Is Church Multiplication on the Rise? Don’t Miss This Conversation with Warren Bird

Thanks for joining us for this episode of the unSeminary podcast. I’m talking with Warren Bird, the Senior Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

It’s time for a fresh look to see what God is doing, especially coming out of the pandemic. If you’re wondering how church planting and launching multisite campuses have changed, you won’t want to miss this conversation. Listen in as Warren offers a sneak peek at initial findings of his currently open survey, New Faces of Church Planting, plus invites you to participate.

  • A new era. // Warren believes that church planting and launching multisite campuses has shifted in a number of ways over the last several years. Not only from the suburbs to a more multiethnic, urban context, but also from being the work of a solo church planter to being more of a team effort. It’s changed from being standalone enterprise to being very network supported. It’s significant to pay attention to these shifts because as goes church planting and multisite launching, so goes the rest of the church. ECFA’s current survey, New Faces of Church Planting, is examining current multiplication trends which Warren believes will ultimately shape the whole North American Church.
  • Initial findings. // The survey just opened in late February 2022 and some of the very early findings indicate shifts in church multiplication. There are seven things Warren is starting to see that seem to have changed in church planting over the last 10-20 years. The first is that a huge number of survey respondents identify themselves as missional, but even more significant is that the second most common way churches are identifying themselves is as being multiracial or multiethnic. Our communities continue to become more diverse and churches are moving toward being less homogeneous and embracing Revelation 5:9 where the kingdom of heaven is going to include every tongue, tribe, nation, and culture together.
  • Rent or own? // About one third of people who have responded to the survey so far own their facility. Coming out of the pandemic, Warren anticipates this number may shift even further. Many rented spaces closed during the pandemic or stopped allowing churches to use their locations, and churches realized how difficult it is if you don’t have control of your location.
  • Creating healthy disciples. // The number one thing churches are doing to create healthy disciples is helping their people with personal spiritual disciplines. A significant second response is service to the community outside the walls of the church. Third was helping people produce fruit in their lives, such as embracing justice, or forgiveness, or love, peace and joy, which would not have been as widespread ten or more years ago.
  • Primary ethnicity. // While the primary ethnicity of church planters was predictably Caucasian, the second most selected option so far is multiethnic or multiracial. The more this becomes the norm with new churches and new campuses, the more the broader church will shift.
  • Residency and internship vs assessment. // More than one-third of church planters or campus pastors did a residency or internship, and over half said that they had undergone assessment. A residency or an internship is a big commitment, but about 87% of multisite directors—those who are responsible for their church’s multisite campuses—said they preferred that their campus pastors have done a residency or internship.
  • Top things done online. // Coming out of the pandemic there has been a huge shift as to what churches do online. Whereas ten years ago it would have focused solely on broadcasting services, now the top things that churches do online also include small groups, staff meetings, prayer teams, counseling, children’s ministry, plus more.
  • Church multiplication. // More than one-third of the church leaders responding have been involved in planting one or more new churches. And more than two-thirds of the multisite churches have added another campus during the last three years. That seems to indicate that not only were there a lot of launches leading up to the pandemic, but also during the pandemic.
  • Participate in the survey. // At the time of this podcast airing, the survey will be open for a couple more weeks so you still have a chance to share your experience with church multiplication. The survey takes about 15 minutes. By participating, not only do you get a free copy of the final findings, you get invited to a webinar with Warren where he’ll answer questions about the survey results. Secondly, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of several Amazon gift cards. Plus, if you are in the US, you’ll receive the spiritual demographics for the zip code that you select which will help you identify needs that you can meet in that area in Jesus’ name. Finally, you’ll receive ECFA’s top five tools for church planting, such as how to start a new church or how to determine cash flow level – all for FREE as a thank you for participating.

Go to today to participate in the survey New Faces of Church Planting.

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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 today. You know every week we bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you. This week we have got a friend – a personal friend – I love this guy. You’re going to love hearing today from Warren Bird. Warren, if you do not know him – Dr. Warren Bird – is from ah, he’s the Senior Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Um, or that he’s a friend. He’s one of those people, and there’s not very many of them, who I say anytime you want to come on the podcast, Warren, you just let me know. And he reached out and said, I want to come on – I got something big coming up that I’m excited for you to plug in. Warren is a gift to the church. He’s a real friend. Warren, welcome. So glad you’re here.

