Leading Slow & Steady Change in a Fast Growing Church with Mark Williams

Thanks for joining us at the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking today with Mark Williams, Executive Pastor at New Day Christian Church in Port Charlotte, Florida.

The last few years have seen a lot of changes for church leaders and their congregations. How do you continue to grow and change when people are burned out and trust needs to be rebuilt? Listen in as Mark shares about the slow and steady changes that have helped New Day build steady momentum leading to growth.

  • Make sure both are aligned. // When New Day offered Mark a job, he was hesitant to take it at first. He wanted to make sure the lead pastor had 100% trust in him before he took the job. The lead pastor and executive pastor need to be aligned and trust each other. As part of this process, New Day’s leadership and staff read through The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey and made it their mantra.
  • Take your time to build trust. // Working the first six months as Executive Pastor was a hard time to build trust with some people. Mark took his time, not making major changes right away. He focused on building relationships so the staff could see he cared about them, and waited two years before introducing changes. Even small changes can bring stress, so you may need to ease into them when building trust in some situations.
  • Trust lay leaders. // One of the things that Mark changed was the mindset around hiring people. Over-hiring can slow down the progression of a church. Instead of hiring another person for every need that comes up, look at lay leaders and volunteers to see who might be able to help with a project. Who can you develop and empower to help with things the staff is planning?
  • Celebrate, don’t beg. // Mark also worked with helping New Day make changes on the finances. One of those was communicating that giving is an act of worship. New Day helped people understand that they have an opportunity to partner financially with the church and see lives transformed. The staff shared stories celebrating the ways that generosity was impacting lives in order to show people how they can participate in that work.
  • Plan ahead and make changes. // New Day knows that some things they’ve always done will need to be changed as the church expands to more campuses. So they are preemptively changing some of their leadership development and processes regarding how events are done. They are making the plans for slow and steady change now before encountering troubles that could quickly arise in the future.
  • Be the one who pushes forward. // It’s easy to start with an idea, but it can be hard to keep the focus and momentum going over the long haul. The executive pastor can help keep everyone pushing forward and stay focused on the goal.

You can learn more about New Day Church at

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Chemistry Staffing

One of the things that they never teach you in seminary is when to move on from your current church. Over the last couple of years, we have been having a TON of conversations about this with pastors all over the United States. Of all the ministry decisions you make, leaving your position will be the toughest.

Download this two-in-one resource that walks you through the decision-making process.

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 bring you a leader to both inspire and equip you and this week I’m super excited to bring you Mark Williams. He is the executive pastor at a church called New Day Christian Church, this is in Port Charlotte, Florida, which is a great place to be. And and this is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. It was started in 1959; the current lead Pastor Rusty Rusty Russell started in 2010. Super excited for this conversation. Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark Williams — Thanks! Thanks! Appreciate you having me, Rich.

Rich Birch — Oh this is going to be great. Why don’t fill out the picture tell me a little bit more about the church. What did I miss? If people were to arrive this weekend, what would they experience? Give us a bit of the flavor for the church.

Mark Williams — So I mean for New Day, we’re we’re a church that yeah as you said, starting ’59 but to went through some bumps along the way, some leadership decisions that… they built a building in ’04, hurricane hit, boom, set everything…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Mark Williams — Actually building standards changed, cost of materials went up in ‘05, and um…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Mark Williams — …and they launched that building. And as soon as they built the building, opened up in 05, so what they were able to pay for and they couldn’t build everything.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Mark Williams — And so we currently sit in that same 35,000 square foot building. We run… last weekend we had 2000 people on site, and so when you really start to equate that it just doesn’t the math doesn’t make sense.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Mark Williams — And so we we you know we park in a grassy knoll in the back of the property, and the whole nine yards. So it gets very interesting around here. But as far as ah in 2005 shortly after they opened inadvertently they let their lead pastor go…

Rich Birch — Ok.

Mark Williams — It was probably ah the the best leadership decision.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — The process wasn’t necessarily the greatest and…

Rich Birch — Ok ok yeah.

Mark Williams — And so prior to Rusty’s arrival in 2010 they had ah Minister Jamie Snyder was in. And he kind of went through and got things aligned and everything like that. Still you know the growth was there but nothing major.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — And it really wasn’t until probably ’15/’16 that I think that the congregation knowing, the community knows that Rusty’s here to stay. He’s not leaving. And I think and he’s also been very in kind of putting himself into the community a little bit more. He works he’s the development coach so for Port Charlotte high school. So.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s cool.

