s been a wild ride stepping into you know the world turning upside down in the midst of all this. So yeah, it’s been a fun ride.

Rich Birch — Yeah, what a time to what what a time to start in a church. It’s great.

Joe Boyd — Yeah, yeah I like to think that it’s like dog years, so the past three years have been, you know the longest 21 years of my life.

Rich Birch — Yes, absolutely yeah, yeah, yeah, so true that is so true. Love that. Well we are going to talk about groups and and I you had shared a little bit about what was happening at Grace, and I frankly I found that astonishing. It was one of those like lean in like, what-what-are-you-talking-about, you know, thing which is pretty incredible. But set the scene for us. Give us a sense of kind of what’s the group’s culture been like. What ah you know, kind of pre- some of the changes you’ve made as you think about what what did that look like. Give us kind of talk us through what that was kind of before um, the in the before times before you had made some changes on that area.

Joe Boyd — Yeah, coming in coming into Grace Fellowship… um I was I’ve made a shift. For a long time I was always focused on church growth and and I’m a starter – I’m a catalytic leader, and and for the ten years prior at my previous church we would grow but we’d have this back door. And so it wasn’t until the last three years I was there that we finally started to realize groups are so critical. And so we we started to make some changes and the church got way healthy. And um, and so when I came in that was one of my number one questions was how are we doing on groups? And they they said well you know, we’re doing pretty good, and and I personally made it a mission in the first first three months to visit every one of the small groups.

Rich Birch — Oh nice.

Joe Boyd — Now um inside of a church that was like 600/700 people um you would think that would take longer. But what I found was that only 23% of the adults in the church were participating in small groups.

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — Now what I will say is that the groups I visited were very strong. There were even groups that had been meeting for fifteen or twenty years, and and so I didn’t want to turn any dials and mess those up. Um, but but what I did find was that they weren’t starting new groups. And so um, you know the way we would classify that is would say it was a church with small groups but not a church of small groups. So what what began was a commitment that we’re going to make this shift.

Rich Birch — Right. Right.

Joe Boyd — And it’s not going to happen overnight. Um, you don’t you don’t birth a baby in night. Ah you know without nine months, and the bigger the plane the longer the runway. So we said that we would launch groups in the fall. Um, and that was about nine months out. And what we learned was that we needed ah a plan to get there, so we leaned into what Mariners Church had done through Rooted and did the Rooted experience which was really good. A couple of real practical things: if you’re gonna be serious about groups, you’ve got to make a priority to identify money and people and time to it. And then we took our entire staff through Rooted before we did it as a church and…

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, yeah, that’s cool yet.

Joe Boyd — …That was really good because then they were able to speak with confidence that this was good. And um and I had one of my strongest leaders directing this and we started to add groups and follow the process, and when we pulled the trigger, the adults and the youth did this in our church and um, when we got to the end of it, we had 70% participation in the adults.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

We had a 100% participation with the teenagers and and and lives were being changed, we saw people grow groups form out of this and…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Joe Boyd — And then that led us to turning the corner and going into the the 2020, which none of us saw coming…

Rich Birch — Yep, yes, yes.

Joe Boyd — …and and what happened there, Rich, was like everybody – I mean we got shocked, but what I believe was that God was already on the path of of creating the the ark or the lifeboats for for people. And so what we found was that we weathered the storms of isolation much better because the vast majority of our church were in groups. And so we saw care happen. We saw all those things happen. Now over the past you know year year and a half what we begin to notice, no matter how many times we’d call, checkup on people that were not plugged in, the vast majority of people who did not stay with the church for one reason or another ah, we’re not in groups…

Rich Birch — Were not groups. Yeah, yeah, totally.

