Moving Beyond the Stream of Church Online with Jay Kranda

Thanks for joining us for this episode of the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Jay Kranda, the online pastor of Saddleback Church in California.

Digital ministry is here to stay and churches need to think about how to move beyond just managing their weekend stream to actually connecting people online to the church and each other. Listen in as Jay Kranda shares how to focus on closing the back door of your church online experience rather than focusing on having a huge front door with a lot of subscribers.

  • Define your wins. // Saddleback has moved away from the term online campus to embrace online community instead. This is an important shift because of how they define their wins when it comes to digital ministry. Digital ministry can look very different from one church to another based on a church’s objectives and strategy. The main objective for the online community team at Saddleback is to provide church for people that live thirty miles away from one of their physical locations.
  • More than streaming services. // Jay is commonly asked how there are so many people who engage with the church from far away. Aside from the fact that Saddleback is a well known church around the world, Jay has been developing systems and teams for ten years now and so he has built the online community to be more than just watching streams of the service. Just as physical church is more than a building, don’t limit church online to merely watching a service on YouTube. Take time to begin developing more robust systems, people, and teams to support an online community.
  • Meeting spaces online. // Create a Facebook group where you can interact with each other like a community of churchgoers would in a physical space. You might not see each other in person because you live in different states or countries, but you can still be a community online and create connection. Work on developing and investing in a community here week after week and you will begin to see a return over time.
  • Focus on smaller events and connections. // Don’t worry about the big streaming numbers when creating a place for online viewers to interact. Focus on small events and one-on-one Zooms that allow you to offer pastoral care and develop people. Offer online classes for things such as membership. Host some kind of monthly or quarterly 45 minute Zoom where you talk to new people about how to engage with the church and answer their questions. Many people are not walking through a church’s doors anymore, and they want to figure out who you are before they visit in person.
  • How far you reach. // When deciding how to staff for church online, first take a look at your online audience. How many people watch services on each platform? Run a report on how many people are within an hour drive of your church and how many are outside that. Over the last two years, how many have given to your church that live an hour away? That will help you determine how to invest in your strategy and if this is a local outreach, a farther away, or a hybrid. Jay recommends that most churches think locally.
  • Hire a team. // Too much of the online pastor or director’s time has been focused on just project managing the weekend stream. Have a media team that can help with this part to allow the online pastor to be a pastor and connect with the online audience. Make sure to cast vision for the online pastor and define the win. An example of a win for a local audience would be to connect the digital to the physical and be thinking about how to move people from online to an actual physical location. Connect your win to your church’s strategy.
  • Keep the online groups healthy. // One of the big game-changers for Saddleback’s online team was to move people into online groups and begin connecting them with each other. To keep groups healthy, Saddleback has certain requirements that have to be met. One of the goals is for every leader of online groups to become a member of the church and go through the online class within the first 60 days. You can create an online group and invite your friends, but Saddleback won’t plug new people into your group if you’re not a member of the church, and agreeing to their covenant. They also make sure the group leaders are regularly talking to them, and that they take an online leadership training class for groups.
  • Double your focus. // Evaluate how many hours a week you spend thinking about your digital ministry and aim to double it this year. Recruit people from your church who are skilled in this area whether they are coders, marketing strategists, or have a large social media following. Hold a digital summit event at your church, cast vision, and find talent at your church that can help you double down on digital ministry.
  • Go beyond streaming. // Jay has a free download, Online Church: How to Go Beyond Streaming Service to Bringing People into the Body. This download helps people think about how to structure their online church and get beyond just streaming services.

You can connect with Jay at and find a free digital mini-course on how to think about digital ministry.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, friends welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have tuned in. Super excited for today. Ah, you know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you; today’s no exception. Super excited to have Jay Kranda on. So Jay is one of those people – so we’re almost 600 episodes in and for years I’ve had a list of like people I want to have on and Jay is on that list right near the top. So super excited to have him with us. He is, if you don’t know, he’s the online campus pastor of a little church in Southern California that’s been around for a few years called Saddleback. Ah, was planted by Rick and Kay Warren; their first public service was in 1980. They currently have 14 locations—if I’m counting right—in California, a Chinese venue, 4 locations internationally, and a really robust online community, hundreds—I think close to a thousand—online groups. So many good things, and listen, it is the thing that’s great about ah Jay, he really is such an expert in this area and so generous around church online. Jay, welcome – so glad that you’re here.

Jay Kranda — Thanks for having me. Yeah, it’s you know it’s funny like when you say the location number, I don’t even keep up with how many we’re at, so I’m like trying to like I’m like I think that’s right. It sounds like you’re on our website right now and that sounds correct. Yes.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, we pulled that off – did a little research there. You know it’s true. I there is ah so The Meeting House a church I was at in Toronto for years, they precovid it had 21 campuses. And there’s somewhere around 6 or 7, when you get beyond that you’re like I just stop counting. There’s just there’s a lot of them, you know. So that’s ah, that’s so good. We’ll fill out the picture for us – kind of give us a bit of the Jay story. Tell us you know how do you fit into the overall, you know matrix there. You kind of talk us through that a little bit.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, so I I started at this church you know right out of actually the last year of college. And I started on our communications team, and I kind of came from a church of about 500, interned at Saddleback. So I’m the you know the glory story of starting as an intern and getting a job and being here for a long time, you know?