Warren Bird — Hey thank you, Rich, and the feeling is mutual. I listen to unSeminary regularly. I encourage others to do it and I always ah learn something, so I look forward to today.

Rich Birch — Nice. Yeah, so so excited for this. For folks that don’t know, why don’t you kind of tell us a little bit about your role – you… I have I just have so much respect for you. I oftentime I’ve I know I’ve said this before when you’ve been on the pat on the program in the past I’m like, I play an expert on the internet; you are actually and a church expert. And so, so many times I’m just echoing what your research you’ve done or work that you’ve done so I just just, you know, we’re just so indebted to you. But why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background. Tell us about your work with ECFA. Kind of give us a ah who is Warren Bird/why should we listen kind of introduction?

Warren Bird — Well, the nickel tour is I love Jesus and I’m a frustrated evangelist and I wish I could win the world to Christ, but I can’t. God didn’t give me those gifts, but he did give me gifts to come alongside people like you and many others, especially pastors, and say, look if I put tools in your hand that help you make wiser decisions, bolder decisions, ah have more confidence, and and go for it, and so that’s led to me being, after pastoring for a number of years, the research director at Leadership Network, and now at the (you said it so well, Rich) ECFA -the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. And for Canadian counterparts, there’s a CCC organization in Canada, but where where I get to, if you will find best practices and put them in people’s hands. And it so turns out that this whole idea of church multiplication we have like hundreds of ECFA members that are into church planting or multisiting. And so we said, well let’s do some kind of survey, clear the ground, show what the state of church planting, of multisite compared to church planting are today, and let’s see what we can learn and then put back in the hands of people so that they can lead the charge all the better.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love this. So friends, I want you to listen in. We’re going to ask you to take an action today but I want you to listen in. Um, for this whole entire conversation. You’re going to get some nuggets here that you’re not getting anywhere else. It’s going to be a great conversation. There’s… ah so one of the things, if you don’t know about Warren, over the years he’s done a number of these studies that are literally foundational to us understanding what’s happening in the broader church. They are incredibly thorough. This isn’t just like when I do a survey I send it out to a couple thousand people – you work on you know, just real research basis that’s you know, founded in like I say actual practices.

Warren Bird — Yeah, but this this would be the largest cross-denominational survey of church multiplication…

Rich Birch — Wow. Love it. Yes.

Warren Bird — …that anyone has done and when we launched just last week. Ah, we had fifty denominations and networks – Canada and the United States…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Warren Bird — …all pulsing their people so that we really get a representative picture of what God is doing. And the last such national survey was one Ed Stetzer and I did that became the book Viral Churches, subtitle: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers. And so much has changed in the, by the time this comes out, 14 years since the research there.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Warren Bird — And it’s time for a fresh look and to see what God is doing, especially coming out of the pandemic ah has church planting has multisiting changed, and if so how? But you know how’s it how’s the funding? We just go a whole bunch of different directions, and the good news is we ask everybody just for 15 minutes. So, Rich, if you took the survey you wouldn’t get the same questions as Maria down the street as José you know across the the province or state.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Warren Bird — Um, everybody gets a slightly different set of questions. But if you’ll give us 15 minutes – okay maybe it’ll take you twenty – um, we will then give you a report back so you can see the state of what’s happening. We’ll give you we got Amazon Gift Card incentives. we’ve we’ve got all, we’ll come back to the incentives, but but we’re your time is gonna pay.

Rich Birch — It’s amazing. Yeah, absolutely So. You’ve already got to this but I want to let’s dig in a bit more…

Warren Bird — Okay, yeah, and ah, we’ll spill the beans. Go ahead.

Rich Birch — …on the on why this study. So why do? Yeah, yeah. So let’s dig on on so it’s called New Faces of Church Planting. Why this study, kind of, what were some of your assumptions as you were putting it together? Why did you say, Okay now is the time for us to do this? Ah you kind of dug into that, but give us a little bit more on that.

Warren Bird — Okay, New Faces of Church Planting. I am convinced that church planting has shifted not only more from the suburbs to a more multi-ethnic urban context, but I’m convinced it’s moved from being the solo church planter to much more of the team effort in terms of launching. And that it’s it’s changed from being a standalone enterprise to being a very networked supported. I planted, Rich, years ago – the first church I planted I remember going to the bank and to to open up a bank account and they laughed at me. They said, you know, what kind of account do you want? I go, I don’t know. And and and and now today. There was no manual, there was no anything to help people, there was no Exponential Church Planting Conference, there was no unSeminary podcast.