Joe Boyd — …and and and and so so the groups really became the main force of the church, the way we communicated, the way we cared, and it was that was that was our saving grace.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, love it. Let’s dive into that a little bit. You know one of the things I’ve I’ve joked about and this is a part of why these numbers caught my attention was you know it seems like most churches can get a third, you know, maybe 30% between you know in that range of people in groups by just having groups. Like it’s like if you have groups you can get that many. Like and and that I don’t want to discourage anybody that’s listening in you know if you’re trying hard and that’s where you’re at, but that that is that seems to be the the dynamic. The thing that I found fascinating about this story was you were actually lower than that, you know, you were lower than the you know what that kind of like benchmark is and then have seen tremendous growth. Let’s pull apart what you did in that in that ramp that kind of nine months. How did you get it ready? We loved Rooted. We’ve had actually had Erin on from Mariners – that was I don’t know maybe two years ago so we’ve and we’ve had many churches talk about just how great it’s been, but let’s let’s pull apart what kind of happened in those nine months to get ready for that. I understand you went through with your staff, but what are the things could we kind of ah, help leaders to think about as it you know if they’re looking to try to increase their engagement on the group side in ah you know these months and and years.

Joe Boyd — Well I would say first and foremost our elders pulled away and we really prayed about the priorities of the church and that was the one that kept coming through that we knew we were going to engage our community and serve our community but we really knew we wanted to get discipleship and groups down because. It it it fulfills so many functions of the church it fulfills fellowship but it also fulfills discipleship and it creates this connection and family. Jesus changed the world with a small group.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Joe Boyd — And and so we we we think about that a lot. And so that was the first thing, having the support, having prayed through that through a retreat, coming back and being resolved about it. And then what happened was begin to, as lead pastor, begin to drip it before we dropped it. I would sprinkle in and just talk about small groups, small groups, small groups all the time. and. And as we were building up to it in Minnesota the summers are kind of a time when people really get out and go north and go to the cabins and go to lakes and, but we continue to work through that time preparing for these moments where we were gonna we were building the team that was praying. So simultaneously we had the the staff going through it as quickly as we could to have the experience all experiences, and we process that what was good what what, you know, what did we learn. And and then we begin to roll it out to our leaders and we were building this culture by reimagining small groups, by modeling it. And then challenging our leaders to carry it out. And and we had a plan. We devoted significant amounts of resources. When we were at 23% we weren’t really spending very much money on groups, and we weren’t spending a lot of time on groups. We weren’t preaching and teaching about it. And we definitely didn’t have a full time designated person to it. Once we did that, that’s whenever things started to move forward.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Joe Boyd — Um, the the other thing we did was we we built up to a campaign. We did not compete against this time.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Joe Boyd — Um, as ah as a catalytic, evangelistic, outreach-oriented pastor, all right – you know me to know that’s true.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Joe Boyd — Um, it took everything out of me, because when you launch a ten week series in the fall—which is a prime time for growth potentially—um I thought, well, we’re gonna just do this, but this was what we were doing. And and so we weren’t really growing. All the way up through Thanksgiving we didn’t really grow. But what I saw was the consistency of people coming and engaging. And another thing we noticed…

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Joe Boyd — …was that people quit saying “your church” and started calling it “their church”.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s great. That’s great. Love that.

Joe Boyd — As we ah as we saw people engage, they took ownership for the church. We had the funniest story that I heard in this whole thing was that um one of the group leaders um, was invited by a woman to come to the church 10 years prior. She was about to start Rooted and ran across that person—who didn’t go to the church anymore—invited that woman who originally invited her to the church back to the church…

Rich Birch — Right. Oh gosh; oh my goodness.

Joe Boyd — …she got into the groups, and here’s the best part – she started taking spiritual steps and that lady got baptized.

Rich Birch — Wow! I love it.

Joe Boyd — It was it was just crazy. So so so we got really stable and people took ownership of the church and um, we celebrated it, and I’m not good at that – I’m always onto the next thing…

Rich Birch — Yep sure, let’s go to the next thing. Yeah.

Joe Boyd — …but we celebrated it, and that was a critical moment. And then we set up hey here’s what’s next, and we went through Christmas, and we started in January, and that’s when our church really started to explode because people were confident that if they brought their friends, their friends would have the experiences they were having.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Joe Boyd — And and so so making it a priority to get groups right actually gave us a foundation to grow and not have that constant turnover.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah I love this.

