Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. Ken Nash, the Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Michigan, is with us today.
For decades churches measured how well they were doing based on counting nickels and noses, but with the upheaval and loss churches have experienced over the last few years, they need to change their metrics. Listen in as Ken shares how Cornerstone focuses on increasing engagement within its congregation by equipping people for ministry.
- The metric of engagement. // When it comes to measuring success and growth, Cornerstone Church is going after engagement with the people who have stayed with them after all of the ups and downs of the last few years. Using engagement as a metric looks like tracking what they call the 4 P’s: personal, participate, passion, and prepare.
- The 4 P’s. // Personal refers to the staff having numerous personal conversations with people in the church during the month to get to know the larger congregation. As staff meets with them, they find out where these people are participating in the ministry. Individuals who are serving discover their passion. Staff needs to pay attention to what people are passionate about and then identify a few people who are ready to launch something significant. The goal is to then spend time preparing this group to become the next generation of leaders.
- Give authority to the right people. // As the staff at Cornerstone watches people participate in the church, they take the time to get to know them and pay attention to 5 C’s: Does this person show Christ-likeness? Does this person have a calling to this ministry? Does this person have good chemistry with people? Do they have good competency? Do they have great courage? They need to have 4 or 5 of these C’s to be given full authority at the right time.
- The importance of equipping. // There can be a temptation to hire more staff as a solution to declining attendance. However, giving authority away and empowering all members of the church to find their callings and serve in ministry is critical to the success of the Church. As leaders step up to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, it becomes a movement.
- We can’t get in the way. // Ken believes the job of the senior leadership team is to first serve and empower the rest of staff so they can serve and empower the congregation. As lead pastor he brings clarity to the team and provides guardrails while allowing plenty of room for people to come alive in their passions. We need to embrace a messy middle ground between the extremes of having too many ministries and being too focused on controlling everything. It’s important to say “yes” to people’s passions and ideas, yet ask them a lot of clarifying questions to help them succeed.
You can learn more about Cornerstone Church at www.cornerstonemi.org.
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Rich Birch — Hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Today, we’ve got a great episode. You know every week we try to bring you someone who will both inspire and equip you and today is no exception. Excited to have Ken Nash with us. Ah, he’s a pastor lead pastor at, ah, Cornerstone Church. This a multisite church in Michigan that’s experienced incredible growth over these last thirty plus years. It’s one of the fastest growing churches in the country, multisite, like we said. Ken has a dual history. He was here ah prior to 2016 and then returned in the last couple of years to serve in the Lead Pastor role. Ken, welcome. We’re so glad you’re here.
Ken Nash — Thanks, Rich, honor to be with you today.
Rich Birch — Why don’t you fill in the picture? Kind of you know if people were to come this weekend to Cornerstone, what would they experience? What what did I miss there? How do… what’s the flavor of the church?
Ken Nash — Yeah, come as you are church. Very dynamic, filled with lots of life, energy, vitality. Just a church that’s fully alive.
Rich Birch — Love it. So good now you so you had this dual history. You were there pre 2016 and then you came back. Tell us that story. That’s kind of an interesting.
Ken Nash — Yes.
Rich Birch — Often times you you know you don’t you don’t hear that do what was that? What’s that piece of the puzzle?
Ken Nash — Yeah, that’s one of the God’s curve balls. God has a way of being the better storyteller than than my plan.
Rich Birch — So true.
Ken Nash — So I actually built a good friendship with Brad Callajanin and he was the planter 30 years, 32 years ago, founder, you know that kind of thing. And so about 15 years into his ministry, he built a relationship with me. I was serving in a church that was growing quite rapidly in mid-Michigan. And he he just said, would you ever consider working here with me? And so as we started to build a friendship, I came on. I was really the first pastor he brought on as the church grew from his basement into, you know, into a thousand people. He said it’s probably time that I bring on a teammate and so our thought was that I would be the succession plan.
Rich Birch — Oh okay.