Mark Williams — He he goes in there. He’s at every football game. He goes lifts waste with the the boys. And so he is like in the community, and that transition really just started New Day started growing. And and really probably our biggest growth what happened started having it probably right around ’17/’16-’17…

Rich Birch — OK.

Mark Williams — …amplified up ’18. So we were just been on a a metric growth, adding services and those kind of things. And then probably the biggest thing for the biggest change for us was 2020.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — Everybody says you know, ah such a horrible thing. We grew. Not…

Rich Birch — Cool tell me about that. What that look like?

Mark Williams — Now that’s not necessarily in person but we grew.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah, yeah.

Mark Williams — And we were still, you know, we baptized over 100 people in 2020…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Mark Williams — …coming in from watching us online. We never had that experience before so we leveraged it. A lot of churches they were closed down. I think we were doing online streaming for I think it was only four or five weeks…

Rich Birch — Okay.

Mark Williams — …and we started meeting outside because we live in Southwest Florida…

Rich Birch — Yes, yep.

Mark Williams — …and so it was easy to just say, hey we’re gonna meet outside. So in May we started meeting outside. Storms came and we’re just like well, it’s too hot. It’s gonna rain. What do we do? And so we said we’ll meet inside.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Right.

Mark Williams — And so we just did some creative stuff to get people where they feel comfortable. And we live in the second oldest demographic county in America. So…

Rich Birch — Really?

Mark Williams — Yes.

Rich Birch — Ok, ok.

Mark Williams — And the if anybody’s ever heard of The Villages in Florida.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — That’s the oldest…

Rich Birch — OK.

Mark Williams — …demographic so…

Rich Birch — And then Port Charlotte’s number two.

Mark Williams — And Port Charlotte’s number two. So our our, you know, we I’d say 50% of our congregation is sixty plus.

Rich Birch — Interesting, interesting huh.

Mark Williams — And so um the nice thing is when you’re you’re moving to southwest Florida, you’re you’re more apt to change. And so we don’t have a lot of issues when we want to make changes. And so we make very logical changes. We try to make sure that we’re, you know, how I always kind of describe it to the staff is like, hey when we’re gonna make a change. We’re we’re we’re on a cruise ship and so our changes need to be thought out and we’re gonna make slow changes. We don’t want a bunch of people puking off the side of the boat. So you know…

Rich Birch — One step at a time.

Mark Williams — And so the larger we get, we just need to keep making small, you know, small changes and small adjustments, but making sure they’re always looking further down ahead – where are we going and where we going to how are we going to get there? So 2020 we grew financially, we grew numerically, and you know, I think last year we were back to pre-covid…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Mark Williams — …in person. And then we hit snowbird season in the summertime.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — But we’re back to last last last week we had 2000 people. And that is ahead of our pre-covid numbers for this season. So snowbirds don’t come back usually until November.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — So based on that we should, you know, we’re probably getting gain another six seven hundred people in November to May.

Rich Birch — Right. Wow.

Mark Williams — And so so just makes an interesting…

Rich Birch — So yeah, strong. That’s great, strong you know results and that’s that’s and that’s interesting, encouraging ah you know even reflection on the you know 2020s impact and then how that’s, you know, what that’s looked like continue to shuffle out. How do you guys define the executive pastor role? It looks different at so many different churches. It’s it’s kind of like I always people ask me what does executive pastor do? I say well the the most true thing is they do what the lead pastor doesn’t want to do, and that looks different in every church. So what what does that look like for you? How do you guys define that role? What’s that look like?

Mark Williams — I mean pretty much that’s it. If Rusty doesn’t want to do it. He’s not doing it. I’m gonna do it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yes, yes.

Mark Williams — But ah, probably honestly I came in in 2000… 2018, four years ago, and after a really kind of ah, an interesting leadership shift, and some really, you know, some trust a lot of trust was broken. Um, and so I came in and one of the steps was I I turned them down three or four times to to move here.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Mark Williams — I really didn’t want to move to Southwest Florida.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — I like Northeast Ohio where I came from. I know I’m weird but um, but it’s…

Rich Birch — Yes, that’s funny. As people do obviously you love the plains of Ohio. You often hear people say that, you know, give me flat cornfields. That’s what I’m looking for.