Joe Boyd — So those were just some of the big wins.

Rich Birch — I love it. You know, let’s talk about the series piece of it because you know this is one of those um things that we hear with regularity as we talk with churches that are not only um, you know seeing a higher levels of engagement in and the group side, but are growing as a church – that they’re dedicating time in the fall and in the winter. um for you know, kind of ah an all church campaign. Um, you know it could be Rooted, it could be—you know there’s a lot of these out there—The Red Letter Challenge. There’s a lot of ways to do this, but it’s the idea of like let’s all focus for a certain amount of weeks on kind of a single idea. We’re going to give you some resources, we’re going to encourage you to get into a group. Um, what would be some of the the kind of outcomes from what you did that that first year? Have you continued to do that? Why or why not? Let’s talk through that series a little bit.

Joe Boyd — Yeah, we did. Um, we the following year we did another series. We didn’t go 10 weeks we went 7. Um and we wrote it. We wrote our own but we modeled the Rooted method. And and so we wrote “What’s a Galatian?” and went through the book of Galatians as a church.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s fun.

Joe Boyd — And then um and and then we’ve also this year we did History Makers which takes us through the first 7 chapters of Acts. Um, so we’ve made it a commitment, a rhythm for us, that when we come back in the fall. We’re going to to start off in the fall and go to the end of October, maybe the start of November, and really get a groups’ push.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Joe Boyd — Um that is all church-focused and very in the Bible – book-heavy. Um, we also did a push this past year in February and March on relationships. I wrote a book that was in-house in our church called The Secret Sauce of Relationships, and we did the same thing there and we were seeing a boost in groups at that time because coming out of 2020 people were so isolated that they were desperate for relationships, and we were trying to create a habit of groups. Because you know when people don’t go to church, um, when they miss church they begin to not miss church.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good..

Joe Boyd — And so they get out of habit and out of routine. So we were trying to create a reason to build on those groups and we added a few groups. It wasn’t a lot but we added a few and we were building up steam and so when we did History Maker, which included video of the original people that started the church…

Rich Birch — Oh that’s cool.

Joe Boyd — …and in conjunction with Acts and the story of Acts. Um, we made a jump and we didn’t even realize we made it until October – the end of October – because we measure all of October and we measure all of February for groups participation and those are the 2 times we measure. And we jump from 70% to 93%.

Rich Birch — That’s unreal, dude. That’s crazy.

Joe Boyd — Um and it and that’s in a year where we grew over 50% from the year before in adults coming out of all those.…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s unreal.

Joe Boyd — Yeah yeah, it’s, Rich, I’m telling you this is so not like it’s it’s not…

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s crazy.

Joe Boyd — There wasn’t a really smart person that came… well there was: God. Jesus Christ came up with this plan.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, well and friends, I know, listen I just want to underline this. Um, you know Joe’s leading one of the fastest growing churches in the country. It would be really easy for you to say, well, it’s easy to grow from 20 to you know, 90% in groups by by shrinking the church just to have less people attend and then you’ll have… But that’s not what’s happening. You’re seeing both increased engagement in groups and growth. You know from a kind of top line or weekend service point of view, which is which is amazing. That’s incredible to see. That’s that’s amazing. Praise God. And like you say, that that you know a big part of this is, you know, He’s moving in His people which is incredible, but that’s amazing. I love that, Joe.

Joe Boyd — Yeah, and in um, you know the interesting thing about about about our church is that um this church -God is really doing something. I would say in a lot of ways there’s a lot of tradition, a lot of history in this church of doing it ah, you know the way we always did it, and um and our elders and our staff and key leaders in the church have really been leaning into what the Holy Spirit’s doing and what we’re hearing.

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

Joe Boyd — And I’ll tell you we we quit we quit chasing cool. Like I was the guy… there’s a lot of leaders and a lot of pastors out there that, I don’t know if you were like me, but I didn’t really know what to do so I’d look to see what the the hot churches were doing reaching people…

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

Joe Boyd — …and and I’m like worked for them, let’s do that. And and and a lot of my early leadership was very, was more of an echo than a voice. Um and we started to really spend time listening to people and getting comfortable with where God placed us, and who we are, and I quit being a lone ranger leader that was driving fast and going by myself.