Ken Nash — So we figured here we’re moving along and we have we’re into you know 6, 8, now we’re into 10 years of ministry. And at that point I had gone off gotten a doctorate and studied research on multisite. So then we had planted a church. We planted another church, but we knew at 3 sites total, we thought it’s probably time to just kind of take a break, make sure our staff is caught up with all the changes and everything. So we weren’t looking at doing any more sites. And at that point he was saying I’m probably looking at 5, 5 or 6 more years until I retire. And I was thinking, Okay, if we’re not going to be planting any more churches, I don’t want to just ride the wave and ride on his coattails. I really felt like I needed to take some leadership challenges. So some job offers came and and this one in Buffalo came up and they ah, really, really healthy church out and just south of Buffalo. I took that job thinking that was gonna be my longterm strategy.
Rich Birch — Right.
Ken Nash — They were looking for a multisite ministry,I got a chance to get to know a lot of Buffalo Bills players, and you’d be in a really healthy area, a great, great church. And so I thought I’m going to be there for 20 years. And so about about 5, 4, 4 or 5 years in he said, I’m looking to retire. And we were going through the pandemic and it was just a really complicated time and so it allowed all of us to kind of ask the question through the pandemic, what’s my calling, you know, where are we supposed to go in ministry? And so we rejoined together as he was going into retirement years. And so and I heard in succession plan, it’s great to have an outsider insider. And so I actually you know I was ah a part of this church for 10 years, helped it grow through a lot of changes together. There’s a lot of that backstory. But and ultimately, um I was still an outsider because I went off to Buffalo for 5 years, got some lead pastor in a large church kind of responsibility so I could come back and spend my time really doing ministry back here in ah in our home um, home base where my wife grew up and where we kind of grew up in this area. So it kind of felt like this is where we want to do long term ministry anyway.
Rich Birch — I love that. That’s so cool. Yeah I love that outsider insider. I’ve used that language in other contexts as well. There is something if you can find that relational connection ah, but but you have enough distance to be able to um, you know, see things maybe as they are, which sometimes when we’re in it there’s a forest and trees issue and so love that. There’s a ton we could talk about there.
Rich Birch — Now you you use the p-word pandemic. And so I you know I’d love to kind of but get some perspective on that at Cornerstone. You know here we are, it’s so funny, right? It’s like I don’t know, when will we ever be post-pandemic? I’m not sure – maybe 10 years from now, you know, who knows, right? But it’s still impacting all our churches, right? Every church leader I talked across the country, you know, it is like this it’s still in the mix. It’s obviously not as it was two years ago, but it’s still a part of what’s happening. Give us the story at Cornerstone. What you know how did that impact the church? Obviously it changed you you ended up changing coming in at that point. But what how did you how do you kind of read that? What what impact did that have on the church?
Ken Nash — People are still afraid of people. I’m I’m noticing that. And so gathering people, I mean we’re in the people gathering business. And so still we you know we get metrics every week and how many devices are still watching online. We’re close to 40 to 50% of our people are still truly watching online and that’s not those aren’t made up numbers. Those are factual numbers that we see. Very discouraging, very frustrating. But in my opening answer to you as we’re a lively church and dynamic. And and here’s why I say I sense Cornerstone is really fully alive right now, because we’re going after one word: engagement.
Ken Nash — So while we care about and try to minister to people online, and we’re finding ways to engage them, We’re looking at who’s looking at us. What the pandemic allowed us to do, and you you know how God works in this sense of redemption, God can take anything and turn it into a redeeming resurrected value. And so we’ve seen through the pandemic, um, we know we’ve been pruned. And so now we know who’s with us. We had people that got mad when we mandated masks, and then when we didn’t mandate masks…
Rich Birch — Right.
