Jason Curlee on How Campus Pastors Gain Influence


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jasoncurleeThe multisite church movement continues to gain momentum around the world. Core to this strategy is an entirely new group of church leaders called “Campus Pastors” and they are vitally important to a healthy multisite strategy. On today’s show we explore this important role and specifically how Campus Pastors can gain influence in their locations when they aren’t the primary communicators. Typically “leadership” in local churches is equated with the preaching role and often times these Campus Pastors aren’t teaching on a regular basis. Jason Curlee is a Campus Pastor at Bay Area Fellowship – a leading multisite church in the country. This episode has lots of practical insights for church leaders looking to understand how to gain influence in their community – whether they serve in a multisite church or not!

Jason Curlee// [Website] [twitter] [YouTube]

Interview Highlights

01:27 // A history of Bay Area Fellowship

02:28 // Jason’s role at Bay Area

03:00 // Rich shares a multi-site stat

03:18 // Campus Pastor is a relatively new role in ministry

04:04 // How Bay Area replicates Sunday morning teaching

05:20 // Jason’s Tips for gaining influence as a campus pastor

06:00 // “God transcends the pulpit”

07:55 // Use announcement time for vision casting

09:44 // Rich talks about using video announcements at all campuses to free up Campus Pastor from details

11:15 // Gather and influence your team leads / volunteers

12:35 // Influence others through social media

14:55 // 128 million people are on Facebook during prime time

15:44 //Ask for time to preach.  Jason encourages listeners to lead up

18:37 // Influence through the Life Group platform

19:09 // Rich reminds you to bring a good dessert

Lightning Round Highlights

Helpful Online Resource // Sprout Social

Books That are Having an Impact // Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander

Inspiring Ministries //

Inspiring Leader // Craig Groeschel

What does he do for fun? // The Walking Dead Fan!

Check This Out /8 Habits of a Highly Effective Campus Pastor

Interview Transcript //

Rich – Well welcome to the unSeminary Podcast. Today we’ve got Jason Curlee with us. He’s from Bay Area Fellowship in Texas and he’s outside today and I’m inside. That’s about right for today here in the North East. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason – Well thanks for having me. It’s an honor and privilege to be here with you.

Rich – So glad to have you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your church, what you do there and that sort of thing.

Jason – Well Bay Area Fellowship is in Corpus Christi Texas. We have been a church for almost 15 years and decided about 8 years ago to go multi-site. I’ve actually been on the journey with them from ’08. It’s exciting. We went from obviously one original church to we are about to launch our 10th campus. I don’t want to say we have gone through several models but many of our first campuses have been a small campus model, but we are now launching a brand new 35 000 square foot campus. It will be our largest campus. So we are excited about where God is leading us. We are an 8000 member church and our pastor, Bill Cornelius, his goal is to reach South Texas and bring this message of Christ to the world down here.

Rich – Very cool. What’s your role there at Bay Area?

Jason – I am a Campus Pastor. I oversee a campus probably about 40 minutes from the original Campus in Kingsville, Texas. It’s actually the second campus I’ve lead. I originally started our Five Points Campus which is another, kind of inside the city limits of Corpus, but kind of on the outskirts. And then 2 years about I took over our Kingsville Campus which was really our first Campus launch.

Rich – Cool. Well you know your, I know you probably know this at Bay Area Fellowship. You represent the cutting edge of multi-site. 85% of multi-site churches don’t get beyond 3 campuses, where you are at. You are in very thin air, which is great. It’s a great place for us to learn. There are many churches across the country that are thinking about going multisite, and specifically as a campus pastor role. That’s such a unique role. I know when I was going through seminary that role just didn’t exist and obviously now it’s so critically important in churches. So can you give me a sense, how is it that you as a campus pastor…. well first of all, before I ask that question, tell me about your programming at Bay Area Fellowship. How is is that you are replicating campuses, particularly the Sunday morning piece.

Jason – Well, I will agree with you, what you just said. When we started multi-site, there was probably this many, if that many churches that did it. And now it’s a phenomenon that God is using to reach out to this world. The way we do it, we are a video campus. All of our campuses are video campuses. So we do have live worship and we broadcast our pastors message on Sunday’s to our congregations, and then as campus pastors we will follow up at the end. We have children’s ministry as well in all of our campuses. When we started out we did one week behind DVD so the pastor would record on one week and we would play it the next week. It was a big transition. People were like ‘well didn’t Pastor preach this last week. I was in Corpus.’ So you know we’ve gone to now, the way we do it, Pastor teaches on Saturday nights. It’s recorded. We use Dropbox. It’s dropped into Dropbox and on Sunday mornings it’s played at all of our campuses in a high production level capacity.

