Kevin Bordeaux was called to a declining church of 20 people and over the next 16 months the church grew to over 300 people. Today’s podcast is an inspiring story of how Kevin led through that change. He offers a bunch of insights for church leaders looking to see change happen within their church so they can reach more people who are far from God. If you are looking for inspiration & some practical help today’s episode is for you.
Kevin Bordeaux// [Website] [Blog] [twitter] [Taking The Next Step: Seven Principles For Leading The Emerging Church]
00:50 // Kevin pre-pastor punk band
01:15 // Kevin tells the story of how he came to Thrive Church
02:05 // The core of what was left of the church was 20 senior citizens
03:05 // Relaunched in September 2012, 50 baptisms, 130 surrender to Christ since
03:59 // Kevin gives the reason for decline
04:50 // First steps for helping his team reach people far from God
06:00 //Resistancee Faced: minimal resources
07:38 // Introduced changes in phases
08:20 // Most underutilized people in the church are retired folks
09:50 // The Thrive team studied Acts in 14 weeks
11:00 // Thrive’s goals for the future: groups and assimilation
12:50 // Kevin encourages other leaders to enjoy the mission God has given you.
Lightning Round Highlights
Inspiring Ministries // Upward Church, Craig Walker
Inspiring Leader // Don Gruden
Interview Transcript //
Rich – Well, welcome to the unSeminary Podcast. We have a real treat today. Now, I know I say that a lot. But today really is. We are talking about turn around churches and we are really going to get inside the story of one church when I heard it, I wanted to make sure I got them on the line. We’ve got Kevin Bordeaux from Thrive Church.
Kevin – Great to be here today Rich. Thanks
Rich – So glad you are here. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your church, maybe the context you are in and a bit of the history of it.
Kevin – Well, myself I came from a non-church background and that’s pretty much a big thing. I played in a punk rock bank. So that helps church growth when you’ve been in a punk rock band.
Rich – Wasn’t Steven Fertig in a punk rock band too? You and Fertick.
Kevin – That’s right. You know Bob Franquiz was in a band called ‘Strong Arm’. Big hard core thing. I actually came to South Richmond which is Chesterfield in June 2012. I left a church plant I planted in Florida. Raised a guy up. He’s over that now. We were invited to come to a church with just over 20 people left in it. It totally botched and went under, and had one of the network guys over and said ‘Let’s chat’, and I was not interested. I had planted a church from scratch. I was tired. I did not want to do this. And God has his way. So I ended up coming and visiting with those guys there at Thrive Church. It actually wan’t Thrive Church at that point, it was no church at that point in Chesterfield. I kind of did some conversations with them and found out some of the greatest people on the earth and decided to do a relaunch there. So that’s kind of the deal. The unique thing about us is that there was only 20-25 people and 20 of them are senior citizen.
Rich – And you’re not a senior citizen. if you are not watching, Kevin is clearly not a senior citizen.
Kevin – Not yet. My wife makes fun of me saying I’m getting old. I’m 34 years old. 33 when I came there. We met with the guys and asked a lot of questions and found out they really had a heart for the community. That church had been around for 64 years in one shape or another. We went in about relaunching and reaching people who were far from God and they were totally on board with it and ready to do whatever it would take. We did that, so I spent 3 months with them. At the same time, something crazy happened. My mom came down with terminal cancer. So I was closer to home and I was driving back and forth taking care of her and doing launch meetings with these guys. The Lord blessed us in September 2012, launched and it went really good. So the story since then, we’ve seen 50 people baptized in this year alone. We’ve seen a 130 or so surrender to Christ. There’s a lot of cool stories you know. We could go on and on about those baptisms. They have been the big picture story for us and what God’s been doing there.
Rich – Wow, there’s a lot there I would love to pull apart. I wonder if you could kind of talk a bit about, before we jump into the turn around piece, a bit about the decline. So you first show up there, what’s your diagnostic of why the church found itself with just 25 people left in it, and what was it that you kind of identified in the culture that you though maybe needed to be turned around.
Kevin -I think one of the things it was irrelevant to unchurched people, the way they were doing church. The group that was there, it wasn’t traditionalist, it was more kind of more of a charismatic type deal that doesn’t attract unchurched people. Then a series of pastors had come through and things happened. I was really worried about that. I think the main problem was that they were not focussed on reaching people far from God and that lack of leadership, the leadership vacuum that was there.
Rich – Big thing. OK, so now what did you do, what were some of your initial steps in the first 100 days? Ho w did you help them through and start taking steps towards reaching people far from God.
Kevin – One thing we did was that we would meet on Wednesdays and just prayed together. We put chairs in a circle and prayed and I would cast vision and talk about what nature our community was in, hear stories of where they were at. And we prayed and we planned. That was the two things we did. We went over our values of what we would, and what we would not do. Over 14 meetings and just kind of planned and prayed over what the issues for our church, for our community. I put together a plan, about a 15 page plan, and they knew at every phase where we were at. So they saw the big picture, they knew where we were going at every phase. It wasn’t just me trying to pump them up and motivate them, but really just got back to the main issue of being Biblical, Gospel centered and reaching people far from God.