Ken Nash — …and when we you know you couldn’t make the right decision. But then the people that stuck with us are really with us. So now we’re asking the question. Okay, who’s looking at us? Well let’s give them all that we’ve got. And so we’re looking for these sparks of of life and energy and and we’re fanning that into flame. And so what we’ve been actually starting to do is metric engagement. So we’ve kind o pandemic has forced us to change our scorecard. It’s not ah nickels and noses, like it used to be.
Rich Birch — So true.
Ken Nash — You always count the number of people in the seats, you count how much money came in and you’re a healthy church. Well, in some ways thank God that we’re not metricking that way anymore as a sign of a church. And we even knew pre-pandemic that we were that that wasn’t a healthy metric anyway. So it forced us to ask, what’s a better metric? So we’re now experimenting over the last couple of years with the 4 P’s.
Rich Birch — Okay.
Ken Nash — And so we’re metricking these now. Um.
Rich Birch — I’d love to hear about… let’s maybe let’s let’s run through them quick and then maybe we can we can dive into them. So what are the four, and then we can kind of dive into each.
Ken Nash — Personal, participate, passion, prepare.
Rich Birch — Okay.
Ken Nash — I’ll I’ll say them quickly with one sentence [inaudible] each one and then you can ask questions accordingly, but it…
Rich Birch — Yep.
Ken Nash — Personal… and think of it like a funnel going upside down. And so the the broadest, the biggest group of people would be the personal. Like I can have 25 personal conversations with people in a given month where you sit down have a cup of coffee and hear their story. Like do I know their names? So I’m asking our leadership and our staff, have you had a personal conversation with um, numerous amount of people this this week so that we’re really getting to know our larger congregation?
Ken Nash — And then participate… as you’re meeting with them, are you finding where they’re participating in the ministry? From that participation we find that that’s where people find their passion. as they serve, they find what they’re really on on fire for. They find out either love working with kids, or I love volunteering here, or I love the the missional aspect of caring for the outreach ministry here.
Ken Nash — And then the last one, prepare, is that the bottom of the funnel. There’s going to be out of all these a few people that really are ready to launch something significant. And they’re going to become your Next Gen leaders if you will. And so I’m going to spend my time preparing these people.
Ken Nash — And so every person fits in one of the four Ps. And so as I’m getting to know new people, as I’m getting to know our so hearing where staff are engaging with the congregation, somebody will say, I’m at ah the fourth P person; I’m I’m preparing people now. And so now there’s I mean that’s what we’re metricking to be able to encourage engagement in the ministry…
Rich Birch — Okay. Yeah.
Ken Nash — …in ways that we weren’t before. Does that make sense?
Rich Birch — Oh absolutely. So I love this and I love that it’s driving, you know, like you say it was been a gift that we’re not just ah, you know, nickels and nickels and noses. It’s trying to drive to something deeper. Let’s talk through maybe start with personal. So how how does that actually work? You’re encouraging your staff to have X number of personal conversations a week. What is how does that work? How are you tracking it? What’s the reporting look like? Talk talk us through that.
Ken Nash — It’s literally setting some of our staff free because they used to feel guilty saying, I go out to coffee with these 3 or 4 people and I I would feel like guilty in the past because I’m using the church’s dime. I’m being paid, I’m on the clock right now. And we’re we’re allowing by giving clear metrics in this way, we’re giving them permission to say, this is your job. What that’s changed in some ways is that our office isn’t as much… ah I mean there’s still a lot of activity around the office and there’s a lot of [inaudible] but it’s not as busy as it used to be. People are out and about connecting with people. And so then each person has to report. And so as we go through our quarterly reports and give people, you know at times of the review, we say give me names of people.
Ken Nash — And so it gets it gets much more granular. And so instead of just looking at mass numbers out there, it’s really kind of thinking of the Jethro and Moses kind of model where Moses said how can I handle all these people? And Jethro says, break them down into just smaller chunks of numbers. And so as you get into the deeper P’s then, a personal would be maybe had just one conversation, and I know this family story a little bit.
