Long-Term Leadership: Jeff Cranston on Steady, Purposeful Leadership

Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Today we have Lead Pastor Jeff Cranston with us from LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, South Carolina.

How can churches maintain balance in ministry and create engagement within their congregation and staff? This is a question that Jeff answers in today’s episode of the unSeminary Podcast. Don’t miss this conversation where we talk about focusing on the purposes of the church, teaching systematic theology in an understandable way, and how to increase collaboration and avoid silos in your ministries.

  • Stay balanced. // LowCountry Community Church had been around since the mid-90s, but when they found themselves faltering at one point, they rallied around the five purpose-driven church principles. The five principles LowCountry articulates are to connect people to God and each other, grow in your faith, serve other people and God, reach, and worship. Churches tend to have a stronger leaning in some of these areas than others so focusing on all five can help you stay balanced.
  • Create engagement. // As part of their discipleship process, the church has also implemented core classes that focus on each of these five principles. People who are new to LowCountry are encouraged to first take the Connect class, which consists of attending a Sunday service together, meeting and hearing from the staff, and then sharing lunch. The goal is to have everyone coming out of the Connect class take a next step. LowCountry has found that they have a very high retention rate through this assimilation process.
  • Kitchen Table Theology podcast. // Another aspect of discipleship at LowCountry includes the Kitchen Table Theology podcast. After seeing a rise in biblical illiteracy, including among younger people the church wanted to bring on staff, Jeff realized that most people weren’t familiar with the bible or what Jesus was teaching. Through his podcast, Jeff aims to teach systematic theology in an understandable way, making it accessible to everyone. He says it’s like sitting at a kitchen table, having a cup of coffee, and chatting about theology in a casual way.
  • Remember your mission. // As a church grows, it’s critical to keep the staff aligned and focused on the mission on a regular basis. Talk with your staff to remind them why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Stay connected to staff health. // LowCountry has also been intentional the last few years about staff health. They partnered with Best Christian Workplaces to do a survey among the staff which focuses on eight key components. The survey provides some hard numbers so you know exactly how your staff feels about the church environment and culture. While it can be difficult to face what needs to be corrected in the workplace, it gives your staff a voice and is helpful for creating a healthier team environment.
  • Create a culture code. // Another way LowCountry has given the staff a voice is by developing a culture code together. Bringing everyone to the table to craft this document has created engagement, combatted ministry silos, and invited collaboration across different ministry areas, which ultimately benefits the whole church. Once a year the staff walks through the five components, which keeps the staff rowing in the same direction. The five components are courageous pioneers, loyal to one another, work hard and play hard, joyously collaborative, and steadfastly committed to growth.

You can learn more about LowCountry Community Church at Plus listen to Kitchen Table Theology with Jeff Cranston, and download LowCountry Community Church’s Culture Code document here.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Super excited for today’s conversation today. We’ve got Jeff Cranston with us. He is at LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, South Carolina – pumped to have this conversation. For folks that don’t know ah ah, LowCountry started, I believe in 1994; Jeff’s been there 20+ years. He’s the published author of a number of book and also hosts a podcast, so I know he’s going to have good audio, Kitchen Table Theology. Jeff, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Jeff Cranston — Rich, thank you very much. It’s an honor to be on with you today.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so honored that you would take time out. Kind of fill out the picture there – tell us about LowCountry Community. Give us a sense of the the church. You know that kind of thing.

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, we’re nondenominational, evangelical church started in 1994 um and got off to a pretty good start, and then sort of faltered. And my wife and family, we came in ’99 and it was ah it was really a restart. There there was a great core group of people of about eighty folks with with some good DNA of of caring for people, of ah wanting to reach the community. And so we we just started over again, hit the hit the reset button. And the elders at the time were they they saw the need for it and were patient with me. I was a lot younger then, and but yeah, we’ll be here on ah, we’ll be here in June of this year twenty four years.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Jeff Cranston — But it’s just grown very steadily. Um, we we just have plodded along, Rich. There’s never been any real tremendous spikes in attendance. It’s it’s been a steady climb. Ah but yeah I’m a believer in, you know, slow and steady does win the race most of the time.