Rich Birch —Mmm-hmm.

Warren Bird — And today people are much more networked. So um, the funding patterns, everything. We want to… I’m suspecting there is a new era and and here’s what I’m convinced: that as goes church planting, and multisiting for that matter, so goes the rest of the church in the years that follow.

Rich Birch — So true.

Warren Bird — In other words, the patterns, the experiments, the the things explored, the breakthroughs that these kind of pioneers – whether it’s the the local church plant or the the connected with your campus multisite – um as they find breakthroughs, others pay attention, are influenced by it, and they will follow as well. So this is going to shape the whole North American Church.

Rich Birch — Love it. So we usually a typical weekend the an unSeminary podcast, we have five-, six-, seven thousand (it’s in that range) listening. Um, who are you hoping will take this study? When you’re you’re looking for kind of a bullseye, who’s the person that’s listening in that you’re thinking, I really want them to to to jump on and take this survey?

Warren Bird — Actually I’m trying to have—let me let me say it two ways—one I’m avoiding the bullseye in that we use this thing called skip logic. So it’s like, well church plant. So when you start the survey you get like this initial fork – are you more church planting, or multisite? Well if you’re multisite, I want to know are you the multisite director, meaning like the executive pastor – someone who’s who oversees? Well I got a separate set of questions for you. Or are you the campus or location pastor? And if so I’ve got a specific set of questions for you. Or were you multisite and you’re not anymore?

Rich Birch — Okay, cool.

Warren Bird — I got a specific set of questions for you. So so there’s a whole kind of like multisite tree.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Warren Bird — Let’s say the trees’s got a big fork and the first fork is multisite with each with different branches and forks going along, or church planting? Okay so so are you in church planning? Were you in church planting? Were you maybe part of a church planter and you finish? If so, is the church still open? If so, I got a question for you. Or did the church close? Well I want to know why, from your perspective, as you look back, you know, help us understand what happened and and what can be learned from that. All right?

Rich Birch — Mmm, right.

Warren Bird — Are you, you know, actively church planting? Are you are you the founding pastor? Because sometimes you have a turnover of pastors in a church plant. Let’s say in year two or three or four – so so we want to parse that out. So so it’s all about the bullseye is multiplication.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, so basically anybody that’s been involved in anything but…

Warren Bird — And I’m no matter who you are I’ve got a path for you.

Rich Birch — Yes, okay, so basically if you’re listening in today and you’ve been involved in multiplication, really at any level, you’ve kind of had any engagement around the issues of multiplication, church planting, multisite – whether you’ve been on staff or you’re the lead pastor, the founding pastor, you’re you know you’re a campus pastor – all of those well all of those people – we’re looking for you to take the survey. Is that is that is that…ah, a way to say it?

Warren Bird — Yep, and for all of you you get your own special branch, and you get, you know, it’ll be… I’m aiming at 15 minutes in terms of the question count. And you get to see the findings, you know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, this is great.

Warren Bird — Well, it’s it’s gonna be great. It’s it’s gonna really create metrics, um benchmarks, ratios, patterns—both pre and post pandemic—where we’re gonna have really a picture of where the church is now, and where it’s headed. And enter and… go ahead.

Rich Birch — Okay, so I’m gonna I was gonna say I’m gonna ask you an inappropriate question. Hopefully our relationship can sustain this, Warren. It’s been about a week since the survey’s been open. Man, I and I know this is like the worst thing to ask someone who’s who’s midstudy. Are there any kind of early, interesting findings? Early things that you’re seeing that you could let our audience in on? Kind of peek up under the hood a little bit? Again, you could turn me down.

Warren Bird — Absolutely. Done. Gotta do for you, Rich.

Rich Birch — Oh you love it! Let’s hear them. Ah great.

Warren Bird — Um because we h ave 1427 ah participants as of minutes before this call…

Rich Birch — That’s great. Love it.

Warren Bird — …So I prepped by looking over the initial frequencies, and and so first, you know, a lot of things I can I can tell you that that won’t surprise you…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Warren Bird — You know like okay we say well well, what about your facility? We asked this both for church planters and for multisites. Um, you know, do you lease it 24/7? Do you lease it with limitations? Ah. Do you own it? Whatever… Um lease with limitations is the is leader.