Rich – Now how as a campus pastor…..maybe it’s one of those unspoken things that doesn’t get talked about a lot…but you know what is that dynamic like where every week you’ve got Bill who is an incredible communicator, communicating to your congregation, and then are you just the announcements guys? How is it that you kind of gain influence in your campus when you are not the primary voice speaking on Sundays?

Jason – As you opened up the show today, that is one of the things that many campus pastors eventually, maybe not the first week, eventually they come to the point where they ask, ‘how do I influence my campus, how do I manage momentum, how do I do the things that you do as a church when I don’t have the pulpit.’ And a lot of times that is the thought. Recognizing that obviously God transcends the pulpit. There’s a lot of things that I think you can do. Some work. Some work in better contexts. Each and every person has to work out exactly what that is but I believe that a lot of campus pastors kind of do battle that because we want to succeed. We want to do great at reaching our cities as well and when you are that a-type leader and a go-getter, you want your campus to reach the area. You have ideas and you have these things that you want to do, but how do I do it. I’m not the leader. I’m not THE leader but the leader.

Rich – So what are some of those practical tips. If leaders want to kind of massage, lead your campus.

Jason – Awesome. Well I wrote down a few because…

Rich – Because you are a prepared kind of guy.

Jason – I’m prepared. It was kind of neat. Pastor Bill did a staff meeting the other day. He said, ‘what’s a problem you have, write it down at the top of your paper and I want you to sit here and I want you to list 20 ways to accomplish that. Go’ You get to like number 2 and 3 and this is easy, and you get to number 6, and 8, and oh my gosh, 10, it’s a lot harder than it seems. I kind of did the same approach with this I said, I’m going through these issues, let me write down several things that I think may work. One of the things that we do, as a campus pastor we have an announcement time, we always get that dependent on the, sometimes we do the offerings as well depending on the context. So I thought, instead of a lot of times, spending that time on announcements, ‘Hey we’ve got the men’s Bible Study going Tuesday night, or we’ve got our wonderful youth ministry is doing cupcakes out in the lobby.’ Instead of focusing that time on that, because obviously people are walking by and seeing that, spend that time on vision casting. Those three minutes and cast vision, because that’s your only time and I believe that’s ok to cast vision as long as it fits the DNA of your church. Specifically if you are dealing with an issue in your campus, serving and people aren’t stepping up. In a multi-site arena, our pastor is speaking to the masses. Campus A might be dealing with a finance issue, and we might be dealing with a service issue. So our pastor, he’s generally speaking to lost, that message of hope to our broad community. So we’ve got to come in and say ‘hey guys, this is what the Word says, or this is what the DNA of our church is, Pastor believes we’ve got to tithe.’ You’ve got to use that moment in announcements to do that.

Rich – Something that we’ve done at our church, we are a multi-site church as well. So we do the core of our announcement piece is a video piece that is replicated at all our campuses. The thing I have said time and time again to our campus pastors, the reason we do that is because what I don’t want them to do is, it’s a waste of their leadership. Let’s say for instance, Life Groups or Small Groups ‘Life Groups are kicking off, you can find our more information in the foyer and here’s 3 bits of data you need to know about that. So we cover all that sort of information in our announcement, but then what I want our campus pastors to do is at the end of that to stand up and drive through, why is this important, to tell a story about their Life Group, to cast vision about that piece and to not get bogged down in the ‘ok so this class starts in this room, at this time.’ None of that sort of stuff. Just the vision, so we can see them as leaders. So really that’s just an idea when you are talking about the announcements piece.

Jason – No I love that, and a lot of times, if you are unprepared for that moment you tend to fall back on announcements because it’s easy, instead of just praying and asking God what’s the specific word or vision you have for today. Don’t kind of flippantly, haphazardly do announcements at the end. Do it strategically, talk about your issues. I thought one of the best things to do is, when you are having issues as a broad thing on your campus is get involved with your next level of team. Your team leaders. Bring them in on that.. Your volunteers are in on that as well. All of a sudden you take the core, that’s your core, and you talk with your leaders. They just eminate that message out. A lot of times that one on one, it becomes one on one with your team and all of a sudden it’s one on 50 or one on 100 real quickly. Again, that’s casting that vision because you don’t have that stage time, but you have that time with your team. And I think with that, kind of a side thing with that is, maybe some specific team, volunteer meeting. Maybe when your children’s ministry meeting is happening, you attend. You don’t’ take over their meeting but take 10-15 minutes and say ‘hey guys, just want to take some time to encourage you, it’s important for us all to be giving because we’ve got to keep this message going.’ Things like that could be really good that everyone could do. You don’t need stage time for that.

Rich – Right, definitely.

Jason – I am a big believer in social media.

Rich – Tell me about that. I know in our context I am always trying to get our campus pastors to leverage more in social media. So speak to the campus pastor who is like ‘Ahh, Twitter, Facebook, I don’t know.’ How do you use that in your context?