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Jeff Cranston — And it it’s required a lot of patience so, I can assure you. Because there’s a lot of times I wanted to go a whole lot quicker than it did.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. A friend a good friend of mine in Omaha at Stonebridge ah Christian Church there, Mark Chitwood, he jokes that he says, hey our church is the slowest growing church in America ah, they just have been consistently, you know, in a very similar trajectory just every year little bit more. But it’s amazing over that time you see just incredible growth. And I actually think, man, that’s healthier, that’s in some ways easier to manage. Just love that.

Rich Birch — So you know, if I understand correctly your church you know when you started you were kind of sub 100, somewhere in that range. Today you’re the church is 2000 plus, somewhere in there. That’s that’s amazing growth to see over that timeframe. I wonder if if we could talk a little bit about that. What, you know, you talk about the church was faltering was a bit of a restart. Maybe rewind the clock a little bit in your brain. What was it that, when you thought, you know, in the restart, what were some of those things that need to be addressed? How did, you know, how did those, you know, how and how does how could that impact us today as we’re thinking about our churches?

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, I think the heart of the people they they really wanted to reach out to the community. And we were on Hilton Head Island. The church was originally called The Church at Hilton Head. And for those who don’t know Hilton Head is just off the coast of South Carolina. It’s a it’s ah it’s a high-end destination vacation type place. And it’s ah it’s a pretty difficult place to do ministry. But there were some wonderful people there. And our county—very unusual for the south—our county is around 90 to 91% unchurched…

Rich Birch — Wow!

Jeff Cranston — …so it’s a target rich environment, if if you want to do church.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — And they wanted to do church a little bit differently and more contemporary, and so we we sort of rallied around the concept of the Purpose Driven Church principles – the five the five principles -because I think it was all there. And and actually the founding verses of the church were Matthew 22:37-39 and Matthew 28 – the great commission. And they happen to also be the the key component verses for Purpose Driven Church. And all we really did with that was take the five purposes and make them our own. But I really do think there’s a there’s a lot of genius in that, and you do see those five purposes in the new testament church.

Jeff Cranston — So we we call them connect, and you know just connect people to God with the gospel, connect people to each other. And then grow in your faith, serve other people, serve God. Ah reach—that’s evangelism—and and worship. And we’ve just tried to work those five. And what I found is most churches and most pastors, if you just allow yourself to go into default mode, you automatically fall into one or two, maybe three of those five.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s a good insight.

Jeff Cranston — But another two or three will sort of be ignored. You you know in the back your mind, we ought to be doing more in evangelism, or we ought to be do be doing more and helping our people to serve, but we never quite get around to it. And so those five things really gently forced us to stay balanced. And all you have to do is just look back at your year and go, okay were were we all grow this year, were was everything geared to grow? Which in my experience, most churches are geared to grow and to worship. Evangelism gets talked about, but it rarely gets done.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — Ah getting people to serve, that’s always an issue. Ah and then connecting people is sometimes an afterthought…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jeff Cranston — …in terms of assimilation and things like that. We we expect people to visit our churches but we we have no expectations of ourselves to follow up with them, and help them plug in. So those 5 things have really helped us to stay focused, on task, balanced, healthy, and healthy things grow.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. It’s just true.

Jeff Cranston — I mean it’s just a fact of life. If you’re a plant or a baby, it’s just true. And the same thing’s true in church.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so what does that look like? So I love that, first of all. I think that’s you know that’s ah, a really good overview, and and look at you know those five areas. Um, what does that look like from your point of view when how how do you keep the church focused on those five areas. How do you keep your team, and your volunteers, and your programming, and ensure that you’re not off balance, that you’re not, you know… Or or is it okay in some seasons to be kind of more focused on one than the other, but on whole you’re trying to keep to all five? Talk us through that. How do you keep us focused on that?