Rich Birch — Still there. Still on that internship.

Jay Kranda — Um I know. Still there. I know out of an end… I know still on the internship. It’s you know I you know I get free rent, I guess… No um, but you know I was like the classic guy who just kind of came to faith in high school and wanted to serve the church. And one of the interesting things was when I started they had this little thing called the internet campus about 12/13 years ago that they had somebody had started, but hadn’t really nobody was developing it. And fortunately, somebody at my church—one of our elders—connected me to a couple other churches, like Life Church and so forth, about thirteen years ago. And I just got really excited and and I I really one of the things that got me pumped was you know as somebody who had kind of only known smaller church contexts, I couldn’t believe they had like 500 plus people watching, and nobody was doing anything. I was just kind of you know, like my my mind that was you know, like I was in a youth ministry where we had like 80 kids. And we did a lot to get those eighty kids there.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

Jay Kranda — And so when they said like oh 500 people are watching this stream every week…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — …and I was just talking to somebody else about this – I remember in college… I’m trying to remember when it was—like 2007/2008—I remember I would watch, every once a while my like one my first my first computer that was like my computer was this like Toshiba deal, and I remember I would watch Louie Giglio’s like Wednesday or Thursday night college ministry. It was like 720 or something?

Rich Birch — Yes yes yep 722 I think it was called?

Jay Kranda — I don’t know if you remember this thing. is that I remember that was like the first stream that I ever like church stream like I watched.

Rich Birch — Yes, wow. Wow. Yes.

Jay Kranda — And I just couldn’t believe I was watching this thing in California…

Rich Birch — Right mind bent, mind blowing. Yes.

Jay Kranda — …that was happening like I think in Atlanta, and and it was just… so my brain when they told me about this, I was like I just remember I was impacted by that stream and it kind of started to unlock…

Rich Birch — There’s something here.

Jay Kranda — …like wow we could like do something here. It wasn’t that you know I didn’t know what I know now, but I just was really excited about that. And then yeah, just over the years we started to invest and then obviously of course covid hits and you know online stops being the side thing and becomes like the thing.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Jay Kranda — And now we’re in a season of okay, great now that we’re back in person, you know what is the structure? And so one of the biggest things we’ve done um over the last couple years has been we really moved away from online campus to online community. And we’re really trying to divide up what are the real wins? And so really like one of the things I… what happened during covid, I jokingly tell people now I reported to three different people through covid because we kept trying to do like the musical chairs, like does this work does this work? Does this work?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Jay Kranda — And um and I remember just we were having, I just we as a church kept having a lot of honest conversations about you know, yeah I always tell people that digital is is kind of like a multiverse like there’s so many ways that you could make this a win. So don’t lock in too quick too early just be very honest because I think what what it looks like for your church might look different from mine based off of your objectives and and your strategy. And so we really landed in on this idea that you know, my my and my team’s main objective is it is to provide church for people that live thirty miles away from one of our physical locations. And so if you were to draw a map out, everything around a 30 mile radius – even our internationals, everything within that goes to them, and everything outside is kind of unclaimed territory. It’s kind of I jokingly call it now like the it’s kind of like the west if you look at you know the United States and like everything west was just like no man’s land, like that would be our territory.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Jay Kranda — So if you fall within that territory technically I’m your first contact. Our team is your first contact…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — …and we’re the ones that will help either get you into another church, or you can engage with us. And so and then we started to launch, recently, more robust ways for to start church in your home, and so… And then if you live local, that’s where my team you know, kind of plays as a job as as kind of helping you figure out digital wins. We do play a little bit of a role helping our church figuring out digital. It’s a very minor role. It’s kind of more ad hoc projects. But I think that’s been the biggest change is just solidifying that and trying to figure out—I’m not gonna say like we know it exactly it’s It’s a little bit still of ah of a foggy mess, but I feel like I feel like we’re a little bit more clear.

Rich Birch — Yeah, okay I love that. I love that insight around the 30 miles piece. Ah you know we started doing church online in 2009, ao so like a few years after you know you guys have done that, and then obviously all of us ended up, whether we were into church online or not, in 2020 it was like: here it is! We’re you know we’re doing it now. And I think a lot of us are thinking about that question. I’d love to dive into that a little bit deeper. You know how should we, or where are you at I guess is probably a better question where are you add on really trying to to to divide those lines? I like the thirty mile thing. I also—just subtext, Jay—I know you feel this pressure, you know the entire team at Saddleback, they’ve got I don’t know what would be in the thirty mile radius there’s probably 50 million people maybe 45 million people. Jay and your team you’ve got 7 billion – you go for it. You can you know reach…

Jay Kranda — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — …Reach the rest of the world…

Jay Kranda — Yeah, yeah, that’s that’s that’s true. Yeah, that.

Rich Birch — …outside of you know 30 miles. So hopeful hopefully you’re being resourced well enough for to reach the seven billion. So but ah talk to us a little bit more about that. I love this idea of that kind of thirty mile line. What what led you to that? Because I think a lot of us are struggling with that – how do we integrate this into, you know, it was like for a while there we were offline/online; now we’re trying to do both. How does all that fit together? Work us through that in in your thinking – how that’s how that’s impacting you at Saddleback today.