Rich Birch — Right.

Warren Bird — How old are you? The average person… I better not say that. Well I’ll say that. 42 years old. It is either the campus pastor, or the church planter which…

Rich Birch — 42; interesting.

Warren Bird — Which to me is very exciting because that’s much younger than the average pastor in North America. Here’s another trivia, and then I’m gonna get to so something that I think here that’s some changes that I’m seeing.

Rich Birch — Right, some interesting shifts.

Warren Bird — We asked um when did you or will you become self-sustaining, and of those who who are at least three years in it. Um, by year… end of year three, 43% were self-sustaining financially…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Warren Bird — …which is which is I I don’t think we knew that before and…

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

Warren Bird — …that’s very encouraging. Now again, of those who aren’t, I got a path down there.

Rich Birch — Right.

Warren Bird — You know to say okay so how are you funded? And I got all kinds of funding questions and and it’s fascinating—I’ll just go that way for a second. Um top 3 leaders in terms of funding are ah—for church planters at least because multisite pastors tend to be on staff—but for church planters, their own contribution by earning or their spouse’s earning, their denomination, and or um churches that have sponsored them. Um, so so there’s skin in the game, but there’s others helping, ah which is exciting. So let me let me shift; let me really spill the beans and give you—I think I as I looked over the data I jotted down—here are 7 things that I think have changed about church planting and I’ll draw multisite parallels.

Rich Birch — Mmm.

Warren Bird — Ah, where appropriate. Over the last… definitely over the last twenty years, probably over the last ten years, and I’ll do him as a countdown. Number seven, we gave like 20 terms, you know, describe your either multisite campus or church plant and we gave them all kinds of words like, like including buzzwords like, are you hybrid? Well that’s barely used. Are you phigital? You know the mix of physical and digital. I I think ah five, eight percent so far have said we’re phigital.

Rich Birch — Ah, it’s that high? That’s crazy! I I don’t know anybody – I know we’ve been using that term, but I’m like I it seems like such an awkward term.

Warren Bird — Yeah I okay I’m I’m not prejudicing; I’m just telling you what people…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Warren Bird — Are you are you ah virtual, or or meta church? And I got 4% saying yes on that. But the the win, the the top of the heap, are are you missional? That’s the word that people more—now this isn’t theology, I got another question about that—

Rich Birch — Yep. Yep; pe.

Warren Bird — …and missional is to degree theological, as all of them are in a certain way. But here’s here was the big surprise for for my number 7 countdown, the second most cited was multiracial or multiethnic.

Rich Birch — Love that.

Warren Bird — And you would not have had that years ago there’s an…

Rich Birch —No no. In fact I remember when I was in school, and I’ve said this before on other podcasts, I remember when I was on when I was in school the only—it’s ironic I talk a lot about church growth—I only remember like one ah like lecture on church growth stuff. So it wasn’t even a whole class. It was like one lecture and it was and literally it was about the homogeneous unit ah principle of church planting which is literally the opposite of multi-ethnic. It was like, what you need to do is be like—today I don’t even think you could get up and say that—you could what you need to do is everyone should be the same, like figure out how you get like the most narrowly defined cultural background um, and you know plant from that. And that’s in in my ministry career of two and a half decades that has completely turned upside down where that’s – I love that that’s exciting.

Warren Bird — Yes, but but I think homogeneous today is multi-ethnic society…

Rich Birch — Yes, right. That’s what people that’s what people are used to. That’s true. Good point.

Warren Bird — And and that’s what we expect the church to be.

Rich Birch — Yep yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a good point. Yep yes.

Warren Bird — And and so that becomes the comfort zone, which you know Revelation 5:9 the kingdom of heaven is going to be every tongue, every tribe, every nation, every culture together. So we’re we’re more into looking like heaven and we’ve been helped by society moving that direction.

Rich Birch — Yeah I Love that.

Warren Bird — Al right now number 6 is is small but I think it’s it’s happy. Do you own your facility? Do you rent it? What do you do? One third own it um, which which…

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, interesting.

Warren Bird — …In this era of well we’re all renting school buildings, and all ‘hell not in the pandemic anymore’. So I’m gonna dig deeper on that. But just to say that’s an area we explore and I think there’s gonna be some changes in that coming out of the pandemic.