Mark Williams — We we had hills in Ohio so…

Rich Birch — Nice.

Mark Williams — But it was more about seasons and it’s hard to really get excited for Christmas when it’s nice and warm and you’re at the beach and stuff…

Rich Birch — Yep. Yes. Yeah yeah, yeah, fun.

Mark Williams — I got so but it was just so kind of coming back to that, my biggest thing was ah, Rusty’s got to have 100% trust in me. And I’m not going to I don’t want to come there until he has a you know he can feel like he can have that. So through prayer and through a lot of conversations, I think few three or four months later, we finally came to terms that okay God’s calling us to another ministry role. We still weren’t sure it was New Day. And and eventually it was just like okay, it’s New Day. And we need to come in here. But we need to come in with, you know, full speed ahead, full tilt. And but at the end of the day, it’s got to be, you know, Rusty’s got to be completely aligned with me and he’s got to trust me.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Mark Williams — And so part of that process, they started going through “The Speed of Trust” through Stephen Covey.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — And we’re going through that book to kind of build the trust back in with the the leadership, and um and the staff, and all those things. And so I read it and it was just pretty much that’s going to be our mantra. So we make every staff member coming on, you read that book. Yes, it has nothing to do with Jesus in there. We get that. But the, you know, the four cores um the four cores of credibility, and the 13 behaviors, those are things that we expect our staff. So we extend a ton of trust to our staff and we really empower them to do that.

Mark Williams — So my job is is, yes I do everything that Rusty doesn’t want to do. But I mean my first thing hitting the ground running was to right-side our finances, to ensure that we were able to grow. They started an 8:00 Saturday or Sunday morning service and I was like that’s just we’re not going to grow.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — We can’t do it with the current format. So you got to make a prime time hour. And Saturday night I think it was in February of 2019 we are open start our first two thousand our first Saturday night service. And we grew, and we continue to grow. So we got to make, you know, you got to repool. The only way for growth is to pull seats out or build a big, you know, build more seats.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Mark Williams — And so and that kind of fits into a model that the church has wanted to launch campuses and those kind of things.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — So we’re on the we’re on the precipice, hopefully. I’m gonna say we’re there. We’re in permitting stages to open us our second campus in a strip mall in Northport…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Mark Williams — …which is ah where a next group of group of people are at and coming in. And so we know that’s where God’s calling us to do is to go into multisite. And it’s really to take the local church back to local church.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — And we want to be in the local community so we could build some massive mega structure or something like that. But we just don’t think that’s what God’s calling us to do. We feel like we would rather be…

Rich Birch — Right. Closer to the people.

Mark Williams — …a half dozen or more sites. We’ll always keep building campuses until there’s no place for us to go. Or we just you know to to continue to spread the gospel. It’s all about as the mission.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally.

Mark Williams — It’s ah it’s not about growing numerically. It’s about honestly keeping people from going to hell.

Rich Birch — Totally.

Mark Williams — And so that model so that’s my job is pretty much to remove the barriers so that we can hit hit that model, and fulfill the mission that we feel God’s calling us to do to make disciples who make disciples.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it.

Mark Williams — And build the team, and build team synergy. So we’re all focused on that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. Well so I so the thing I love I’d love to pull apart a little bit, get a little bit more into, is a lot of times executive pastors in in the church are um, you know, this isn’t obviously universally true. But you often hear the story of like someone who’s maybe from within the church, they maybe were you know in the different field, and they um you know they were they were brought in they maybe so it’s first time they’ve been in vocational ministry. Or it’s someone who’s maybe come up through a different system. So there used to be the group’s guy, or they used to, you know, they were involved in family ministry. The fact that you moved in in a season where the church was attempting to rebuild trust, that’s an interesting um, kind of um intersection for you to find yourself at, from a leadership point of view. Could you pull that apart a little bit more? When you maybe when you think about your first, you know, hundred days, your first six months, what were some of those things that you found that helped you gain trust? I love the focus with Rusty, but then even with the staff team and others, as you as you found yourself landing in in the community?