Jeff Cranston — When we were smaller, I tried to find a volunteer champion for each one of those five.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Jeff Cranston — So okay, your job as ah as a high capacity volunteer is helping new people to connect. I’ll take care of the gospel part, and training people to evangelize and things like that, and we’ll proclaim the gospel from the in our teaching and so forth, but can you help people to to connect to the church? And then somebody else, can you help people to grow in their faith? And um, you know and when I was a solo pastor is helping them do that, then as we grew we staffed specifically for those five purposes. And now that you know we’ve got 30-some on staff now, ah all those areas are are well covered.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — And so that’s how that’s how we have done it. And you know we the things you think are most important and the things you value, you will put your horsepower behind, you will put your finances behind. And and so we we have just done it that way and make sure that the folks who are leading the charge in those areas have have what they need to do it well. And and we we still talk about it 24 years later. We still you know I look back, and my executive Pastor Jason Best and I, we just sometimes joke, man, we’re still here. What we’re still doing is, you know…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — …if you came to our church twenty years ago we were still doing this stuff back then. And like I said, we just plodded along. And it’s, you know, God has gratefully blessed it and and and we’ve stayed fairly healthy throughout.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. You know, I was I was joking with a church leader, friend probably a year ago and and um, you know, he was reflecting on the Church of the Highlands and Growth Track. And was like you know, really excited about their ah, you know their Growth Track thing and and was commenting—this is one of those times when I realized oh I think I’ve been in this for too long—um because he was reflecting on, man, isn’t that just so innovative? And I was like it feels very much like the the Purposes conversation we’ve been having for a long time. Hey maybe we should push people through a series of very clearly defined steps, or you know run the bases, whatever the framework… The framework can change a little bit obviously…

Jeff Cranston — Sure.

Rich Birch — …ah but I but I love that. Um, what does that look like for you guys? I know you do have kind of classes for each of those, but talk us through at like if if I was a part of the church, what does that experience look like for for someone who’s attending?

Jeff Cranston — Well, we we have what we call core classes…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Jeff Cranston — …and I’m sure most of the listeners, you know, and their and their ministries have very similar things. So we just we just ask them to come to the Connect class first, and that’s where we share our vision and values. And we do that, um we have three services: 8:30, 10 and 11:30; we offer that at 10am on per…

Rich Birch — Every week?

Jeff Cranston — Every month.

Rich Birch — Most weeks. Every month. Okay.

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, except for the summer, and except for December, and you know there’s always…

Rich Birch — Yep, sure. Yeah, like 10 times 9, 9, 10 times a year, something like that.

Jeff Cranston — Ah yeah, yeah, but we we do keep that one going. And then we we have another core class for grow, reach, serve, and worship. And ah we don’t care what order they take those in.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Jeff Cranston — But that’s part of our discipleship path ah for for folks. And you know when we when we get a man and what we found something, Rich, just in the last year that’s really been working for… So with the Connect class, they come in at ten o’clock they they go to class together, and we’ll have anywhere between 40 and 100 people in in that Connect class. Then we tell them, and we tell them this all ahead of time via video, we get them to register and and they do it. And then we say okay, we’re going to we’re going to go as the Connect class and go worship together at the 11:30 service. And we thought well they’ll never do that. They walk down there en masse and it’s hysterical because when you walk out, speak, or sing, or whatever, you look over here to the right, here’s all these people sitting there with their name tags on, so you know their Connect class people.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jeff Cranston — And then after the service, we take them right back into the other auditorium where they had the class and we feed them lunch. And I speak for about 5 minutes to them because our executive pastor does the class. And then ah my wife and I, and his wife and and her and then we we ask all of our staff to be there for at least the first 15 or 20 minutes to meet folks. So then our goal is to meet every person, every couple there. And we are finding a very, very high retention rate.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — Ah and and people do it.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — They’re giving us from about ten o’clock to one o’clock on a Sunday, which has surprised us. But most of the time we when we talk to them they’ll say, we’ve never experienced this in any of the other churches we’ve been in. Or people that are new to church world or you know new to the faith, they don’t know any different.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Jeff Cranston — They just sort of think it’s expected, you know?

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — But that’s been very helpful. And then we those other classes and then there’s other corollaries out of the other other core classes throughout the year in terms of bible studies, or seminars, or conferences, or… And then we we do quarterly worship nights and that’s that’s part of that worship core as as well.

Rich Birch — I love that. And you know for folks that are listening in the thing there’s a number of things to pull out there. That this idea of a regular, of clear and obvious step that people should take. You’d be amazed at how many churches don’t have that.