Ken Nash — And then we have to network, and so as a multisite ministry we’re constantly thinking, how can we net together all of our ministry so they’re interconnected? So we’re constantly emailing one another as a staff and sharing with each other, hey I had this personal conversation. And as we entered into our database we can then look through as I get to know a new family here, I can say, oh they’ve already been talked to by these two people so they’re getting to be known within the congregation. So we’re kind of creating a net this way. You have a personal conversation, jot these this information down, and, you know, CCB is the format that we use [inaudible].
Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Yeah, I love that. And we and we’ve done a similar thing pre-pandemic with particularly our campus staffs, the people that were in our locations where there would be an expectation, you’re having an x number of one-on-one conversations during the week. I love that. But I love the drive of saying, Hey, we’re we’re not just having personal conversations. We’re trying to move people to participation. I would imagine at each one of these transitions there’s like, you know, there’s got to be a certain amount of action. I can kind of see that one. I’m having conversation. Okay, now maybe I’ve talked with this this family 2 or 3 times. Okay, now I need to really be finding out, Okay, how are you actually engaging? Is that how this works? Help me understand that.
Ken Nash — Yeah, exactly. And so then you’re literally watching these people that, because we have to realize this is ah another way of looking at discipleship. If somebody starts to engage and they start to serve, there’s something happening in their soul that says, I want to help serve in different ways.
Ken Nash — And if you watch them start to correct things, which by the way anger to us is a good thing. When somebody’s angry, it’s nothing to be afraid of because anger is a kind of passion.
Rich Birch — Yes.
Ken Nash — So now this metric we’re saying, hey that’s just proof that they’re on level 3 of of the third P of passion. Um, their their anger about that is just trying to improve our system which let them down. and so it doesn’t create this chaos within our staff anymore when there’s tension in from within the congregation. Apathy is our bigger fear, frankly.
Rich Birch — Right. Yes.
Ken Nash — And so if you as you watch this play out, somebody starts to participate, we go ah wonderful! Did you see any passion come out of them where they’re a little bit grumpy about this kind of stuff over here? And so it’s in in many ways much more conversational in ways than we have been before instead of just treating people like a number, we we really get to know their heart in so many ways.
Rich Birch — Talk me through the participation. You’ve set up participation as being a volunteer thing, jumping on a team.
Ken Nash — Right.
Rich Birch — Is that intentional or was that just an example? Talk us through is that kind of the preferred course that you’re kind of seeing people take directions towards getting in…
Ken Nash — Yeah, yeah.
Rich Birch — …you know, on to into participating in the church.
Ken Nash — You know that when when you’re when your ministry is growing and people are coming in from from different avenues, you do want to take some time to vet them and get to know them. We our definition of leadership is… really my job and really our staff’s job is to give authority to the right people at the right time. So um, if you give people authority at the, you know at the wrong time they’re sometimes more passionate about something out over else over here and there end up they’ll end up not being as you know, engaged in the ministry, because they they just ah for whatever reason got trapped by you know, just the busyness of life or whatever, and you just didn’t take the time to get to know them. Or they may be just a toxic person.
Rich Birch — Right.
Ken Nash — And so this allows us to take some time to just engage and get to know them a lot a lot more. Before, you know, as you watch them show some passion, then you actually start preparing them, you need some time to do that. And that’s really the clearest way to say it. It might help um I have so many other ways to look at this.
Ken Nash — The five C’s, and not to give you a whole bunch of acronyms – I know that gets annoying, but this really helps for…
Rich Birch — No, it’s good. It’s good.
Ken Nash — …for memory’s sake, as we’re watching people participate we think of the 5 C’s. And you’ve probably heard of the three C’s, we’ve added 2 more to them. But they’re around this… Does this person show Christ-likeness? Does this person have a Calling to this ministry? Does this person have good Chemistry with people, you know, people skills? Do they have good Competency? And do they have great Courage?