Mark Williams — It’s it’s kind of it actually the first six months was hard. I think um I think I wanted to quit probably 10 times, personally. It was hard because I mean everybody loved you know my my the guy that… and I mean the congregation kept saying, you know, hey, you got big shoes to fill.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — And so it’s like I’m not that guy, and he’s not me. And and we will eat we will eat differently. But so it it really took a long time to build that. I knew… so some of the staff expect me to come in here and start throwing things around and blowing things up. And I felt that, you know, it’s one of those things… moving moving furniture in the room of a disoriented person creates more chaos. So the worst thing that I could do is start changing things.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — And so I just was building slowly, building relationships, building trust, going this guy is actually for real – maybe actually does truly care about me, and ministry, and the kingdom. And and so it was it was I would say I didn’t make any major catastrophic changes for almost two years.

Rich Birch — Oh okay.

Mark Williams — Even though I suggested Saturday night. But it was like kind of hey guys we really should look at doing this and they were like oh yeah, we should do this. So and kind of backdooring it and making it everybody else’s idea…

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Mark Williams — …helped, you know, helped bring it along. But it was just small, even some of the small changes that I made, it still created some, you know, there was just a lot of… it would brought back some of the stressors that people really weren’t ready for and they were surprised they got. And so as you kind of dove through those things and you’re building that trust, I took basically my thought process I will take two years before I do major catastrophic decisions within some of the staff. And um, and try to model some some things around.

Mark Williams — So I tolerate some staff longer than I needed to, and but I thought, you know, just it wasn’t healthy for their congregation. It was changing some mindsets. So through that two years, I changed the mindset from we need to keep hiring people, when I’m looking at the the finances aren’t there to keep hiring people, but it actually is counter-indication to what I think we’re called to do. Ministers are called to develop. And so and basically I looked at them all I says if you’re doing direct ministry, that’s where you’re going to get in trouble.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — If you if you’re in the middle of the weeds, that’s when you’re going to get written up. That’s how you will get fired. Um and so it’s they’re like, you know, stop shunt you know, like what? But what you’re telling me what? I’m like yeah, I don’t… you need to develop people. So it kind of goes into a leadership model that if the organizational chart of of is you know Jesus first, and we go through to the first person that walks into the door. How are we getting you get that guest to be a regular attender? How are we going to get the regular attender to be a member? How are we going to get that member and, you know, to be on the team, serve teams? How are we going to get that person, you know, that team member on moving up? Our goal should be to develop them to be an elder of the church. How do we do? Is everbody going to be an elder of the church? No. But that doesn’t mean we don’t work hard on the developing them.

Mark Williams — And we extend trust to them. We train them. We work ourselves out of a job. Because if I work myself out of a job doing this lane, or that lane, or that lane, then God’s—trust me—God’s not going to make you go, I can sit at home all day long. He’s gonna open up another door. And he’s going to have you you know, bring something else up. So the more we can empower the the lay leader, if you will…

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Mark Williams — …the more ministry that we can happen. The the more you know we’re getting more people in, we’re getting visitors coming. We’re going to get people into the baptistry. We’re going to see life changing, life change happen because of the members of the church, not the pastoral staff.

Rich Birch — Yes, so true. You know the thing so the thing the two things I want to underline, and then want to come back to a part of that. So friends, you’re listening to executive an executive pastor at one of the fastest growing churches in the country. And I love your emphasis on, hey we’re not going to go quick on this stuff. We’re going to slow down. We’re going to, you know, I want to build trust over an extended period of time. I think there’s this perception of like if you’re going to be a fast-growing church, you’ve got to just like move fast and break stuff. And you know which is often breaking people. And so I love that encouragement around like, hey we’ve got to go slow on this stuff. We’ve got to, you know, work a cruise ship make instrument or make small nudges in the right direction over extended period of time.

Rich Birch — And then this whole notion of hiring, and it’s absolutely true. One of the it’s been proven a loss of stuff statistically that actually one of the death knells of churches is actually over-hiring. That actually will slow down the progression and the growth of a church. So let’s talk more about that. Let’s talk about the how did you move? How did you shift your staff culture, your team culture, from you see a problem and the knee-jerk reaction is we need to hire somebody? Ah, you know we need to find somebody, even if it’s ten hours a week, can we just hire somebody ten hours a week? Ah to: no, actually I’ve got to develop others. How how did you do that? How did you articulate that? What does that look like? And then how how have you taken some even early steps in trying to develop that with with your team?