Jay Kranda — Yeah I think you know—and and this is a common thing that I’ll be asked—like they’re like oh how do you have or like how does your church have so many people that engage with you far away? And and and I will say, obviously it’s because of who our pastor is, our church.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jay Kranda — You know those are the default things. The other thing is is that I’ve been in the online pastor for you know about 10 years. I’ve had a long time to develop systems, and people, and teams…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Jay Kranda — …and there’s really I’ve I’ve invested in a long time. And I always tell people that usually there’s something around, like they go like: we just have a bunch of people watching on our stream, but nothing else. And I always remind them, do you have anything else?

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Jay Kranda — Like like normally they’re just streaming their services, and there’s nothing. I go that’s like saying like you’re arguing about what church is and all you have is a building and you meet once a week. Like we know church is not…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — …that’s that. I was I was just ah I’ve been reading this book by Doug Es ah Douglas Estes the last couple days about SimChurch. It’s kind of an OG church online book from 2009, and and he talks about like the origin of of the the German word church is like literally like more building. But if you actually look at the biblical word, you know it’s obviously more of an assembly or a gathering of people, and sometimes we still lean heavy towards that German English…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — …you know, kind of root than the actual like ah Greek root. And um, so I think for us a lot of what we are trying to do is that we do have an objective where we want to provide church for people so we take that word seriously. So we look at our Ministry philosophy, our methodology, and we’re like okay, like okay here’s a and and usually it’s really best to go, OK, so how do you do this locally? Well we have a worship building for worship. Great. Okay, so we have that online. Okay, how do we do groups? Well, we need to build a resource groups where we’re not in the business of mailing and doing all this stuff. Okay, how do they connect with each other? I think that’s one of the biggest things that people underplay because it’s hard to invest in it.

Rich Birch — So good.

Jay Kranda — It’s a little bit of like come and see, that like church like when I go to church like me and my family when we go to church, we go to Saturday nights typically, because I hate getting up in the morning. And that’s the worst. Like that was something in seminary I should have been a red flag as a pastor like like I don’t.

Rich Birch — I don’t like getting up particularly on the weekends early.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, on the weekend like I don’t like getting up like to be at church at 9am on Sunday morning does not sound fun to me…

Rich Birch — Yes, love it.

Jay Kranda — …so I’m so glad my church has a Saturday night service…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — …and then I just schedule my team to be there on Sunday if if I have to be there, but just kidding.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — Kind of. So the but like like for example, like Facebook groups was a game changer for us because it allowed us to create a, I call it like a patio, where you could run in and talk to people. Because I don’t have the luxury of running in and talking to my people typically…

Rich Birch — Right, yeah.

Jay Kranda — Very rarely do I see somebody who’s part of my community. I might see local people who recognize me or know me, but they’re part of our Lake Forest campus or our San Diego campus.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jay Kranda — I remember I got to visit our um, our campus in in the Philippines in Santa Rosa and I remember like people knew me because they they’re in but they’re part of Santa Rosa they’re part…

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Jay Kranda — …they’re in the our Philip Philippines campus and so but I don’t get to run into the person who’s part of our community that lives in Toronto, or lives in Winnipeg…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — …or lives in Florida or wherever, so our our Facebook group was that became our space and we have about like 9000 people that are in our Facebook group and we treat it like a patio…

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Jay Kranda — …or the backroom of our church where hey, if you want to, and I tell people introduce yourself. And but was hard about that is you’re you’re expecting like okay, let’s say you got 10,000 people watching your stream and only 500 engage in your Facebook group, and that dropoff sometimes for people is like well how do I make that more? Well you gotta develop it. You gotta to invest in it. And and I always say don’t worry about the big number anymore, like the the key is like I call it like habit stacking kind of like how James Clear would say is: Can you get on a, can you create small events and one-on-one Zooms, and just the goal is to meet with 5 people a week on a Zoom…

Rich Birch — Right. Dude.

Jay Kranda — …and if you stack that over a course of 52 weeks it starts to actually be real church.

Rich Birch — Yes. Dude, I love this.

Jay Kranda — Because don’t worry about the big streams. Like think people get so wrapped up because they want to be in you know, like an Elevation or whoever, Life Church, like big… Like they’re killing it as evangelism like that’s what they’re doing, but like I get more excited about like the pastoral like developing people, but the only way you do that is you gotta have the coffees and for us that’s just Zooms. And and the other thing is if you start meeting with people one on one and like for example, we have classes. We teach our classes every month. We teach that every month on Zoom. And we have we have 3 classes right now, and we teach we probably only get like probably 40 people a month in our classes right now.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right, right.