Ken Nash — So a lot of times, you know, they get a voice from, the Lord gives them a prompting and then they just don’t have the courage to say yes to it. And so I’d say, okay would we want to give them full authority. If we’re going to give the [inaudible] to the right people at the right time, then they need to have, in many ways either 4 or 5 of these C’s.
Rich Birch — Yeah.
Ken Nash — I find like calling, for example, they’re sometimes more called to their you know the PTC or and you know maybe their cottage or some you know retirement plan that they’re going after; they’re not really called to the ministry. So am I going to give them full authority if they don’t have really all 5 of these C’s? I find if you compromise on that, and the only way to find out about the five C’s is to take your time to really study them over time. So we find participation is a great way to get to know people over time. So like well the front door you probably heard this a lot and I’ve heard this actually on your podcast with the front door hospitality is a great way to just get somebody in and plugged in and connected. And get to know them over this time. And then then they say oh but I can’t do it on this Sunday and I can’t do it on this Sunday. And but then they say but I want to launch this over here and you say well they they really haven’t shown a great engagement of ministry. We can’t really trust them to give them full authority yet, if that if that makes sense.
Rich Birch — It makes total sense. I love that ah, that fifth C of courage. I think particularly in this post pandemic world I think one I literally just earlier today I was talking to a church leader about you know we’re just reflecting and this person was reflecting on their own kind of journey, and they were saying you know the thing they were praying for was more courage in this season, that they’re like hey I they’re like ah I don’t have any question on what I need to do. That’s not the question. I know what I need to do. The question is do I have the courage to actually do it…
Ken Nash — Yes.
Rich Birch — …to actually, you know, push forward. And I think our churches, I think that’s just true in… the more our communities become more and more post-christian or maybe even pre-christian um, then we need courageous leaders. I just love that.
Ken Nash — We do. Yeah certainly.
Rich Birch — Yeah, so good.
Ken Nash — To to watch people step up and and truly say, not just complain about it, but actually be willing to help solve it with you. A lot of times they sit back passively and they say I wish the church would do this. I wish the pastor would do this. I wish… you know and, but I love it when people have the courage to be but able to say, but I want to help.
Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.
Ken Nash — I want to help you join in with you.
Rich Birch — Love it. I I do want to ask you. We had talked earlier about before the call about some research um that I want to make sure we get to, but one of the things I want to underline for folks that are listening in, um I’ve seen this anecdotally time and again in churches, we saw it at our church, we’ve seen it at our church that um, when people come into our church and get connected, you know, we often give them multiple pathways. You say get in a team, get on a, you know, get in a group and on a team. Um, and we’ve noticed that people who first join a group are less likely to get on a team. But actually if you go the other way around, if people first join a team, they’re more likely then to get in a group. That there seems to be a sticking point that that if we if we move people to mission first, they actually drive deeper into the community rather than ah, you know the other way around. They’re other than going… And I’m not saying groups are bad. Don’t don’t save your cards and letters, friends. I’m not saying that. I just I’m pointing out that we’re seeing, you know, some of that kind of evidence. I’d love you to comment on that. What do what do you think about that?
Ken Nash — I have I have found that to be absolutely true. There’s something about how… we call it around here the great question. Jesus actually coaches us on how to be great. So you want to be great in life? He literally says if you want to be great, serve. And so the great question around Cornerstone is, how can I help? And so um, we don’t want people just to volunteer because they’re trying to please me. We want them to volunteer because they genuinely know, I come alive most when I serve. And so that really fits with what we’re trying to move people into, which is engagement in the ministry. Because when they engage in that way, boy, it’s amazing.
Ken Nash — If you get into a group, it’s oftentimes—and again I don’t want to bring cards or letters your way. Maybe don’t give them my information you can come to you—but when they’re in a group, it can sometimes be selfish because it’s…
Rich Birch — Yes, yes.
Ken Nash — …you know, what what can you do for me? I need you to to pray for all that stuff is good. I need to be cared for, prayed for, covered in that. But in terms of engagement, when people start serving and they they just Jesus said you will become great. You want to be great, serve other people. And so you some something happens in us spiritually that you come alive in that. So yeah I spot…
Rich Birch — I love that. The great question. That’s good. I wrote that down. That’s I’m going to steal that.