Rich Birch — Love that.

Joe Boyd — And I slowed down because I believe that if you want to go fast, go by yourself. But if you want to go far, go with others.

Rich Birch — Right; love that.

Joe Boyd — And so by slowing down and going with the team and and and seeing the gifts and the talents and letting the team help come up with the plan on how you do this, the buy-in was so much greater, and it seems… Listen, to every catalytic leader, you’re gonna think I’m crazy when I say this, but slowing down and getting your team together is—even if it feels like it’s slow and for me there were painful moments where I was like, seriously, like this doesn’t feel fast enough—

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — Um, it was the best decision we ever made.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Joe Boyd — Was the best decision we ever made.

Rich Birch — So ah, can I ask you a question from, you know, as ah I’m not a lead pastor; I’ve been in that kind of second seat – that’s where I’ve spent most of my time. And there seems to be a lot of lead pastor types out there um who—and I’m sure it’s not any of them that are listening into this podcast—but who seem to pay lip service to groups. They’re like no, no, no groups are really important, like they’re really really important. But then it it just doesn’t translate in either their own actions, like you saying hey I’m going to go and, you know, visit all our groups. Or it doesn’t translate in the way they prioritize their time, or they don’t see um, you know they’re not kind of structuring things around the church to to um, you know to really help and aid the the groups’ thing. Why do you think that is, and what would you say to a lead pastor who’s maybe a little bit skeptical, or just isn’t really into the the groups thing? What would you say to them?

Joe Boyd — I would say this – I’ve studied…I had I had the privilege of studying some of the fastest growing, healthiest churches in the country before I started my last church. And if you look at what gets attention um, you think that that’s the solution.

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — So largely content is is pushed out like crazy. If you want to hear great preaching… listen, the reason why American Church has shifted so much was because everybody realized, oh there’s great preaching on other churches in the internet and I’m home anyway so I’m gonna watch one of these communicators. Um.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Joe Boyd — And I think that a lot of pastors think, oh the reason their church is big because of what they preach about, and the way that they preach, or that they’re creative, or I have to dress a certain way, or I have to ah vibe. I mean it’s it’s like buying a car by evaluating the way it looks on the outside.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good. That’s good.

Joe Boyd — Great paint job. Super cool look, but but here’s the thing very little time gets focused on the mechanics work where you lift the hood up, you check the engine, doesn’t even have an engine. Um, you know how does that work?

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — And and I would say that churches that are growing, and and pastors, I promise you there are people watching this right now that you’re better preachers than some of the 2000 and 3000 person church pastors that you’ve seen online. And you scratch your head and you go why? Why is this? Well it’s largely because there’s a leadership structure in place that is focused on retaining and developing leaders. And and and here’s the here’s the thing I came away with. In Isaiah 49 there’s this place where it says that that God hid me in the shadow of his hand. And the thought that I had was that… or the question I asked myself was am I more am I more concerned with being discovered, or am I more concerned with being developed?

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Joe Boyd — And and and I really think that if you want to see healthy things, think about this: Jesus drew crowds, but he sent them away. When he had crowds He sat them in groups and had his disciples lead and care for them. Um Jesus spent an enormous amount of time on groups. Forming groups, identifying and raising up leaders is very hard work. It often happens behind the scenes.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Joe Boyd — Um, it is not quick. It is not easy. We’ve all preached these great messages that cast vision and direction, but there was a structure for it…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Joe Boyd — …and so it just fades away. And so you have to lay the train tracks to run the train. And I believe that groups, and I believe leadership development in the church, are those train tracks.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Joe Boyd — And I just wasted enormous amounts of time preaching really cool stuff that didn’t have train tracks and it didn’t go anywhere.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, totally yeah.