Jay Kranda — But here’s the deal, like so if you might go, we might have let’s say 50,000 view our service in a week and only 40 people in a Zoom a month. But if I’ve been you know we’ve been doing classes for 4 years.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — That starts to accumulate it builds momentum…

Rich Birch — Yes, builds momentum dude I love this…

Jay Kranda — …and helping people. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Ah dude I love – your pushing us here in such the right direction and I want to dig into this a little bit more. So much of us… there was that phase in early covid—and I rolled my eyes at the time, so I hate to say I told you so—but I rolled my eyes at the time where like everybody was trying to figure out the stream number – they were like well you take the total number of streams and you multiply it by 1.7, and good friend of mine, Carey Nieuwhof, he was saying that, and then I was like dude come on, you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Jay Kranda — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Ah what should we be focusing on though – kind of you were hinting at some measurement stuff there. What are some of the things that we should be measuring on the community side? What are the things that yet you look at and say ooh we are actually moving forward in getting people. I love that 40 people in you know are your classes. What are some of those things that you think you kind of recommend to churches?

Jay Kranda — Yeah, so if if I was – and and again and and I think this is where philosophically depending you know there’s kind of a local church that’s just doing digital…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jay Kranda — …and then there’s like a church that is wanting to maybe build out way more for people that to engage from anywhere. And those are two different approaches. Both are really good strategies…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jay Kranda — …and but I think for for anybody who’s doing online I think even for the local church who’s just trying to do digital, right? I would say so many people are just not walking through your doors anymore, and they want to figure out who you are, and your stream is one way for them to discover who you are, but they want something more robust. And so I honestly—and I know I’m coming from a like you know anybody listening in this that knows Purpose Driven will go like well yeah, you’re gonna say that because you’re a Purpose Driven guy…

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Jay Kranda — …but which I I get – I do bleed that, but I think anybody online who really wants to take digital serious should consider hosting some kind of either monthly or quarterly like 45 minute zoom where you just talk about how to engage with you. And again, you don’t need to do it monthly based off of time and focus, but like especially online pastors like if I didn’t have class 101, which is our membership class, I would call it something else.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — And I would just be like hey, like for example, when I was a high school like pastor early on and I was actually shadowing my high school pastor, so I was like high school pastor and training. My pastor would do this dinner for 12 thing and he would get together every month new high school students and he would have dinner – he would have lunch at his house and it was a chance to interact with the pastor and his family. And then also he would bring student leaders like me and we would hang out. And it was like an informal time to get to know. And I think you need to have that online because what it is, is it’s a chance for for a new person so you get to say, hey if you’re part of our online community, you’re not sure where to engage, come to this Zoom on this date. It’s 45 minutes; we’ll answer your questions. And then I would just share a little bit about the church, here’s how to engage and then have Q and A. I would do something like that and then so I would measure, OK, great, this is how many people watch our service, but how many people are in that new Zoom type of class every month?

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jay Kranda — And and then I would I would measure how many people are active in a group? How many people are in like a Facebook community space? And then I would look at giving – giving for people beyond thirty miles. Because honestly like I I you know not to like make promises to people when you invest in this, but like our giving is substantial…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jay Kranda — …and it’s not because of me, it’s because we’re actually maturing people. Like your I mean like it’s through…

Rich Birch —Yeah, they’re taking steps closer to Christ and generosity is a part of that. Yeah, absolutely.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, yeah, they’re watching. They’re part of groups. They’ve taken classes, and out of that—now it didn’t it wasn’t like day one—but out of that people started to give, and you start to multiply that. So I think that there is through… now I think what a church has to figure out is you know what is the digital strategy if I’m a church of like 150 and I’m pulling off physical services. I would still say hey that membership class that you’re doing or that class you’re doing maybe once a quarter you do a Zoom for people, you know what I mean? Maybe not every month but you still host it in person every month. I think those are the tensions because people like me are structured very differently and so that’s where you have to figure out what does success look like? I just think people… I always I always go back to the like the Peloton example of like if you go on Peloton’s website um before I buy the bike I can take a free training class to see what they’re about.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — And I think a lot of people in the church like new people want to see what you’re about.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Jay Kranda — And the only thing we offer them a glimpse into our church is a worship service which unfortunately is not always the best first entry…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda —…because it’s assuming a lot. It’s assuming you know, certain things you know when to stand ,sit up, sit down. You know why am I worshiping about this blood song? You know what is this message? What you know, what what is where… Like you have other entry ways into your church like a membership class or something that’s a better first introduction. Is there a way to make that on demand? Is the way to make that a Zoom? You know stuff like that I would think about and then measure that.

Rich Birch — Love it. And and so this is one of those things I’ve been talking about you behind your back for years when people ask me about online and groups particularly, I always say well you follow whatever Jay does because it’s like you guys are actually doing this. You’re actually moving people into community. I want to come back to the group thing in a second, but I want to kind of pose pose to you like a theoretical question. Let’s assume I’m a executive pastor of a church of a thousand people and we’re trying to we’re we’re we’re not just like begrudgingly doing church online – we’re like we really want to do this. We want to take some steps. What should I be thinking about from like a staffing structure point of view? Like help us translate that so it’s not a church of a couple hundred. It’s a church of a thousand. I’m thinking I want to hire some people. I’ve got you know the youth guy who for the last two years has been doing church online. And um, do I move him out and say yeah, you should do that full time? What should I be thinking about from a staff structure point of view?

Jay Kranda — Yeah, so I would first just at a high level I would run ah like a report in your system…

Rich Birch — Okay.