Jason – Well, I could be a social media spokes person at this moment. I have been on social media forever. But the realization over the last few years is that that’s where people are. That’s where your people are. And I know there’s always that big push, you have to be one on one. But when you can speak one on 30, or one on 100, or one on 1000 through social media, all of a sudden you start leveraging your message through that and building relationships online. I look at all of our campuses and especially our main campus page and there’s people on there communicating and talking. But a lot of times, and this is not in our context but a lot of times I see churches, they’ll just drop a scripture once a day, or a good quote one time a day. And if they were to take an intentional week, and go ‘let’s talk about serving through social media all week long’ and maybe a 3 minute bite from the senior pastor on serving, and talk about that through their week and realize social media is more than just, ‘hey, I’m having a nice burger at lunch.”

Rich – So true.

Jason – I mean, that’s what it was 5 years ago, but it’s gone way beyond that now. It is way, beyond that now. It’s a tool that you can leverage, it’s a tool that you can use to speak that message that God has. I’ve done a lot of research lately. In the evening times, during prime time tv, 128 million Americans are on Facebook. It’s a nation on Facebook on every evening. There is no place in the world that more people are gathered at one time. just imagine if we leveraged that as a church.

Rich – Wow, that’s a huge stat. I just want to repeat that, slow that down. So 128 million people every night during prime time are on just Facebook alone. That’s incredible.

Jason – Just Facebook. That’s a whole other podcast.

Rich – Ya, that’s a whole other podcast, that’s true.

Jason – But as a campus pastor, you can leverage that. I’m sure there are people in your campus that follow you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, and begin to initiate that conversation, slowly, and talk about serving on your Facebook, and talk about what’s important. You can slowly over time, start to create culture and start to change culture over time, because they are reading you, following you, looking at what you say.

Rich – Right, definitely, anything else? What other ways can we gain influence as a campus pastor when you are not on the pulpit.

Jason – Of course, I thought two big things. Maybe ask for a time to preach. Maybe it’s time to just say ‘Hey Pastor, I would really like to speak on serving at our campus. Could I take a week?’ Maybe it may not be this week or the series your in, but there might be a special week that you could do that. And I also thought, the other way is communicate up. As campus pastors you are speaking to your pastor, senior leadership, ‘Hey, these things are going on’ and when they see a trend they could possibly do a whole series on it. That is huge. Sometimes we’re not really leading up. We are just leading and implementing and doing what we are and there’s just sometimes we can in a sense lead up. Not take over but ‘we just want you to know these things are going on, and not have that fear of ‘what do you mean that’s going on in your campus?’

Rich – Let’s unpack that one a little bit because that’s an interesting one. What does your feedback process look like with Bill? How does he interact with you and you with him? What’s the regular interaction? And then how would you do that ‘here’s some stuff that’s happening in my campus, I just what to make sure you are aware.”?

Jason – A lot of times, the way our culture is, on a weekly basis we meet with our multi-site pastor. We have one pastor that oversees all of our campuses. We meet with them every single week. Pastor Bill is not regularly in there. We’ve released him to focus on the bigger vision. We think that when we get to this size, he’s got to stay in tune with God. He’s got to know the broad vision of what God has called him to do, and not get bogged down with my issues, and campus pastor B’s issues. And so we really try to communicate in our meetings, this is what’s going on. And we really trust our multisite pastor and he takes things to Bill. ‘This is what ‘s going on and this is what you need to deal with.’ But then there’s a lot of time, Pastor will have meetings, quarterly and he’ll come in an say ‘hey guys, talk to me. What’s going on?” We have that moment where we can. And he’s very open to allow us to speak to him. Really good that he allows that. But I think for us a campus pastors it’s really good that we let him stay focussed on that broader vision. We can release him to stay on that and not get bogged down in my problems, because I’ve got to solve my problem and take care of that so that he can stay focussed and reach the lost.

Rich – And do his thing. Definitely. Anything else before we jump into the lightning round.

Jason – One more, Life Groups I think is a platform at any campus. Small Groups, where you can go in an speak to any number. You can speak to 10. You could take one month and you could speak to half of your congregation easily like that. Or maybe plan a 3 week thing on giving, serving. You could do that over a month. I think Life Groups capitalizing on your campus on a small groups level could be huge.

Rich – Absolutely. We’ve done in the past, tours where our senior leaders and campus pastors go out and visit all our life groups. And it’s amazing the traction you can get from a relatively simple thing which is, show up at somebody’s life group. I always say bring a really good dessert. Show up to a life group with some really sweet thing, and they’ll listen to whatever you’ve got to say and they’re just glad you are there. They are glad to interact with you for sure.

Jason – I think people just want to know that they’re known. And being able to step into a life group with 10-15 people. I’m really purposing to do that this year at our campus.

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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.