Mark Williams — I mean in the early stages, the one thing I didn’t really hide behind it because they didn’t really know how bad the finances were here.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — So I didn’t even know.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — I probably wouldn’t have taken a job if I knew how bad the finance. But um you… So I was like can’t even we just can’t afford.

Rich Birch — Right. Right.

Mark Williams — I was like, guys we can’t afford to bring somebody on. So it was it was just like, okay so who do you have around you that can do that? And so a lot of it was as I got to know more people it was like, no bring Bill in. Bring George in. Bring whoever, you know. There’s somebody in your ministry that’s immersed in your ministry. They are rocking it. Why are you holding them back?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — Why are you afraid to pull them into the fold? Um, you know I talked to a gentleman yesterday, just grabbed coffee with him, was like you know we have a similar… I was a volunteer firefighter; he was a retired firefighter. And so, you know, we have this little bond, and I just I pushed him I says I need you to step in. And he’s like, what does that mean? I’m like, I need you to step in and be this guy.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — And so I laid out who I want him to be and who I desire him to be. And it wasn’t just to go he needed and he’s like, I can do that. I’m ready to do that.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — I’ve made time in my life to do that. So it’s not just but sometimes it’s just releasing him.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — And he he’s right, he’s just sitting there waiting. He doesn’t want to offend anybody. I’m going, get in here. Get messy with us.

Rich Birch — Yes, jump in, jump in. Exactly.

Mark Williams — You know, right? You know we… yeah, so just but is is slowly doing it, but also also kind of releasing others. And I’m the worst person to release stuff. And I I’m I can preach it all day long. But I I…

Rich Birch — It sounds so good.

Mark Williams — It it does I have a plan for that. And you need to follow my plan.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — But and so I have to I had to model some as stuff. I got to release stuff. And that was hard. It’s very hard for me to release strategic planning, and releasing some thought process, and some dreaming. So, you know, as I pull back what God’s calling us to do and what we’re doing is like, okay how do I release this? How do I let it go? What do I need to do? And that’s, you know, once he once some of those pages were open, it was like easy to just dive in and say, here you go.

Rich Birch — Right. Love it. So good. I think that’s such a critical lesson for us all as we, you know, I think there’s this particularly as we grow as the church we gets to a couple thousand people there becomes enough finances floating around that the staff can think, oh like I can just you know we just buy our way out of this problem. But that’s not the case, you know. We’ve got to continue to it’s Ephesians 4, right? We’ve got to continue to develop people and release them. Um, that’s so good.

Rich Birch — Now you you brought up the finances there a little bit. I love the joke of I’m not even sure how bad things were. Can you talk through what did that look like – how did you right the ship financially? Um, maybe on both sides where there’s things that you did on the on the revenue side, or the expense side, to help wrestle through those in your in these these first you know four or five years since you’ve been here?

Mark Williams — I would say in the in the initial phases it was more of the fact of just assessing, you know, once I actually peel back all of it and, you know, church of you know church is running probably 1400/1500 people at that point in 2018, so this is, you know, we’re on that I mean we’re in at beginning and trying to release up. And and I closed the you know, my first month and I really shouldn’t give these numbers, but I closed the first month…

Rich Birch — Sure. No, that’s fine. You don’t have to.

Mark Williams — Um I mean I probably had more…

Rich Birch — …in the negative spot.

Mark Williams — It wasn’t negative, but I I mean it would be a decent amount for a home.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah,

Not not an organization. Basically I did not have enough money to to make payroll…

Rich Birch —Yep, yep, right.

…if money didn’t come in next week so… So that’s that was my tension. I was just like so.

Rich Birch — Not where we want to be, obviously. You know you don’t you shouldn’t be measuring cash on hand in days. That’s not the hope, right? You know, like yeah, that’s interesting.

Mark Williams — Correct and floating credit card. You know float their credit card. Not always yeah, pay it off. No it needs to be paid off.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Mark Williams — So on the on the payment side. It was like this our goal is we’re paying the credit card off before the end of the year.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — Every month it’s paid off. We’re not floating some finances. And revenue was simply just some of it was just simple. It was like you guys moved from passing the plate, which is great. You put boxes in there. Okay, you know that’s a model. But giving is an act of worship. And we we can’t forget the conversation that since it is an act of worship that it is a part of worship.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Mark Williams — And so we should have a conversation about the fact. you that means so when I walked in it, it was eliminated from the worship service. We didn’t talk about it.