Jay Kranda — …of like how many people like how many people who are watching you every week on your church online platform website, Youtube, everything – how many people are within a hour drive of your church, and how many people are outside? Just kind of get a lay of the land of kind of your audience. The other thing is try to figure out over the last two years how many people have given to your church that live an hour away from your church. Like just cause that will be a motivator. I will say for most people that’s like oh wow, like it’s either wow one way or wow the other way. So one thing cause I think that determines how to invest in the strategy.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jay Kranda — Is this a local strategy or is this a far away or is it a hybrid? Um and I do think most churches should think locally, like think local local digital lens. I I don’t think strategies like ours make sense for everybody. I think that’s that’s the focus. Now on the structure staffing I I think I definitely think you should be thinking about providing a ah provide some vision for that online pastor or that online director. And I do think at a church of a thousand plus should be thinking about making that full time. And but the key here is you gotta what are what is the win, and I think too much of their time has been focused on just project managing the weekend streams.

Rich Birch — So true.

Jay Kranda — And and as a as much as that’s important, you do need a point person to coordinate make that better. Like for example, like at our church, one of the things we’ve done a lot of since we’ve gone back to media in person is we’ve gone back, we’ve really taken live hosting very seriously, and and it does; it takes a lot of work. Um and like at a church our size a lot of coordination with our worship team and technical teams. And and we do we we live stream our our largest campus, our Lake Forest, and then all we do is we go live 3 minutes before and it’s a chance for the online team to talk and we do present it like, hey we’re hanging out at Lake Forest, but we’re talking to you online. Hey if you live local, you know, come here. And so so there’s coordination even on that strategy. But I think the larger win would be how do you make them, how do you make a local person, ultimately, how do you make their digital experience better to coming in person? So for example, one of the things you could work on is… I was talking to this church in Dallas that does this, where like their online person they schedule like a meet and greet once a month where, hey by the way if you’re—and they had one location so this was a little simpler…

Rich Birch — Easier to do, yeah.

Jay Kranda — …so but it was like—hey you know as the online pastor I would love to meet you here at my church so at the end of March after the 11:00 service I’m gonna be in the in the back of of our church – let’s meet. And that’s connecting like you’re digital to your local, and being very clear about what the wins are. And so they’re not just thinking about coordinate the stream they’re thinking, how do I move people online in to the actual physical. So they’re planning that but that takes somebody a lot of… like like for example, one of the things I’m trying to do is I’m trying to coordinate with different different campus pastors at our church, and I’m trying to do every month have a different campus pastor co-host with me, so I get to promote their location. But that takes—and I think this is where I would encourage a ah an executive pastor or senior pastor—kind of give creative scope to your your online pastor, not just to host this thing, but to actually how does it connect to your church’s strategy. So for example, my church is about our locations. Like I know that. And so I’m like hey, what if I, and so I’m thinking what if I cohost and I just bring in a different location once a month.

Rich Birch — So good.

Jay Kranda — And that promotes it. The other thing is you know what what are better integrations experience. So ah, the last thing is like we launched this Plan a Visit experience recently which is a total beta new thing where. I wanted, instead of just going to slash locations and picking and showing up, I wanted them to actually plan a visit and I wanted, we wanted it to be we were talking as a church we wanted to be text-based where you’re actually texting with somebody at that campus. So it’s more personal. So launching that. And so like hey, focus in on making this experience better. What are the features and the things, because we didn’t have a good call to action from the weekend, I felt like. Because I hated saying, hey come to our church – just go to I get to say, hey come to our church go to which was way more clear. But those are the things that I think with staffing and structure you do gotta figure out, do you want it to be a campus, or more an extension of your local? Um I think campuses are okay. I like the extension of local. This is why we lean into community – our online community because community means the diffusion of our local and are online. And I don’t—I’ve struggled and I know some would disagree with me on this—I think online campus communicates the wrong value. I think it communicates that you want them to stay online, and that might be your church’s strategy, which you know, that’s okay. I think that there are expressions of that that can look more sound. For us, we ultimately want them, even online, to be doing person in doing their expression of church in-person. So, for example, if you live far away, at the end of our funnel is that you’re starting a group in your home and you’re watching the services physically. That’s our strategy. So I Think if if you’re not in on that win of people staying online, I would really consider going away from online campus, personally, but but that’s a larger debate to be had.

Rich Birch — Yeah, there’s ah, there’s a lot there for sure in that conversation. Um I love – let’s talk about that funnel. Let’s talk about moving people towards groups. Um, you know I think this is an area where Saddleback you for years have led. You know, recently over the last say four or five years I’ve loved watching so many churches get fired up about Growth Track, you know out of Church of the Highlands.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — And you know, ah my my running joke is a person who’s you know, almost three decades in ministry I’m like yeah, like that’s called 101, 201 like you know, Saddleback’s been doing that for years. And so it’s not surprising to me that it works because we’ve seen you know, just a real you know, I love that so fantastic, but so I I think people people who are listening in have a sense of whether it’s run the bases or whether it’s Growth Track, moving people from weekend to a you know, some sort of experience that lets people know, you know, engages them in their faith. But how are you moving them to then actually saying okay I want to lead say a Zoom group and then ultimately maybe to leading an in-person group with friends. Can you kind of talk us through what that looks like? I know there’s a ton there – we could talk for hours on that. But give us kind of the overview on that piece.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, and you know obviously before that there was catechism.