Rich – So you must have encountered some resistance early on. Or maybe you’re the leader that coming in everything is just great. Whatever Kevin wants to do is great. What kind of resistance did you encounter, and how did you take steps towards those people and the resistance you experienced?
Kevin – It was very minimal but not because of me. Our network overseer, Dane Burke. He comes in and does discovery sessions. The life cycle of a church, where you are on that slope. They knew that either we change or we are going to die. The resistance that I faced more than anything there was the fact that we didn’t have the resources we needed. It wasn’t people, it was resources. i was on a very part time salary. My wife picked up the slack on that one with her job. So we were working with very limited recourses so it took a lot of planning, talking through things, and making sure we were putting money into the right things. And the people that did resist, didn’t like the change, didn’t like what was going on, those few people…you just love on them, address their fear, concerns and just say ‘let’s pray through that, I know it’s scary, let’s walk that together.’ Those people are still on the team today and they are serving and they just love what’s happening.
Rich – Very cool. I would imagine, you are obviously a young leader like we mentioned earlier, and you are leading a lot of people who are in their 70’s, 80’s, I can imagine that there would be, there might be some young leaders that would be like ‘we got to get a bunch of lights, and a rocking band…’ tell me about that. Even in your programming, how did you deal with that kind of stuff?
Kevin – We talked about what people far from God are used to in church. We all shared our stories. They were kind of used to that idea. Our 5 young people we had, young adults were all in the band so that was good. We have a rocking band. We used the lights and all that but we did it in phases. When we first started it was lights on for everything. I had to walk them through phases and share with them what the unchurch say about church and they were willing to go with it. But I had to do it in phases. I had to see how much change were they ready for. Check that out. So that’s what I did there. And the big thing, the most underutilized people in the church were all retired folks. They have experience, time, finances and they can help. We only have 2 full time staff running 300 people and it’s me and an executive pastor. Those guys are filling in stuff…they are building stuff, running the books and making it happen. I think valuing them, finding the common ground was key for us.
Rich – Any kind of particular, in a conversation, a tactic…you are talking with someone and you are trying to help them get on that common ground. How would you do that?
Kevin – I think just listening. Hearing them out. I am a high D type personality so I love to talk, I love to express and be in control of the conversation. But I think listening to them, hearing their stories. Then when you hear their stories, you can find some common ground and say ‘I understand how you feel.’ I think that’s how you build bridges, listening to their stories. And I did a lot of listening over a lot hamburgers, man.
Rich – So you start rolling it out publicly. I imaging you start to preach about it, about those changes on an Sunday morning. What di’d that look like, how did you try to roll out those changes?
Kevin – Do it consistently. That’s what you do. We knew what our mission is, what to do, what not to do. We went through the book of Acts in about 14 weeks and looked at what it looked like to reach people far from God. What movements looked like in the first century. And then the principles and I would share with them what’s worked in other places, what’s worked. They would share what they’ve seen. You’ve got to realize all their children, nieces and nephews had left that church and found another church. So they had found some place that they knew. So and so goes to blank church and I’ve seen it done there’ and you talk about what works. Talk about what works Biblically, and then practically what works in other places out there.
Rich – This is fantastic. So where are you today? Look to the future, what are some steps you want to take? What are some things you are changing or looking to improve or adding in as you look to the future at Thrive.
Kevin – We have been looking a lot at goals for next year. I think one thing is making sure we are measuring the right metrics at church which is small group involvement, volunteer involvement, percentage-wise to what our attendance is, baptism percentage, things like that. And my role has to shift. We went from 20 people to 300 in about 16 months. I did have a team of people around me that went to college with, good friends. Really it’s been difficult not having the staff. So growing as fast as we are growing, my role has to shift. It shifted when we got to 125, it shifted again at 200 and again at 300. We’ve got to be more deliberate in our assimilation. We’ve got to increase the excellence in our church. We are a shoestring budget church. We meet in a warehouse. And my role has got to change. Our staff’s role has got to change and we’ve got to be more focussed on small groups / community groups and making sure they are more diverse that what we have now. So we are constantly talking about changes and what is that going to look like. The executive team is looking to the future…what is my role going to look like? What does the every volunteer staff member’s role look like? So those are some of the changes. Excellence. We need to stabilize our ministries. We are only 14-15 months really old. We need to multiply leaders. We’ve got to get that farm system really ramped up. Just looking at groups and assimilation are very important to us.
Rich – Very cool. Now anything else you would want to share with people, maybe to a church leader who is in a church of 20-30 people? What would you say to them these days?
Kevin – I think one of the keys is make the church as healthy as possible. You can’t really dictate size as much as we would all love to do that. Our churches would be a lot bigger than they are. Enjoy the journey and make sure you don’t seek church growth for the sake of church growth. You have a conviction and a compassion for people far from God. That will be the whole key and that will bleed out to others. Find out who you are as a leader. What your church mission is called to do. And just enjoy that, whether you are a church of 50, or a church of 5000 enjoy that you are being obedient to the mission that God has given you. Be passionate about it.