Jeff Cranston — Right.

Rich Birch — It’s like so I’m kind of new around here, what do I do? And it’s like ah here’s 12 things you could do. Like no, no, no – you you go to Connect class. That’s this that’s the first thing. I also love to and I wanna underline something you said there, you know, how involved your whole team is – the fact that you and your executive pastor, it’s a core part, you know he’s going to teach at it. You’re there to say hi at least at the beginning, which again church, friends, is a church of 2000 people – that’s a big commitment for you. You got lots of stuff to do on on a Sunday.

Rich Birch — Ah, and then the fact that you ask your staff, hey at least show up, be here. This is important this is and all of that weight communicates to people, hey you should, you know, be a part of this thing, be a part of this thing. I love that. That’s that’s so good. That’s that’s fantastic.

Jeff Cranston — And we we try to get them before they leave that, we we try to get them to commit at some level to a next step.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — It might be to serve as a greeter, because anybody, if you can smile, you can serve as a greeter.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — Now some people can’t smile and we don’t want them to do that.

Rich Birch — [laughs] That’s great.

Jeff Cranston — But you know we all have those folks in our churches.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Jeff Cranston — Or you know the next the next class which will be offered, you know, the next week, the next core class. Or the next month and so we we do have an assimilation process from from that. It’s not always successful. But it it really is working. We’re seeing some really good benefits from that over the last twelve to fifteen months. You know, because like everybody else, when we were coming out of covid, you had a chance to restart…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — …a lot of things.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — And we we just re… that was one of the things, we just we killed what we were doing before…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — …and came up with this new idea. And we love it, and people really seem to appreciate it.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well pivoting in a little bit of a different direction, I noticed ah you know the Kitchen Table Theology ah podcast. And as a podcaster I know ah, that that’s a big commitment to try to do that. You regularly produce content there and, you know, this is above and beyond content than than your weekend services. Ah why did you start that? Talk us through that. You know, as um as a leader at the church, give us a sense of what what was driving that.

Jeff Cranston — I think the last five or ten years, and and I celebrate forty years in ministry in ah next month actually.

Rich Birch — Congratulations.

Jeff Cranston — It’s hard to believe because I’m only… thank you – I’m I’m only 34 years old.

Rich Birch — Yeah, how did that happen?

Jeff Cranston — So it’s amazing how that how that happens but…

Rich Birch — [laughs] Love it.

Jeff Cranston — I’ve I’ve just seen, you know, and it it’s I couldn’t ah I couldn’t ah put hard numbers to it, but I just sensed a growing illiteracy biblically among people in the pew. Non-christians coming to the faith you can understand that. But these are people who’ve been in church for years. Um, can’t tell you the names of the books of the bible. You know one guy said just I said, you know, can you tell me the names of the books of the bible and just interested. And um he just he just holds up his phone, and he says why would I need to memorize it? Well, there’s some things you ought to memorize.

Jeff Cranston — And um so as more I got to looking into it, figured out well hey this is really a thing. And then Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway do ah every two years do a state of the State of Theology in the American Church survey that is sickening and and staggering. It’s you know half of almost half of evangelicals—I don’t have the exact percentage in front of me, but it’s in the 40% range—believe Jesus was a good teacher but not God. These are evangelicals.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jeff Cranston — I mean and you go on and on. And I’m like, oh my goodness. So I’d been thinking about doing a podcast for a few years, but I didn’t have a clue. Well here came covid April of 2020. I said, well let’s do it. So we started it then. And I just I was going to try to do 100 podcasts, and just teach systematic theology. And we call it Kitchen Table Theology because I we want to make it understandable and put the theological cookies on the bottom shelf so if you and I were sitting at the kitchen table, having a cup of coffee, and we wanted to talk about the things of God, um, this is the level of conversation we would have. And it’s yeah it it’s taken off a little bit. It’s found a it’s a niche niche audience. But I have I think last year we touched 39 different countries.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s amazing. That’s so cool.

Jeff Cranston — And yeah and it’s it’s amazing to me. And so we just do something every week. So we’ve taught all of the -ologies, and now right now I’m going through every book of the bible, and giving them a little bit of background, and pulling some of the theological themes out of every book. And we’re having a lot of fun with that. So that’s my little bit of throwing the starfish back into the ocean, you know, the old story?