Rich Birch — Wow. Oh wow. Oh my goodness. Yeah yeah.

Mark Williams — It was just it was just talked in the back. So I mean honestly was just some of this was that. And then going through going, look at this person’s life. Look at this person’s life – share these life stories.

Rich Birch — Right, these stories. Yep, absolutely.

Mark Williams — Have conversations about the wins. Don’t be afraid to talk about and it’s not. You’re not asking for money as much as you’re saying you, we want you to financially partner with what what you’re doing here. And so just the simple language change and actually having language made a huge milestone step. And then going and and we never did go in and browbeat people for money.

Rich Birch — No

Mark Williams — We didn’t we didn’t, you know, plead with them. We didn’t ask I never beg and said hey you know we don’t have ah we don’t have enough, you know, there was never fear brought in. It was always about celebration.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it.

Mark Williams — And so through those constant celebration stories, it led us into well we knew we were gonna launch a campus and in Northport. We thought it was going to take us a year you a year sooner than it did, or it’s going to, because you know a horrible thing called 2020 happened and…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Mark Williams — But you know March 29, that was our that was our commitment Sunday for the capital campaign to pay for the campus so everybody and her brother was like…

Rich Birch — Oh gosh! Wowzers! You weren’t even meeting; you weren’t even face to face, if I remember, you said you were four or five weeks not even, you know, just online.

Mark Williams — Yeah so we went a week lot later than everybody else did, but we still did a commitment drive.

Rich Birch — Wow! Yep.

Mark Williams — And we still and we gave everybody the ability to do the commitments online. We offered everybody communion every week. So we did a drive through communion – pick up your communion for service every single week.

Rich Birch — Okay, cool. Yeah.

Mark Williams — We did that for three, four months. I I called our communion supplier. We I bought 10,000 units of communion. They’re like, what are you doing? Because nobody else is doing this. I says we’re providing communion – we do communion weekly; it’s part of who we are.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

It’s part of our worship environment so we’re going to do this every week, and we’re providing it for our family. So if you need it, stop by.

Rich Birch — Stop by; we’ll get it to you. Yeah.

Mark Williams — And and so we gave, you know, weeks worth, you know or, you know, ten weeks worth. And part of our success through that five weeks is we, you know, they said 10 people or less. So your small groups gather together, worship together…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — …and do the whole thing together, and then the group leaders would come, get communion for ’em and. And so we always had communion ready to go. And just we kept being the church. And that’s how we continued to grow.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Mark Williams —Because they were they were inviting their neighbors, like oh I come coming over, and their entire subdivision would do Easter that Easter they did all did Easter together.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Mark Williams — And then one guy brought in, picked up 3-400 cups of communion, gave it to everybody in their community. I was like can I do that? Like I don’t care. You know…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s great. That’s fantastic.

Mark Williams — You know and so just those kind of things that, you know, and then the money the moneys continue to come in, and people partnered with some ministry and we’ve been able to supplement things, buy things. Um, we’ve been able to celebrate some amazing things. We’ve you know we’ve given a ton of money away, benevolence.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Mark Williams — Um, the first time I’ve ever done this in my entire life. The end of 2020 because our our staff worked their tails off…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — And so I had money left over in the salary budget line, and I went to the elders and said you need to give these guys some…

Rich Birch — Oh nice.

Mark Williams — …so not a raise but you need ’em a bonus.

Rich Birch — Yeah little a gift of appreciation. Yeah yeah.

Mark Williams — Yeah. And it was and so they got, you know, it was like first time I ever said, I’m going to give a bonus. And it it was like it was like we want to celebrate what you guys did.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, that’s great..

Mark Williams — And and you know so they worked hard, and and ah honored that. So money’s always been and one of those things and other things are just it just always been just we’re always just pushing one step further. And I would say that if whenever we see the need, New Day’s gonna step into the gap.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — Right now we’re struggling with getting, you know, we’re very passionate about conservative Christian worldviews. So maybe with a solid solid Christian worldview. True Biblical worldview. So um, when we’re hiring staff and that’s we were having a hard time finding it. And so we partnered with a bible college and this January, will we have a full fledged partnership. We’re gonna be holding classes here at New Day.