Joe Boyd — That’s what I would say I think it’s a lack of knowledge um of just knowing how that part works and and it’s a lot of work.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I love that, Joe. And I you know I think there is a real… I think you’ve you’ve really echoed and hit on an important point there where, you know, a lot of times we are we’re appeal we, you know we get drawn in by fast-growing churches and like what’s going on there, and and we miss the substrate underneath there of all this groups and relational stuff that’s holding it up that if that’s not there those churches don’t sustain over the extent over… you might get a pop of growth, but it won’t you won’t continue to see that. All right. It’s very cool. So I love we didn’t really even get into the pandemic. Obviously people were you kind of hinted towards this during that season, um, you know where you’re in lockdown and all that the groups provided the primary care engine and all of that and then we’ve now see this huge bump. You know your 9 out of 10 people attending groups – that’s incredible. When you look to the future, kind of peer up over the horizon a little bit, what do you think is next on the groups front for you guys? How are you, you know, what what questions are you still wrestling with/are you still thinking through as you’re thinking about how you continue to keep people plugged into groups? What are the you know, kind of what are you thinking about in the future when you think on this this groups issue for your church?

Joe Boyd — Yeah, as we think about our time resource and and staffing allocations on this, um out of out of all the things in our church that will probably scale up, it’s going to be groups and group pastors. Um, and and here’s what I mean. We we have a worship experience, okay, so we’re only going to have so many people on stage preaching. We’re gonna have so many people leading on worship. Those services are going to, you know the the number of people that can participate is not as dependent on the number of people that we hire on staff to lead or invest the time. But that’s not true in groups. In groups, there’s a point where you you have to care. So if you go back to the Jethro principle in Exodus, you know that you know some can lead to tens and hundreds and fiftys, and and so we know that we need to continue to scale and identify additional leaders that can lead groups so that we can continue to add to those numbers um, so that they’re supported. Because if we if we think, oh—and I used to think this too—like I was a groups pastor and I thought you just need one groups pastor and develop people underneath. But the problem is we’re living in a very transient culture right now and people are moving and shifting and and you need relational stability in your leadership. And so we’re looking to develop those leaders. We’re continuing to develop care leaders underneath that care for you know, five to eight small group leaders at a time. We’re trying to strengthen that part of the body as much as we possibly can, um and and and so when you see that succeed you need to lean into it more…

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — …because you need more leaders in that groups ministry than just about anywhere in your church, if you’re going to make the shift of being a church of small groups.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Joe Boyd — And where you continue to grow. And and so that’s it for us. We’re praying through that. And we’re just like everybody else – we’re we’re facing the realities of our economy and you know, giving may not be as strong as it was before, but we have to lean in on the most important discipleship aspects of our church because that’s what’s going to lead to the the success and health of our church moving forward.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. So Good. We didn’t really talk about this ahead of time, but you know I know a part of the passion for why you went to the church that you’re at is its desire to plant more churches. You’ve mentioned this. It’s a really a replicating Church. It’s um, that’s like a whole other conversation we could have around how do we continue to be that as a church, and what does that look like for the future? How do these two things fit together as you think about kind of replication in the future, as you think about planting more churches? Um, how does the kind of what’s happened there—the story that God’s writing on the group side—how do you see those all fitting together as you as you look to the future?

Joe Boyd — Well I think um I think one thing is really true – you reproduce who you are. I mean look at your kids, right? I mean they they’ve got… there’s there’s uniqueness to them and there’s gifting to them, but largely your values and the life experiences they learn get reproduced because… Growing up I always said, well I’ll never do that when I grow up, and then you find yourself in that situation and you do what you experienced growing up. Um, so I think the same thing’s true about the churches that you reproduce. Um and and looking back I was in a church that helped start 10 churches in 10 years, and some of them were different and some went different paths but largely they followed the model that we had, and unfortunately for the first 6 or 7 years we really didn’t have this group health thing as a priority. And the early churches suffered for that…

Rich Birch — Right.