Rich Birch — Okay, yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jeff Cranston — I I can’t fix everybody’s biblical illiteracy, but I can help some. And so that’s what we’re doing with it. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love It. Can you give me a sense of how that’s impacted either the leaders, maybe your staff, maybe you know people in your church? I would imagine this would be a helpful tool for people even at your church. I understand it’s reaching people all over the world. But what’s even the impact locally?

Jeff Cranston — I I have people every Sunday literally come up to me and just say, thanks so much for the podcast; I’m enjoying listen to it. I found it a couple of months ago. We went back to the beginning and we’re we’re listening all the way through. That that happens every week and and obviously the majority of our listeners are in our footprint, um or the numbers seem to indicate that. But um I’ve just been stunned by it because they’ve never had um, any sort of theological education.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — And even quite frankly, Rich, a lot of I just started seeing it in young men and women that we were considering to bring on staff.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jeff Cranston — I started, I wrote up about a half of a page, um Bible survey with about 7 questions. You know can you name me the 5 books of the Pentateuch? Can you tell me where the um, the Beatitudes are located in the Bible? Can you… No.

Rich Birch — Yeah, not rocket science stuff. Yeah, not…

Jeff Cranston — No.

Rich Birch — Yeah yeah, yeah. Right.

Jeff Cranston — Basic. I was almost embarrassed the first couple times I gave it to them. They couldn’t do it. And I thought, what are we producing…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston —…here, sending to our churches and they think they’re ready to go into ministry, and they literally don’t know the books of the Bible even. And so you know there’s there’s there’s young ministers you know in in my mind when we started this. It was for laypeople, and maybe people, even in ministry that didn’t have a real solid theological background. And yeah, so we’re very encouraged that it’s it’s helping a lot of people.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. I love the format. I think the length is great. I think your targeting is yeah and I think you’re bang on, obviously you’ve identified an an actual real issue. I think particularly in one of the there’s lots of upsides to the nondenominational movement. I’ve spent most of my time in nondenominational churches. There’s lots of upsides there, but one of the downsides is there isn’t a formal process by which people get like stamped with, yes, this person has some kind of basic level. And although there can be, you know, certain movements that maybe overstress that, there is a danger…

Jeff Cranston — Right.

Rich Birch — …of understressing that, you know?

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Like ah you know, in some ways it’s like maybe the the pendulum has swung too far. Speaking on the staff side, um, you know, talk me through how, you know, you’ve been in your church for, like you say two decades plus um, you know what have you learned over the years of a lot you know, keeping your staff aligned, keeping keeping them focused, keeping them kind of heading in the same direction. Give me a sense of what that looks like for you at LowCountry.

Jeff Cranston — Well, we try to keep the mission in front of ourselves on ah on a regular basis, keeping short accounts, talking with our some of our our our key, you know, staff in terms of pastors and ministry directors. Um, reminding them of, okay here’s you know, hey guys it’s sort of the old Vince Lombardi thing, every at the beginning of so of training camp every year. He’d hold up a football and say this is a football.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — And so a few times a year we kind of go back. Let’s let’s just remember why we’re doing what we’re doing here. You know, it’s to change lives through the message of Jesus Christ. That’s that’s what we’re doing here. And everything we do has to hit hit that some way, shape, or or form. Ah, we’ve been very intentional, Rich, the last few years ah about staff health. And we um, we we partnered with an organization called Best Christian Workplaces which has provided us with a survey.