Rich Birch — Yeah, you know that’s interesting because that is just anecdotally with the churches I’m talking to even on the multisite front, that is for sure one of those things that’s shifted in the last two years where we, you know, we there’s a lot more churches looking at owning or you know more 24/7 type things. I think one of the things that the—and I listen, I’m a big I’m a big proponent of portable but—one of the the things that really the pandemic pointed out to us was if you don’t have control of your location, it can be very very difficult, right? It can, you know, that creates extra potential grind, and the and at the same time, there’s interesting kind of confluence there with the churches I’m talking to. Anyways, there’s like the, can we can we actually do what we’re called to do, and we’re more interested in community service stuff and so we need space to do that. We need square footage to like run things that are that are you know helping in the community. So anyways, so that’s that’s cool number 6 I think.

Warren Bird — Well you you have read directly into number 4 in my countdown of changes over the last decade plus, especially in church planting. I asked, what are you doing to create healthy disciples? And other words yes, technically we all as soon as we follow Jesus we’re discipled so I guess we’re really looking at disciple-making, but what are you doing? Number one emphasis was the personal spiritual disciplines, you know, are we helping you in your walk with in your relationship with God, and your prayer life, and your reading scripture each day, and the like.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Warren Bird — Number two, Rich, was service.

Rich Birch — Interesting, interesting.

Warren Bird — Service to the community, and beyond the walls of the church.

Rich Birch — That’s fascinating.

Warren Bird — I don’t think we would have seen that um and and again I gave about eight or nine options there. Um and that service was number two. Number three—definitely wouldn’t have been—was lifestyle of—and I gave 3 pairs—love, peace, joy, justice, forgiveness, and I forget the the last quality, but are you helping produce that kind of the kind of people who that’s the fruit of their life that they are living out, in this case justice? Whoa that would not have been wide as widespread ten or more years ago.

Rich Birch — No. So interestingly so I I launched a released a book four years ago, five years ago—Church Growth Flywheel—and we talk about five different things that—and this was based purely on my observation from at that point 300 interviews with leaders from the fastest growing churches in the country—and those churches that consistently, fast-growing churches, we’re seeing them do community service things. Like we’re seeing them do outreaches. We’re gonna mobilize our people – get out of the seats, into the streets – go do things. But interestingly over the years that chapter on community service is the one chapter that has done two things. One, it’s it’s got the most pushback – people are like, really is that really that important? And it’s the churches that actually said, you know, what we added that to our game and it made the biggest difference in what we were doing. We’re we’re doing, whether it’s Night to Shine, or we’re doing, you know, these kind of community engagement service opportunities. So that’s that for sure in my own little world, I’ve seen a shift in that where you know that it’s at the time it seemed like a. You know like a radical idea, but I love that it’s we’re seeing more and more churches actually do that actually say, hey how do we engage and and serve the community? That’s so good.

Warren Bird — And Rich, you didn’t ask me to say this but I read that book cover to cover and it’s like sitting down with Rich Birch for a couple of hours and getting his best takes on on problem solving and areas to explore in your church, so that that book’s gonna have a long tail for it.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Warren Bird — You know the bottom of the heap was, in the what are you doing to create healthy disciples? Teaching people to put God first in their finances.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Yeah, yeah.

Warren Bird — You know and yet you know the whole world is still struggling with living paycheck to paycheck and and being in financial debt and looking for that freedom that that I believe God’s principles can help people experience. Besides…

Rich Birch — That’s an opportunity.

Warren Bird — Yeah opportunity. All right that…

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely like over the years I’ve seen that with in the churches I’ve led when we’ve done Dave Ramsey or when we’ve done um, you know Joe Sangl stuff, like it’s amazing how those, you know, it’s it’s humbling frankly as we help people get their finances straight. It’s like other um, you know the other parts of their their kind of relationships and their you know their relationship with Christ – other things seem to come in line, which I guess makes sense. Money’s such a big a part of their relationship. But what else you – I cut you off there.

Warren Bird — No, no, no okay so we started with number 7 was the terms people use number 6 was you know your facility. Do you own it? Number 5 was what are you doing to create healthy disciples? Number 4 primary ethnicity. This is going to reinforce the multisite – number 1 predictably was Caucasian, number 2 was not hispanic, asian, or other ethnicities, but it was multiethnicity or multiracial. So again, this is becoming the norm and and I’m convinced as churches go, new churches new campuses, so goes the rest.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely; love it.