Ken Nash — [laughs]
Rich Birch — That’s really great. Ah tell me talk about this research, you know we chat a little bit about that that that’s impacted your leadership.
Ken Nash — Yeah, years ago when I was doing some research on multisite, I read a research by Roger Fink out of Penn State, and he was just asking the question, not even from an ecclesiological, not even a church standpoint. He was just asking sociologically about a group of people. Um, we’ve just gone through ah a disaffiliation process with the United Methodist Church, but we have a United Methodist roots. We now and are a nondenominational church, but in there he was finding that the Methodist Church grew from 2.5 percent of the population base when our country was founded in 1776, 1 in 50 people were Methodist…
Rich Birch — Wow.
Ken Nash — …when when um, our country was founded. And then it grew to 1 in 3, just seventy years later. So by 1851, 1 in 3 people were Methodist that associated in in any kind of Christianity.
Rich Birch — That’s amazing.
Ken Nash — And so Roger Fink saw this study and he said, how come the Methodists aren’t 1 in 3 today? And so he he did some heavy research looking at what they did, and he came up with this one statement of finding what happened. Cause the Methodist Church grew so rapidly and then in 1850 it started shrinking. And ever since then you haven’t seen as much influence. And this is what he said, and this changed my ministry. He said the dramatic metric rise of the Methodists was short-lived. It’s instructive to note that the Methodists began to slump at precisely the same time that their amateur clergy were replaced by professionals who claimed Episcopal authority over their congregations. In other words, the pastors got in the way. So we were a grassroots movement of all these lay people that were engaged in the ministry. And they were saying, I have been given authority. I’m able to step into ministry and my life matters. And what happened then in 1851 we voted to say you can only preach if you’re ordained, you’ve been to school, or you’ve been trained properly. And we went from this movement to a denominational monument that stopped the flow of the Spirit’s really anointing over the denomination in some ways.
Rich Birch — Wow.
Ken Nash — And so when I read that I said I I never want to get in the way again. And frankly I have been. I’ve been the spotlights. And Dave Ferguson was a ah real strong help for me when I was going through my study of multisite and all of that. And his concept of hero maker is really spot on with what this research actually shows too, where we can’t get in the way. Our job is to get under and serve the Ephesians 4 model of how can I give authority to and to serve, you know, as an apostle, prophet, you know, shepherd, evangelist, and teacher. As as one of these leaders step up to give authority away to equip the saints for the work of ministry um, it becomes a movement then.
Ken Nash — And so our goal here at Cornerstone is to help 100% of our people to find their calling in ministry. And so if you’re a part of this church, our goal is to help you find your calling. And when that happens then we’re going to give you empowerment and authority so that you can move forward. And then we become a movement and not this, you know, top-down, if-Ken-says-that-we-believe-it-that-settles-it, personality-driven church, but to really be a servant-driven church. We’ve even changed in light of this research. We’ve changed our we call the SLT, or a vision team, but our senior leadership team um, Harvard Business review kind of teaches that kind of stuff, but we changed it from senior leadership team to servant leadership team.
Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.
Ken Nash — So our our core leaders are here to say, how can we first serve the rest of the staff? And then how can the staff serve the rest of the congregation so that we can help people find their calling and and their their real passion and ministry?
Rich Birch — I love that. That’s that’s so good. And you know we we see that in churches oftentimes um when they plateau or in decline, actually one of the signs of that at a, you know, so that’s at like a movement level, but at an individual church level, actually ironically, there’s this weird thing that happens where churches are like they’re maybe they’re starting to slow down. And so then the leadership says well we need to do is hire people. Let’s hire let’s hire another Youth Pastor. Let’s hire somebody else to do this role. Let’s hire somebody to do that. And and actually that’s counterproductive.