Joe Boyd — …because they were preaching the way we preached and doing what we do and think oh it’ll work for us and and and and I just didn’t know enough. Um here, when I came in the focus was we are going to get as healthy as we can because if people follow us we we wanted least say, hey we this is real. It’s biblical. It’s stable. Um, you know a lot of times we get hung up on the fast growth but compound growth that’s slower over time, like the difference between the fast-growing churches and the largest churches in America um, largely has a lot to do with time. And and a lot of people don’t even realize that if you had 10% growth over 15 years or 20 years, your church could potentially be one of the largest churches in America…

Rich Birch — Absolutely yeah, absolutely, you know, for sure.

Joe Boyd — …um, and we miss that.

Rich Birch — And way better to manage way easier to manage that growth. Yeah, way easier to manage it. Yes, yes.

Joe Boyd — And doesn’t freak people out because people hear, oh you’re fast growing. They think: you care about numbers and not people. And that’s not the heart of pastors…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Joe Boyd — …because I know a lot of the the pastors that are fast-growing church leaders, but but it’s a perception. we deal with…

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Joe Boyd — …and and and so but you’re right, you can build something a little slower and and make it healthy. But the to answer your question about multiplication. We have a vision to help start a hundred churches that multiply by 10 each.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s amazing.

Joe Boyd — And we’re focused on mid-sized cities in America um, and right now the pandemic has created a shift from the large urban centers back to the the mid-size cities. And what I would say is that Jesus was born in a small town. He he did most of his ministry in Galilee (midsize), and then ultimately he was in Jerusalem which was their largest Jewish center. Um, but midsize cities, in my opinion, are small enough to change, but big enough to matter.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Joe Boyd — Because the small towns mimicked midsize and the large cities replicate or multiply what happens in mid-sized cities…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Joe Boyd — …and so over the next 30 to 40 years, we want to invest in starting churches there, and and that niche because we believe there’s going to be this move from small town to mid-size to the urban centers. And this is going to be the sending church. And so we’ve got a 10X church network we’re working on. Exponential’s been looking at it and and given thumbs up on it, and New Thing is thumbs up and said yeah, and so we’re seeing it converge. And my denomination, they’re they’re leaning into this, and so that’s that’s a passion, but but for me I believe we want groups to be the driving force around that health and stability.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that – I love that. We’ll have to have you on at another point and talk about the you know the the multiplication vision there. And and I just think that’s so great and so good. I you know I know, one of the things I’ve wondered you know, and have seen that unfortunately you know, there was like a pause there on so many of these multiplication efforts for a good year or eighteen months of you know, churches – they just stopped thinking about those things. Because they were everybody was freaked out about you know, you know, their own thing. Now that seems to be turning. It seems like okay, now we’re back to planting churches. We’re seeing new churches open. We’re seeing people back into campus expansion that were doing it before, but I know that’s your heart as well to see like, hey we want we want to continue to encourage that. Joe, this has been a great conversation – anything else you want to share just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Joe Boyd — Um I would just say to anybody who’s listening to this. Um, if you’re if you’re a leader of a church or you have any influence on the discipleship of the church. Um, really really focus in on groups. Um. I didn’t for a long time and I think that was pride blinding me, or ignorance blinding me, and um I just can’t stress enough that really take a deep dive and really ask God what he’d like to do in and through groups or discipleship in your church, and then do what God tells you to do because that that could be a big game changer.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good Joe. Appreciate this. I’d love to point more people in your direction. If people want to track along with your church and follow along, where do we want to send them online to do that?

Joe Boyd — Yeah, if um, if you want to find what we’re doing our website’s easy. It’s because that’s what we want. We want everyone to experience grace. And on social media you can find all our social media links there. Some of our social’s from previous Grace Fellowship MN so it’s a little bit easier to go to first and then track us from there.

Rich Birch — And then go jump from there. Good.

Joe Boyd — Um, yeah, and you can find staff and contact them if you have questions about what we’re doing.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Joe Boyd — We’re a team effort. We’ve got great people that can that are here to help.

Rich Birch — Love it. Joe, thanks so much for being on the show – really appreciate you and cheering for you and your ministry.

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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.