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Mark Williams — And we hired a pastor to oversee that – just 100% oversee that, get it launched. And and the money’s gonna come in for that. We don’t…

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — You know it’s not 100% there yet. But God will provide that.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well and I love that being, you know, there’s so many things you said there that I think were so good. That this idea around when churches are struggling financially I think so many times we can look so much on the expense side like okay, let’s find… and you’ve got to be wise on that, right? We’ve got to go through and be you know super wise. But then, just even a few things around you know, clearly articulating the vision, taking time to celebrate, talking about hey wow God’s at work, being clear on where money is being spent, like a sum of those those things, that’s a part of what God uses to ultimately see things turn around. My impression is that things are in a much better place today than they were ah, you know, say four or five years ago even if you’re, you know, just the way you’re talking about even, hey wanting to to launch ah ah, a school partnership, all of that, which is amazing. Praise God – that’s incredible.

Mark Williams — Yeah, no God’s God’s done some amazing things. Ah, we’re actually I’m in the finishing up a merger. We have a small church in Sarasota that is that has reached out to us last year, earlier in the year and I’m we are finalizing we will be probably in 2023 launching a campus in Sarasota.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Not on our radar, not on our plan, but God brought them to us. They came to us and so we will be launching a campus in Sarasota…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great.

Mark Williams — …which is about 45 minutes from here.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — Little more missional in experience for us. But you know nothing… God has just completely ordained this whole process.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — And um and so yeah, now we’re ending up with a third campus in six months after we open another campus and…

Rich Birch — Yeah, exactly. Not surprising though. That’s, you know, that’s God blessing your church. That’s that’s amazing. So when you look up over the horizon a little bit, what are some of the questions that you have as you’re thinking about the future at New Day? Obviously you’ve got a couple campuses coming down the pipeline. There’s a few other pieces there. Are is there anything else as you kind of look to the future that you’re excited about? I know it’s slow and steady change at New Day, you’re not it’s not next week, you know, we’re looking down a little farther down the road, but what what kind of things are you looking forward to?

Mark Williams — Ah, well actually I have two. There’s two campuses I probably see in 2024 we will launch two more campuses.

Rich Birch — Oh cool.

Mark Williams — Um, and then most of the reason is that we have to find we have to find seats in our current…

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — …in the Port Charlotte campus we have to find seats. Northport’s only gonna pull so many but other at the other areas are gonna pull some. And so launching two more campuses will pull more seats which will allow us to grow in both locations. So we can see exponential growth.

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Mark Williams — I mean on my radar in 4 years will be everything will double.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — So I told the staff yesterday said, you know, Lord willing 4 years from now we’re going to be a church of 5000, and we’re gonna be a church of with, you know, five, six campuses. And so the question is to them, I trust you so how are we gonna do this?

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — And so that was the question yesterday is tell me how we’re going to do this.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — What do we need now to to start looking for now? So we’re changing some of our language now, we’re changing some of our our leadership development now. We’re changing some of our processes, and and how we’re doing events. And all those things are there they’re being changed today because we know that we’re gonna have to have that change very, very quickly.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. Well and there’s no doubt it gets back to even that leadership development piece. The thing about multisite and being, you know, I’ve led in that in environments like that that are fast growing that are, you’re pacing, hey we’re going to double in two, you know, two years from now. You can see where from where we are today. And developing and releasing leaders is core to the middle of all of that. Like that is the um, the limiter, right? iIf we can’t find and release people who are, to your point, you know, the the type of leader that you’re looking for, that they’re um, you know that they’re on brand, they’re missional, they’re exactly what you’re hoping, you know, however, that works that language works for you in, you know, at the church, man, that that doesn’t happen by happenstance. You’ve got to work through that one step at a time. Yeah that’s that’s great. That’s fantastic. That’s great. This been a great conversation. Anything else you want to share just as we’re ah wrapping up today’s dialogue?

Mark Williams — While there I mean it’s just you know I think the biggest thing I’d like to share is just you got to love what you do.

Rich Birch — So true.

And when you love what you do, you know, my assistant yelled at me today because my my calendar is ugly. And and I just said, but yeah, you know what? But I love what I do.

Rich Birch — Right, right. OK.