Ken Nash — Yeah.
Rich Birch — We see that time and again that actually ah, more staff per per per attendee or per you know people in your church actually is an indicator of lack of growth, not um, not a [inaudible] not actually spurring growth. There was a church um, just recently I was was a part of this conversation where they were kind of picking apart the… it was a sad conversation. It was like picking apart the decline of a church. And there was like ah a 10 year slide – it was fascinating. It’s a very large church, 5000 people, and it’s it’s shrunk back down to, you know, I think they’re their sub one thousand probably, 500 people something like that. And they had a 10 year slide where they they were 10 years they had they didn’t grow. But what did grow was their staff. Their staff doubled in that 10 year period.
Ken Nash — Yeah, yeah. And I was gonna ask they must have just kept hiring and hiring and hiring…
Rich Birch — Yes.
Ken Nash — …for out for to do the work of the people.
Rich Birch — Yes.
Ken Nash — Unfortunate, so unfortunate.
Rich Birch — Yeah and that’s it it’s a temptation. It is a, you know, and and you can see this in um there’s lots of examples of this. But this is a what a vivid example from this, you know, research from Fink for sure. That’s yeah, that’s that’s good. That’s vivid for sure.
Rich Birch — So when you think about, kind of… so I love this. You’re pushing your people towards engagement. I love the 5 P’s. I love a good alliteration. 4 P’s and 5 C’s – that’s fantastic. When you look to the future, how does this ah, you know, how do you think this is going to impact your thinking when you look up over the horizon, what’s it kind of changing in the way you’re thinking about the future?
Ken Nash — It’s it’s hard, Rich, because I’m a control freak. I’m a first born. You know, my dad was an air traffic controller…
Rich Birch — Oh wow.
Ken Nash — …so I was trained in control. And so I this is contrary to everything that I’m wired to do, which is to control, and be you know that that Moses model of you know, and it’s just so discouraging because I know how to do it right. And anytime I give authority, they do it wrong. They don’t do it my way. And but I was set four years ago as I started to wrestle with this, because I was in a church that grew many years ago in a small church that mid-Michigan church I was talking about it. It grew and then it shrank after I left. And I I cried for several years as I watched all these people that I loved and baptized and walked in ministry with and then they faded away from the ministry. I built the church around me.
Rich Birch — Yeah.
Ken Nash — And so God finally set me free and said you were trying to control it. And you know, Jesus is the head of the church, not the senior leader. And so when you can get that out of your mind, well I went to this right around that time I learned from Rick Warren; he said somebody was ah as at a conference where he was speaking and somebody said, Rick, I don’t like everything happening at your church. And Rick said the best answer; he said, I don’t like everything happening at my church. And that set me free and it showed me and modeled for me that when you let go of control, it’s going to look different. Because you think you do it all right, and I think my way is best, but you know what? People have their own callings as well, and frankly, they will make it better better because they’re going to bring a passion that you can’t because you’re burned out.
Ken Nash — So if you hold onto the control and say, I want the church to look just like this, and I’m I’m I’m the senior leader and it’s my job to make sure all the parameters in really great shape. You got to let go of that. And so what does the future look like? It’s beautiful because I wake up each day saying, God, how are you going to surprise me with somebody that gets a new holy disturbance within the congregation, this new passion welling up inside of them. And then they they come alive in this. And they’re going to take the church in a direction I never would have…
Rich Birch — Yeah.
Ken Nash — …had I not had the courage to get out of the way and to to in many ways just give that authority to the right people, the 5 C type of people that are ready to walk in in a humble way of leadership. So as I think about the future, I like I can’t wait to see what this church evolves into…
Rich Birch — Sure.
Ken Nash — …in light of the people God sends us.