Warren Bird — Number 3 is – I ask it two ways. One is I ask the individual taking the survey, if you are the church planter or campus pastor, did you do a residency or internship…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Warren Bird — …in the last…I think it was the last five years before launching whatever you you help launch? And more than one third said yes.

Rich Birch — Really?

Warren Bird — And I’ll speak where you assessed and that was well over half. But you know assessment is like a weekend or a week long thing a residency or an internship is a big commitment…

Rich Birch — Absolutely, yeah.

Warren Bird — …and though that’s a game-changer. But let me before you comment. Let me tell you the the biggest game-changer. We ask multisite directors, in other words, those responsible for their churches’ multisite campuses: Do you prefer that your campus pastor be assessed? And so far… I’m sorry, do you prefer that your campus pastor have done a residency or internship? So far, you want to guess what what they’re saying? It’s high I’ll give you that.

Rich Birch — Yeah I was going to say, it’s high, like you know that that’s from your previous studies. You know I’ve said I think it was like 91% of all campus pastors are from within the congregation. So it’s a very super high so I would imagine this would be similar number. 80/90% I would say it’s quite high.

Warren Bird — Yeah, you got it. It’s 87% so far that did.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Warren Bird — So to me this is this is just this whole idea that’s bubbling all over of doing a ministry residency before actually planting/launching your campus. I just see that as more and more happening and moving that direction.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s great. Well and on that particular one the interesting takeaway for multi-site churches on that particular piece is, I think so many times when we’re trying to hire people we look externally; we’re thinking like I got to go find people. And you know the the advice I, you know, and it’s because of your past work, I quote it all the time I’m like, stop thinking about that – the first if you’re going to have 10 campuses, the first nine of them are going to come within your church. The problem is you got to go find those 9 people now and start developing them. How do we, you know, we don’t let’s not wait until we need a campus pastor. We’ve got to start you know, who are the top 9 people that we think we might might potentially – 5 years from now – be a campus pastor. Let’s work on how do we develop those people now, and develop them from within – raise them up in the system. So yeah, that’s interesting that continues to resonate – that doesn’t surprise me at all.

Warren Bird — I remember the first survey I did on multisite when it was just, you know, words were just starting. And by the way in this survey, we ask, what do you call your person? And campus pastor is still overwhelmingly the top choice. Location pastor is 11%… ah, site I’m sorry – location pastor is 15%, site pastor is 11%, and other is 6%, so I’m going to use the phrase campus pastor, but if you need to translate, okay.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Warren Bird — But what way back to early on the very first survey I did of multisite when was first starting I asked, the following question was in there. And when people asked me about the survey, I said here’s the question that surprised me the most. We asked when you launched a new campus, did lay involvement go down, stay the same, or go up? And Rich, I think that’s the stat you were referring to that lay involvement. It was like 87% or 91% – it was something like that. I was such a surprise to me that the next time a couple years later when we did, through Leadership Network, another multi-site survey, I asked the same question again and got the same ridiculously, delightfully high number. And so all that’s great. You’re mobilizing your lay people. Go ahead.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, absolutely well. And yeah I absolutely yeah multisite again ah the way I’ve said it internally is multisite from my own personal experience and taught… I’m working with so many churches, it is like the best way that I’ve seen to mobilize people, to get more people plugged into the mission, and obviously church planting does that as well. Ah, because there’s like this interesting, we gotta find people, we gotta get them plugged in, we you know we yeah, we have to get them. We can’t just have people sitting. We’ve got to get them. My son interestingly he’s in in college now and he started going to a church that’s couple years old—they launched right actually they launched fall 2019 right before the pandemic so they’re still very much in the in the church plant mode, and he’s like—the lead guy’s names Yesper—he’s like, Yesper, he’s like really good at getting people to volunteer. And I’m like yeah because he has to, like you you have to get people mobilized like if he doesn’t get it, there it’s not gonna happen. So love that I think you got a couple more. Don’t give us the number one yet I want to do something before we get to the number one yet. But yeah I think you’ve got a couple more before we get to that.

Warren Bird — Okay, and and let me just do it aside. Your leaders are so good when the campus is new at raising up lay peopleople and then when you start needing staff, that’s the big fork in the road if you hire staff to be doers instead of minister-makers, instead of leader-makers, instead of pastor-makers, then you move all this great lay power, you diminish it and you you change it into only the paid.