Jeff Cranston — So we survey our staff, now this year will be the third year, on 8 key components. So what’s it like to work on the staff? Do you like working here? It it covers everything from, you know, is is the leadership inspirational to you, to is there a strategy that you think is sustainable and you understand it and you see where you fit into it? To, is there healthy communication sort of top down, but is there also healthy communication between staff members, and so so much more. And it and it gives you some hard numbers and you find out exactly where your staff are at.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — Ah and that can be good and bad.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — You know it can be if you’re insecure as ah, one of the top leaders, this is not the thing for you…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — …I can I can tell you. And so every year I I kind of take a very deep breath, you know, when we when we get the results. But it’s been very encouraging and you you do see where you’ve got a few holes, and you can shore those things up. And just giving them a voice as staff members I think is very helpful. And and in um, working with Tony Morgan and the Unstuck Group, and working with Best Christian Workplaces, we’ve developed our own culture code, and that has you know everybody had a voice in that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — And we came up with um, five key components of that culture code. And once a year, or sometimes well more than that, we’ll we’ll just walk through that on on staff meetings.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — Hey, let’s just remember… or you know, it happened it happened this past week we were talking about something in staff meeting, I can’t remember. And somebody said well you know what? That’s that really ties into this certain part of our culture code of us being courageous pioneers. That’s one of the things…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — …we will be courageous pioneers. And so this is a, you know, we’re kind of setting a new course here, and so to hear them connect what we’re doing back to the culture code and vice versa you you know it’s starting. You know it’s it’s it’s landing with them.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that.

Jeff Cranston — And that’s that’s kept everybody I think ah you know, rowing the boat in the same direction.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s so good. Like one of the things, and I’d love to talk a little bit more about the culture code. One of the things that we face as as a church is our, you know, our mission is, you know, is pretty clear. Jesus sets it out, you know, some version of reach more people, grow them in their relationship with Jesus. Like we all have some version of that. But how do we boil that down? What makes what we do unique? And then even more pointedly, how do we ask our staff to act? And so I love this.

Rich Birch — You’ve provided us with a copy of ah you know, kind of an overview of the culture code. So you you talked about one of them: we are courageous pioneers. There’s also, we are loyal to one another. We work hard. We play hard. We’re joyously ah, collaborative. And we so we are we are steadfastly committed to growth. I love those and there’s obviously a write up for each one of those. Which of these would you say has the most kind of like edge in the culture, has the most like ooh that actually is pushing us or maybe has a bit of ah, you know, maybe another way to think about it is an area that maybe has a little bit of disagreement, or you know provides the most kind of ah traction for you as you’re as you’re leading?

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, great great question. I think the one that is the most challenging and just how it fleshes out is we are joyously collaborative.

Rich Birch — Sure, talk about that.

Jeff Cranston — Because there are times when we are not joyously collaborative.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — And there are times you know, just being honest…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jeff Cranston — There are times when um, we want to silo. And one of the statements we have on here is we we neither allow nor accept a colleague to be siloed, or soloed.

Rich Birch — So good.

Jeff Cranston — But there are, you know, sometimes in our ministries we we get rather inward looking in our particular area, and we forget that what we do has an impact on three or four other ministry areas. And then that’s when you start to have some issues. So, having this written out and having everybody… and and they all sign every year in the personnel handbook, this is in there. So they they we ask them to read it every year, sign their name to it. So there’s a commitment at that little biddy level right there. But when we do hit the silos, or when they’re not being collaborative, or if some personalities are rubbing really hard against one another, then we can say hey look we have we look we agreed to this, right? Yeah I know. We we have. Okay, so it’s ah it’s a good place for us to begin those conversations, which has really proven to be helpful. And and and at the end of the day, so far, you know it it works out, and everybody gets back on the same page again. And sometimes an apology is made. Or other times hey you know, um man I didn’t I didn’t realize; I just kind of forgot that that was going to affect A, B and C. Um, yeah, we’ll pull this back and we’ll kind of do a reset, and let let’s let’s work together on this.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s cool. That’s ah, yeah I love that. And again, friends, we’ll we’ll put that in the show notes. I do think it’s a good thing for you to ah to download, to take a look at, to wrestle through. Um you talked a little bit about that you kind of got everybody in on that. Can you tell give us kind of an overview of what that process looked like? How did you actually gather those? How did you narrow it down? Yeah, what did that look like.

Jeff Cranston — Oh that’s a that’s a really good question.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jeff Cranston — We we got in a room. Um, and we we brought different people in throughout the week, and I think a lot of that was coming with our work with The Unstuck Group with Tony Morgan. And we just started to talk about, well, what’s really…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — …let’s let’s just boil it down. What’s really important to us as a staff team? What what do we want to be engaged with together, as we do ministry here in this demographic in this footprint at this particular church? And it it came out of the belief, Okay look God has God has meshed all of our lives together to be in this one place at this one time. What is what should that look like? And you know we prayed, we took time, we took months. And then we started to craft some language. And we were just we were starting out by putting keywords on the board. You know collaborative went on the board pretty quickly. Grow growth went on the board pretty quickly. Um, Loyalty went on the board pretty quickly.