Rich Birch — Yes, exactly. I yeah I understand that yeah, it’s exactly exactly.

Jay Kranda — So so so so you know it’s funny like these things are you know again, whatever you call it, I just think you got to have a another venue or another space. I usually I ah, used to talk about this as like you kind of have your large group experiences which is your worship services, then you have your medium experiences, which might be like you know your family center or your patio, your church, then you have you’re small, which is like you know in ah in a room, or maybe over coffee. And the question is how do you do that online when you need different rhythms and you need different spaces to kind of facilitate that. So yeah, so for us, you know it’s funny when we first started doing this I was I was just a small group’s pastor, and I would jokingly say I would jokingly say that I was just kind of like an affinity leader at my church where we had our women’s director, our men’s director and then we had like the online director…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes yeah.

Jay Kranda — …and my job was just to make sure the streams work and just whatever that entailed like and then I was over all of our online only groups and I was just I just kind of was a venue at our church early on. And I literally reported to our small group’s pastor at our church and over time as we started to expand that I think what I’ve really learned is that if I could get somebody online in a group with other people, their care is way more sustainable and healthy. So like for example, my team is not huge but I have I have a team of of 4, and 3 of them are small group pastors…

Rich Birch — Right. Okay, love it.

Jay Kranda — …and essentially 80% of their job is to make sure our groups are healthy. So each of them have about 500 or so groups. And so most of their job is just to contact those groups every month…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Jay Kranda — …and just build that team. Because pretty much like like I have our worship service, but I will say at scale, our worship service is very easy to manage at scale.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Jay Kranda — Like it’s not the same like to think that to have ten plus thousand people watch to think that’s the same as one of our local campuses where they have 300 people, it’s not this like it’s so much easier.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.

Jay Kranda — So much so I don’t have to do a lot on the weekend outside of like physically being present to host and maybe troubleshoot and just make sure stuff is working, which can be a headache. Um but that works so a lot of our time is is getting people into groups, and so it’s for example, like that’s like a lot of my early time like… One of the game changers—and and I I haven’t said this a lot—but like one of the game changers of how we started a bunch of online groups was I signed up for a click funnel account…

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, yeah. Sure.

Jay Kranda — …and I literally created a funnel of like you want to start a group. Ah, you want to join a group. Great, hey have you thought about starting a group? And I would create I created funnel pathways…

Rich Birch — Yep, love it.

Jay Kranda — …and I remember like our old school model was, and our church’s world class at this, but you had to go out and talk to somebody and do all this and I remember I remember one week and we started like 70 groups or something through this click funnel process and I remember like somebody coming like how did that, Jay, how did that happen?

Rich Birch — What did you do? Yeah, yeah.

Jay Kranda — And I was like well people already know what they want and I’m just funneling them…

Rich Birch — Yep towards that.

Jay Kranda — …I’m just fine and and I remember now we’ve moved away recently from click funnels and we built this out but like, I think too many times people like their call to action is to… like here’s the deal users online have gotten a lot smarter and they don’t want to talk to somebody.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s a good insight.

Jay Kranda — …like I was just like yesterday I had a I signed up cause I’m like an old man now or I’m getting older and I had I signed up for life insurance and or term insurance…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — …and I remember the company that I used, Protective or something I I got locked out of my account and they forced me to call somebody to unlock it. And I was like I literally like I’m not like a grumpy person with like agent people…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jay Kranda — …on the phone because I know that they’re not getting paid that much, but I was like why do I have to call you?

Rich Birch — Yes, this seems so backwards. Yes.

Jay Kranda — Like it but think about all these complex things that are church that you are forced to go out to a table, or talk to somebody. And I guess my my thing is is that I understand why that’s needed and a good concierge experience and it’s always good to build it have an option. But I think if you spend the time and record a video and explain it on a page, people can figure it out on their own, and guess what if you do that now people could do it all waking hours of the day. That’s the power of the internet. That’s the power up online. And how many times do people oh let’s just talk Sunday, and if you go to, for example, people watching this, if you go to what we just launched this new experience on – if you go to, if you go to our our community page, you’ll see like we have a video where we explain how to engage, and how to sign up for a group…

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah, yeah, right.

Jay Kranda — …and how to take class 101, and how to start a watch party, get an extension, and we just lay it all out. And funny thing if you invest in a video and in text explaining it and easy ways to start it people will do it…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, right. Right.

Jay Kranda — …even when you’re not on it. It’s it’s like starting a business. People will buy the product because it’s on the page. And so I think most pastors and churches haven’t thought about that process. And so I think that’s been… and then ah, there’s a lot of reinforcement you’re and I mean like our Facebook group reinforces that. The hosting reinforces that. Our website reinforces that. The weekly emails I send reinforce it, because ultimately what I’m asking somebody far away, I’m asking them to watch every week and engage. I’m I’m asking them to be in our Facebook group, to take some of our classes one time on Zoom. I’m asking them to be in a small group, and I’m asking them ultimately to host something in their home called an extension. And that’s ultimately what I’m I’m doing.