Rich Birch — That’s the temptation right there that is the temptation that so many of us fall into.

Warren Bird — Absolutely. Okay number 2 may seem obvious. But ten years ago if I had asked what are you doing online? At most you would have gotten, we broadcast our services. Um and let me just give you kind of I’m going to rank them in the order. We gave like 25 choices you know you, do you communion online, do you counseling online… Here here were the top ones: number one was corporate worship. Number 2 with small groups, which is I mean my wife and I are leading a couple’s ah small group, and it happens tonight and we’re going to meet 3 times in person. I live we’re we’re based in New York where things aren’t quite as as healing as in other parts of the continent and but but each week it’s on Zoom. And it’s working great – I mean we never would have imagined that. So small groups, then third staff meeting, fourth prayer teams, fifth counseling, sixth children, and on it goes.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

Warren Bird — And all these things that, you know, we just wouldn’t have imagined that we could do.

Rich Birch — No, it’s so true. Even personally like we, you know, we’ve been you you know, we have obviously journeyed together a little bit with Liquid and, you know, we started doing church online in 2009, and you know have a long journey there but in my own personal life, it really took the pandemic to convince me. Oh I can do stuff online like even coaching and like you know meeting with other leaders and and all of that. Even though you know I’ve we’ve invested a lot done a lot to get but there’s that’s something there.

Rich Birch — Before we get to number one, I want to encourage people to go to um, we’ll have the link in the show notes but we just want to make it super easy. You’re listening to the unseminary podcast, just go to It only takes 15 minutes um and I know you’ve got some kind of benefits for people. You’ve got like if you I know you’ve got like draws for Amazon gift cards, and stuff like that. Tell us… through and you get access to the survey… tell us about a few of those things before we get to the number one thing you want to share.

Warren Bird — Let me tell you three of them – one is you get a copy of the findings…

Rich Birch — Okay, which is killer.

Warren Bird — …and you get invited to a webinar where I’m going to answer the questions a week later, so if you got specific questions, I I can’t wait to answer them because usually I learned so much as someone says, but did you compare this to that, or the people who said yes to this you know do they tend to be over there? I’m like what a good question and I go look it up and then I can say something helpful on the webinar. So so one, you get to learn…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Warren Bird — Um and and I can’t wait to share it with you, and ECFA does things with excellence I’ll be illustrated and easy to understand and so forth. Number two, yes, we do have those Amazon gift card drawings. I think we’ve got eight at $50 each and and we really do you know we use a randomizer to pick names when and I’ve done this in previous…

Rich Birch — Nice. Shocker.

Warren Bird — Well well I say that because when we write people and say you’ve won – this is not a joke you…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. Yes, people are like is this what I has yeah that’s amazing. Yes, yes, that’s funny.

Warren Bird — What um, yes, it it spam? And it usually takes my assistant a couple of times to say, no, you really – we want to give you a Amazon gift card your name was randomly selected.

Rich Birch — That’s funny. Love that.

Warren Bird — For those in the US, we want to give you spiritual demographics of your zip code or you know the area that you select.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Warren Bird — We want to help you see you know how many how many single adults are there in your community, what is the racial makeup of your community, what are the what are the needs in terms of ah, parents at home – single parents and so forth.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Warren Bird — Um, that it’s going to help you identify needs that you can meet in Jesus name and it’s a tool that you can use with your team and all that.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Warren Bird — So and I think there are 2 or 3 other incentives listed, but we want to make this worthwhile for you. Um, and…

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. I…yes?

Warren Bird — …oh oh I’m sorry I’m sorry I would more we have the top 5 tools for church planting from ECFA like…

Rich Birch — Oh, right. Um, right. Yet. Wow.

Warren Bird — …like over the years we’ve come up with a bunch of resources and we picked the 5 most so like how to start a new church, or how to do the housing allowance for the for the minister, or campus pastor or…

Rich Birch — Mmm, right. Yep. Wow.