Jeff Cranston — I remember us spending a half forty five minutes an hour talking about where we finally got on the the word pioneers. We yeah, we had all kind of things. We we knew what we wanted – we couldn’t find the right words. So we started with the key words and then we we built out around that with with a statement, like we work hard and we play hard. And we and I’m thinking quite frankly is is this really one of the things?

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — You know is that really that important?

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — But it it really is. And and our staff survey you know year after year when we survey them, they love working together and they have fun. You know we’re we’re of the mindset to take God extremely seriously, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jeff Cranston — So we we just we just play together.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s so good. Well and and you know that’s why it’s important to get, you know, a number of voices, the right voices around the table. Because sometimes as leaders, you know, it’s like the fish not seeing the water. We’re just in it. We see it and and and…

Jeff Cranston — Yeah.

Rich Birch — We see it from our perspective and getting other people in the room help us like oh yeah, okay. Because you were just like, isn’t that isn’t that everybody? Isn’t everybody work hard and play hard? No not everybody works hard and plays plays hard. So I love that. That’s so good.

Jeff Cranston — Yeah, and we’re all doing all this activity, ministry activity, and I think it’s very healthy to you pull everybody together, hit the pause button and just say why?

Rich Birch — Right.

Why why are we doing what we’re doing?

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — And if you start to get, well we did this last year. That’s no good anymore.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — Last year doesn’t work this year.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Jeff Cranston — So let’s just let’s just get back to the why, and get back down to some basics. And um man, you know good things really will pop up out of it. And then they feel that they have a voice and you can see their energies levels rising as they begin to think outside the box a little bit. And ah you know and you you get different people in the room with ministry areas that maybe don’t necessarily work together all the time. And now now here they are collaborating on, you know something that’s affecting all of us in our day-to-day ah ministry.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jeff Cranston — So yeah, that that’s been very helpful for us.

Rich Birch — So good. Well this been a fantastic conversation. Anything else you’d you’d love to share just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Jeff Cranston — Well I I really appreciate the time to be here, and I would just encourage everybody listening if you’re you’re in a ministry of whatever type or kind to just please continue to proclaim the gospel. And never ever allow church work to get you away from the gospel. And let’s go back to the keep the main thing the main thing. Everything everything else has to be an outgrowth of the gospel.

Rich Birch — So good.

Jeff Cranston — And you know we we get ourselves into trouble when we get away from that. And I think in this day and age, ah the American Church has drifted so much more toward experience on a Sunday, you know? And people walking out, well did you like the service?

Rich Birch — Right.

Jeff Cranston — You know, we’re um I don’t get a soapbox but you know what you know what I mean? You’re not here to like the service.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Jeff Cranston — You know we’re here to worship the true and living God…

Rich Birch — Sure. Yes.

Jeff Cranston — …and to sit under the teaching of the word and and and worship and sing and all of that. But we’ve we’ve become so experience-oriented and I think it’s caused that drift away from doctrinal truth and all that. And there can be a really wonderful beautiful marriage of the two, but my my encouragement would be let’s stick to the gospel.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good, brother. Appreciate it, Jeff. What would what else would you or if we want to send people to a place online to track with you, with the church, give them the various addresses, where can they find the podcast as well for folks that want to, you know, tune into that. Give us some of the places we want to send people online who want to track with you.

Jeff Cranston — Sure, thank you. Um Kitchen Table Theology. Anywhere you listen to podcast you’ll find Kitchen Table Theology with Jeff Cranston is what it says. And then our church is lowcountrycc,

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jeff Cranston — You can also go to and ah you can find all this stuff somewhere among those three that we’ve been talking about, yeah.

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much. Jeff, I really appreciate you being here today. I thank you so much for your help and, yeah, appreciate be on the show.

Jeff Cranston — Thank you, Rich. It’s been a delight.

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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.