Rich Birch — You moving towards them. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jay Kranda — And so there’s a lot of repeating and and honestly that’s what my pastor and our church is brilliant at is that we repeat that stuff a lot and we don’t overcomplicate it. I think what gets harder online is there are the harder thing to figure out is what do you do with people spread out. So for example, we do something special where we do we do something called Meetups where we will pick pick geographical regions and somebody on my team their job is to focus on this, where once once… Like it’s probably 2 to 3 times a month we’ll say hey everybody who lives in Canada, we’re gonna meet on Zoom. And the goal of that is to connect people to each other. And and the ultimate goal was maybe maybe you could start a group with somebody, but we do these Meetups which that’s probably the biggest difference between our our local campuses and us online is we don’t have concentrated groups of people just I could just connect with each other. I have to in our Facebook group, in these Zoom Meetups, I have to we have to host special programming in order to connect people to to each other. And then what like as you know like Canada’s huge so it’s like wait I’m over here…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, right.

Jay Kranda — …and you know I’m in Vancouver and like we’re not near so what do we do? Well we have to host a sub-Meetup, you know what I mean? And so and then sometimes like we’ll do a Meetup and only 3 people come on that thing and but guess what those 3 people start a group together. And so that’s probably the biggest difference. I don’t know if I answer the full question but that’s kind of where I will.

Rich Birch — No, it’s good. I love that. That got me thinking about—if you got a few more minutes I’d love to tap this question—the care of those groups. So help me understand the the tending. Um I I understand from a staff point of view that sounds like a coach level kind of like, hey we’re keeping on top of them, caring for the leaders, making sure they’re still meeting, trying to you know… Give us a sense of what that rhythm looks like for your team as they’re caring for those groups.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, it’s funny. We were just in a conversation a couple weeks ago and we were talking about what’s working, what’s not working. And one of the things I always struggle with with online is is the deep care for people, like where are our real gaps. Because ultimately like I always go to that James verse about you know as a teacher and a leader of the church I’ll be accountable for the people under my care and I think I’ve always struggled with, okay what do I do with somebody you know, a state a country over who sees like they’re part of our church, like they’re members, and they give and they’re part of a group, like what type of care am I offering? And and you know can I marry, bury them? Can I is there a benevolence option? Like what counseling crisis, like what you know… Because because there are to act like everything’s figured out I think is so naive. And I think sometimes when people argue about online church and online ministry, digital ministry… I ah like I texted a lot of friends during Covid who were pretty hardcore online, which they’re my friends, so I understand where they’re coming from, because I feel like sometimes online guys and and and women leading in this effort, they’re so focused on justifying because they’re so been like beat down…

Rich Birch — Yeah, they… yes sure.

Jay Kranda — …that sometimes they get too extreme. And um, you know they’re they’re they’re literally like like I always tell people like DJ Soto during VR church, like he is a he’s literally like a modern day evangelist. So he’s out in the Bush doing something totally different …

Rich Birch — Yes, yep, yep. Love DJ.

Jay Kranda — …and it’s like reading Peace Child, like you’re not even, like to think you understand their paradigm, you you just don’t.

Rich Birch — Yeah, Yes, yeah, true. That’s very true.

Jay Kranda — Like you don’t like and so like as much and so but I also will text I text people during Covid like, hey guess what being online only and not having physical relationships—I’m a homebody get Covid sucked, like it was not fun the whole time like being stuck at home—like there are gaps to this.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jay Kranda — And so I think so so to say all that, one of the things that we do is we do try to connect people to each other. And the way we measure this as ah as a whole is um, a couple things. We have a goal to make sure every leader of a group is a member of our church, like has taken that Zoom class, so they know what it means. So we don’t require you to be a member initially but over the first 60 days you have to be a member. We also don’t plug people into your group if you’re not a member.

Rich Birch — Mmm, oh that’s a good distinction. Yeah, right.

Jay Kranda — So your group could start off of like if you and your friends want to start a group and you’re you know you’re in Toronto and you want to do that great. Go start a group. But if you want me to plug people in your group, I have to know that you know what we believe, and you’re agreeing to our covenant. Like now you and your group—so the idea is that you’ll just mess up the people you already know, you’re…

Rich Birch — Sure, sures sure. Yeah, yeah, yes.

Jay Kranda — …and I mean this is kind of like the, you know, the raw explanation of that. And so you have to be a member, the leader with that… So we have a goal so we might have 1500 groups, but how many of those groups are actually members, and so that’s like the big goal. The next goal is, are you regularly talking to us? Like and we define that by like a 45 day range…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — and so if you stop talking to us um we’ll like tag you in a way…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — …that will remove you from our finder, and then we’ll ultimately we’ll delete your group.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jay Kranda — And so we’re very active. So we might start you know you know a couple hundred groups a year, but we also delete you know a hundred groups a year, you know what I mean? So it’s like so we have a lot of growth. But there’s also a lot of purging happening at the same time, because because part of a high growth mindset, you know, you’re gonna it’s kind of like it’s like Wikipedia. It’s like you’re going to have a lot of messed up pages every once in a while, but I think it’s controlled chaos a bit.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jay Kranda — The other thing is we do teach a leadership class on like how to lead a healthy group which is taught via Zoom and we actually teach two versions. So when I look at our groups, we might have 1500 groups, but how many of those groups are members, how many of the hosts are members, how many of them are regularly talking to us, and how many of them are taken our leadership training. And if they do those things, then I start to go great. And we look at it, okay, great. You know, what—I’m just saying this like—let’s say 1200 of our groups out of 1500 are members. Okay, what’s going on with the other 300?

