Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Super excited you’re listening in. You’re going to be rewarded today with a great conversation with Darin Mirante from First Church of Christ in Burlington, Kentucky. The church was founded in 1964 and Darin has been the lead pastor there since 2016. First Church of Christ is one of the fastest growing churches in the country and has seen their congregation grow to now include all ages and walks of life.
Growing quickly can prove to be difficult when it comes to getting people plugged into community, and Darin is here today to talk with us about the process and challenges First Church has been through.
- What are you about? // Back in the day you could grow a church on good preaching and pastoring, but that’s changed. The church has always been friendly and welcoming, but Darin felt that at First Church needed to narrow their focus on what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how does that play out when it comes to reaching people to making disciples. This period of evaluation led to a refresh in the church’s culture as First Church established a new sense of urgency to reach people who weren’t there yet. Once people were content to just attend on Sundays, but it’s not that way anymore. Darin explains that the goal is to help people succeed in their everyday life, not just to get them to come to church. Sunday’s an opportunity for rest and for equipping – we meet with God and are equipped to go out into the world and serve in the ways God’s called us to. Sunday is a catalyst for the rest of the week and the feeling should be that missing a church service is missing that catalyst that prepares and propels you into the week.
- More ownership across the board. // Darin stresses to his staff that none are more important than anyone else. They value each other’s input, as well as input from the congregation. He wants to know what ideas might be cheesy and what ideas might chase visitors away. Church is a family and paid staff isn’t stressed any higher than anyone else. One way this has played out is by inviting volunteers to host during the Sunday morning experience. Darin says this one small step of allowing people to see more faces than just his own on stage has had a positive impact on the church’s culture.
- First steps and next steps. // First Church found that they were having a significant problem tracking first time guests and whether or not they were returning to get plugged in, so they created First Step Pathways. The visitor fills out their connect card and takes it to Guest Central, where they receive a free gift. Next is First Step, which is a one hour orientation done once a month on a Sunday morning, informally around tables. During this time, visitors learn what First Church is all about, in addition to its mission and values. At the end of the class, the attendees are invited to come back the following week for the next step, and then again the next week. This pathway provides baby steps to connecting people into the church family through serving, small groups and making connections with other people around them.
You can learn more about First Church of Christ at www.firstchurch.me.
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Helpful Tech Tools // Grammarly app
Ministries Following // Mountain Christian Church in Maryland
Influential Book // Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Inspiring Leader // Patrick Lencioni
What you do for fun // Time with wife, reading, traveling