Mark Williams — And you know we work six days a week, and we just do yeah we just push through. And I think the key is is that when you truly fall into the fact that I did come from lay leadership in to the ministry, and so I know it can be done. And then I grew, you know, moved up in the organization into an executive pasture role, then came here as the executive pastor. And they original wanted to hire me as a business guy and I said no, if I can’t pastor the staff, if I can’t be that person, I don’t want to do it.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — And so so many people think the big executive pastor is they that is the business side of the organization. It’s the human resource of our organization. It’s not it is it is the vision. It’s the dream side. It is the implementation, is the its alignment, it is caring for people, you know, recognizing where the finances were going. You know, we’ve already given next year’s raises in August…

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Mark Williams — …because and we also gave a pan… we also gave an inflation stipend in in March because we saw gas price. How are you know y’all are used to… You can’t afford this.

Rich Birch — Right. Right, right. Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Williams — So it’s coming up with how are we going to do those things? And investing into the staff because I truly care about, you know, all 18 of our staff members. And how I gonna love them through it, and their families. And I want them to stay, and and I don’t want to hire another 10 just to make it easy around here.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. Absolutely.

Mark Williams — So but I think just going back to each one of them is you got to find your call…

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — …and you really just, you know, and never let up off the gas. And that’s what I think that’s probably the biggest thing, so the response for 2020 from us is we never pulled our foot off the gas pedal. And we stayed.

Rich Birch — Right? Stay focused. So on that. Yeah, totally. Well and that relates even to your cruise ship analogy, right? That it’s like there’s I think too many churches, are too many leaders, it’s like they’re quick starts. They get the ball rolling and then they’re constantly changing as opposed to having the the the focused momentum of like we are heading in this direction. We’re going to keep going in this direction kind of regardless of where there’s like this weight and momentum behind the church that our job is to is to keep pushing forward. Um, and so we’re not going to be erratic and be all over the place. We want to stay focused in in our effort. I think that’s good.

Mark Williams — Right. I mean so my job I think probably the thing that I do the best that I do the most is I’m always looking five years ahead.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — And so it’s what am I going to do to get there 5 years ahead. I’m now at the point where I can trust the staff to say, this is where we’re going 5 years ahead. They couldn’t have handled that two years ago or even three years ago.

Rich Birch — Right, right. Sure, sure, yeah.

Mark Williams — And so and so now they’re able to hear and are going and yeah, some do throw up a little bit, and you know get that experience, but it’s that’s where we’re going…

Rich Birch — Yeah, right.

Mark Williams — …so now you understand why we’re making those changes today to get to that point. And it’s just, you know, I never want I never want to look back and going, yeah, but we could have…

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — And I use the analogy that oftentimes we stop, start and stop, start and stop, and it doesn’t take much for the train to keep a train from ever going. Just a small little block they put in, and they bolt it to the track, and that’s it and it’ll never go. But once it’s going, you can’t put that block in it’ll it’ll get it’ll get shot off the track.

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — You’re not going to stop the train once it’s going. The issue is so often we we say that we have to have everything too far planned. So we don’t have everything too far planned I would say there’s sometimes we’re put in tracks right in front of the train, as we’re going along too.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yes.

Mark Williams — So we want to use the transportation analogy we’re put and there’s a few times that our fingers have been bit.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — I’m not good I’m not going to deny that, you know, ah. I think in 2019 when we had we had 7 seats open in the worship center…

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s crazy.

Mark Williams — …and no seats were next to each other.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Mark Williams — And so when you bring that family in…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Mark Williams — …when there’s 2 to 3 or 4 people and you can’t sit next to each other, guess what they’re not doing?

Rich Birch — Right.

Mark Williams — Not staying.

Rich Birch — Right. No, exactly? Yeah, absolutely. Well I really appreciate this. Thank you so much for your your time today, Mark. If people want to track with you, or with the church, where do we want to send them online?

Mark Williams — So I mean our website is

Rich Birch — Love it.

Mark Williams — …and you can always just ah, shoot me an email if you have any questions of anything we’re doing here. It’s markwilliams [at]

Rich Birch — Perfect. Appreciate that, Mark. I’m so thankful that you were on the show. Appreciate you taking time out today to spend with us. Thank you for that.

Mark Williams — Hey thanks – appreciate you. Thanks for what you’re doing.

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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.