Rich Birch — Yeah, let’s talk about it. Yeah.

Jay Kranda — And then let’s say only 500 are taking our leadership. Well why is nobody taking this class? Is the class not relevant? Is it not helpful? Um, for example, one of the things we problem solved recently was we teach our class our membership class on Sunday afternoons pacific time, and I knew we were missing a lot of our international. So we’re teaching a Friday night Asia kind of specific class and we’re gonna do that twice a year to kind of help our more international people because Sunday at 2, you know, it is a hard time because it’s going to be like late late you know Europe time, and it’s going to be you know, early morning Asia, you know, time. And so I think those are the things we struggle with being an international kind of impact…

Rich Birch — Yep yep.

Jay Kranda — …but that’s how we measure the health of our groups like kind of at at a high level.

Rich Birch — Dude, that’s so good. So helpful. This has been such a good conversation. I’m going to beg you to come back on in the future, because there’s so much we could talk about, but I do want to respect your time. You’ve given us a great resource that we’re going to pass on to people. It’s a fantastic ah PDF called Online Church: How to Go Beyond Streaming a Service to Bringing People into the Body. One of the things, friends, that you’re as you’re listening in, you’ve heard clearly that I just love about you, Jay, is hey this isn’t about managing, or maybe it’s we need to move beyond just managing the weekend stream. We need to move beyond just how do we make sure that that works. We got to dive so much deeper. Tell us a little bit about this resource; give us a kind of ah um, why we should download this and yeah, just give us a bit of insight into that.

Jay Kranda — Yeah, this was a an ebook that I worked on with our kind of our training team at our church um during Covid. It was just kind of outlining some framework around how to think about online church How to like structure it. So it’s very raw. It’s I mean it’s very like philosophical, and then there’s some very practical things. But it’s it’s there to kind of get you thinking. I really want I really encourage pastors to just get beyond streaming because I think it it is like the eye candy. You know people want to have a big stream, a lot of subscribers which I get, and I think that’s good, but you could have a huge front door but lose everybody through the back door. And I actually think if you focus on the back door first, I think you’ll long term because what happens is when you move people around the bases, or whatever your your approach is, you you actually train people to evangelize, which will ultimately grow your front door.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Jay Kranda — And I think we actually we’ve we’ve benefited greatly on being a very deep place for people to connect, which ultimately people invite. And so I actually credit most of our successes just personal evangelism than any… Because we we spend money on ads and we do things but it’s very a fraction compared to a lot of other churches our sizes and so I think this is a kind of give you a framework to start thinking about it.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good, Jay – I appreciate this. I really appreciate you being on. Anything else you want to say just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Jay Kranda — Yeah I I was I would just kind of say, you know I would look at your church and think about how many hours a week do people actually think about digital right now, like at your church. Like think about it, like this is how many hours we do ministry, like put your hours in their – volunteer hours, total it all up and kind of go, okay, you know what, of all of our hours. We only have one hour a week we actually think about digital. And my encouragement to you as a church—I know it’s very confusing, and it’s hard, it’s always moving—trust me I get confused by digital all the time.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

Jay Kranda — You know. I download TikTok and I’m like I don’t even understand what the world is going on on this platform.

Rich Birch — Yeah, sure. Yes.

Jay Kranda — I don’t sing; I’m not a drama student. Like I don’t know if I could be successful in here. So I feel that too. It’s it’s hard, but my encouragement is just to double your focus on digital this next year.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jay Kranda — Like so if you have an hour a week, how can you move to 2 hours? And then recruit. Like one of the things that I think could be super helpful is do like a digital summit like event at your church and cast the vision, hey if you do digital for your work…

Rich Birch — So good.

Jay Kranda — …like if you’re a coder or a marketing strategist, do like a digital summit at your church find out the talent at your church, and go hey help us. I think you need to provide a place like years ago, creatives needed a place at their church to be engaged, you need to give the digital experts at your church. Like I know you probably have somebody who has probably a thousand followers on Instagram or killing it on TikTok and tap them in to help your church figure it out, and just paint them a vision and then unleash them, but double your focus and list some new people through that digital summit idea, and trust me, I think the fog will start to kind of clear over the next couple months.

Rich Birch — So good. So helpful. Jay, I really appreciate you being here today investing time in us. I’m literally taking pages and notes here stuff I’m I’m looking forward to chewing on. How can we connect with you, kind of track with the church? All of that stuff. Where do we want to send them online if they want to kind of follow along a little bit closer?

Jay Kranda — Yeah, so actually my website I have a free Youtube course where I did like a 12 episode…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jay Kranda — How to Think About Digital Ministry. There’s also if you want to learn more more about online groups, I did a a course with Small Group Network on how to lead online small groups. There’s actually a free version on their Youtube channel, which you could find links and everything on my on my website.

Rich Birch — Great. We’ll send people over there. Super excited. Thank you so much, Jay, all the best cheering for you. Thanks for being on the episode.

Jay Kranda — Thanks.


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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.