Warren Bird — …Or how to you know, set up a budget, or a you know, determine cash flow level. So so this is this is really stuff that’s going to help you and FREE for taking the survey. It’s.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, that’s great. Again friends, just drop by that’ll just just redirect you, take you right to the survey. I’d encourage you to do this; I would say it’s worth doing it. It’s only 15 minutes – it’s worth doing it just to get the the the one thing, which is just to get the results, is killer. You’re going to literally you’re going to be given incredible insights that’ll help you as you look to the future in whatever kind of way you’re involved in multiplication. But then all this other stuff is like just incredible gravy on top. It’s definitely worth your time. It’s worth your team, it’s worth encouraging your team as well, like if you’ve got people on your team, like if you’re the executive pastor, get your lead pastor to do it as well so that you know you might get a slightly different nuanced views on it which would be fantastic.

Warren Bird — Well, the executive pastor goes down a different path than the campus pastor.

Rich Birch — Yeah, which is wonderful. So want to do that. Now you said there were 7 – you’ve given us 6 of them -this is amazing. What’s number 1?

Warren Bird — Okay, has your church—and then I’ll bring in a multisite parallel, but if I’ll first do at the church level—has your church—and we give them involvement in other church planting and the top of the heap that we asked was—have you been directly involved in launching one or more churches? We also say have you been indirectly—like you know we give money to a fund, or we encourage, or we prayed for this, but—have you been directly involved with planting one or more new churches? More than one third said yes!

Rich Birch — Wow, that’s amazing.

Warren Bird — So far it’s 39% – almost four out of ten. That is a game changer if that ends up being true and what’s happened, and let me give you the multisite parallel.

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

Warren Bird — Have you added another campus; has your church—that you’re a multisite campus—have added a new campus in the same same time period – in the last three years? Okay last one for church planting was 39%; this is two thirds – this is 65% have said yes.

Rich Birch — Wow, That’s amazing.

Warren Bird — So I can’t wait to dig and you know, kind of like because we ask when did you launch. And so I can do post pandemic or pre-pandemic.

Rich Birch — Yes, yep.

Warren Bird — But I’m thinking this is saying that there have been lots of launches both leading up to the pandemic but but during the pandemic. Whoa!

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s amazing. Well and it also speaks frankly on the demographic side. It speaks to you’re getting the right people to take the survey, right? These are people that are actually engaged in this activity…

Warren Bird — You know that’s you’re right. You’re right.

Rich Birch — …which which is which is good, right?

Warren Bird — And and I paid an academic to to tear apart my survey and that’s one of the things he said you know you’re going to get the choir in there and they’re going to give you the rosiest point of view because they’re you know they’re all in and they’re doing what they believe in. Um, so you’re gonna have little bias.

Rich Birch — Yeah, but which is what you want though you want we want to know what those people are up to and so that showing you like hey there’s there’s good. You know you? you’ve hit the right market. That’s that’s great.

Warren Bird — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Well, Warren, this is incredible. Again, it’s We’ll link it in the show notes; you’ll get an email about it, so we’ll pester you about it. As you know if you hang out with unSeminary, we’ve known to pester you from time to time. I really do want you to take this. Um Warren, anything else just says we kind of wrap up this episode anything else you’d like to share, or anything else we want to make sure we send people to? I’m sure this is like the big thing these days, but anything else you want to say as we wrap up?

Warren Bird — Now just thank you. Thank you for your investment of a few minutes is going to help thousands, if not tens of thousands of other people – just thank you. They’re hard questions. They’re not easy questions like I’m going to ask, you you know, your attendance different years, or finances how do so you have to think about it. It’s not just a yes/no, but we we try to limit the questions so that you can – if you if you move quickly – 15 minutes.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. Well one last question for you – can I get you to come back on, maybe in the you know, after the dust settles, and you’ve you’ve chewed on all the data, I would love to have you back on to to you know test some of these theories. It might be kind of interesting to see some of the early data versus you know, what actually ended up coming out. Would you be open to that, Warren – can I bend your arm to come back on the show?

Warren Bird — For you, Rich, who who bent my arm to spill the beans already…

Rich Birch — Oh nice. Ah sure. Good.

Warren Bird — …Let’s let’s come back and let your listeners be among the first to hear what people said. Yep.

Rich Birch — Good, great, good stuff. Well thanks, Warren – appreciate you, again. It’s – drop by there. Do it. You know, set aside the 15 minutes/20 minutes/half an hour. You know you got to have some focused thinking time – you can’t do this in the car on the way in the morning. Do that and and you’ll help not only your own church, but like you say thousands of other churches. Thanks so much, Warren. So glad that you’ve been here. Have a great rest of your week.

Warren Bird — Thank 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.