Rich Birch — Yeah, love that. You know, one of the things like in ah when I first started in ministry and you know you and I have a similar ah vintage. You know, there were these churches out there that had the they would, they’d brag about it – they’d say 110 different ministries. They would be like we have all these different things, and then and there was a part of that that was crazy, right? Like a part of it was like okay this is like we’re running in a gajillion different directions and it was it felt unfocused. Um, but it did work in the sense of it engaged a ton of people. I know kind of post Eric Geiger and Tom Rainer’s book, Simple Church, it it it um one of the things we learned was, wow, if if we could narrow down on fewer things, we we’d be more effective. We could we could reach more people, but I do think that…
Ken Nash — I get the logic, I get the logic of that. I do.
Rich Birch — Yes. But one of the things, to your to your point, one of the things that was is probably a negative outcome of that, which wasn’t their intention, was it fed it fed all of our controlling instincts. It fed our instincts to be like, hey we just justified it as Simple Church. Simple church. Simple Church. Simple Church.
Ken Nash — Yes.
Rich Birch — How do you balance those two off? How do we because I don’t think we’d want to go—I um could be wrong—I don’t think what you’re saying is let’s go back to the 112 ministries thing. Let’s get back to tons of different stuff.
Ken Nash — Right.
Rich Birch — Ah, but but but we do want to empower people more; help me understand the nuance of those.
Ken Nash — Well, it’s um I was all in on Simple Church. We we actually followed that model for a while because the control freak in me. You just nailed it, Rich. My my control control nature loved that. However, however, it was going contrary to then this research that just right after I started studying Simple Church, I read this from Roger Fink…
Rich Birch — Yep.
Ken Nash — …and so they were diametrically opposed. And so I think where you’re getting at where’s the messy middle in there? And I think the word messy has to be in that like it is a messy middle. But ultimately I would err I would rather err on the side of the word yes, than to err on the side of the word no.
Rich Birch — Right.
Ken Nash — And so I I loved I think it was Andy Stanley who said, I’d rather say wow first before the how. And the controlling nature in me wants to say how? Okay somebody comes to me with a passion and I’d say, Okay, here’s all the parameters. How are you going to pull it off in a church like this where we have a limited marketing budget, and we’ve got a limited this staff, and how are how are… But if you start with wow and say, wow, this is your calling, your passion; I’m going to say yes to you. If you come to me I’m gonna say yes, but I’m gonna say yes with a hundred questions.
Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.
Ken Nash — This will probably drive that one more acronym the word FAN. I’m sorry about this…
Rich Birch — No, it’s good.
Ken Nash — …but everybody has a park and a spark inside of them and it’s my job to fan that into flame. And so that means I’m going to meet with you face to face, I’m gonna ask you a bunch of questions, and I’m gonna network you with people who have a similar passion.
Rich Birch — That’s good.
Ken Nash — So I’m gonna F.A.N. you. So we’re constantly as a staff saying, how are you who have you fanned today? And as you fan them, they can fit in one of the 4 P’s, you know, and you know so it all kind of fits. But just trying to get clarity. I feel like my job is to bring clarity to our team and make sure we’re all pointed in the same direction. What happens then is we have these guardrails and then there’s lots and lots of room for people to come alive in their passions. Most of the time their passion, as you fan them, it’ll be something they launch in their neighborhood. They’ll launch it in their workplace. They’ll they’ll launch it outside of the church. Or they’ll launch it actually a part of another ministry around the community instead of fighting with the churches, again, a blessing of the pandemic. We realize churches need one another; we need to stop competing with one another.
Rich Birch — Yeah.
Ken Nash — So as you fan somebody you start realizing, hey they fit there. So you could say yes to everybody. Yes, with these 100 questions. And so then say do you have a leadership team that would do this? Do you have a strategy in which you’re going to market this over time? So they answer these questions. It may take them nine months to a year to actually answer all the questions, but they have something passionately that they’re going after to launch it effectively. So my job to serve them is to ask them the right questions to help them to succeed, rather than just have me over them kind of patting them on a head saying, here I want you to do this, and I control them. So that’s that’s a difference in philosophy.
Rich Birch — That’s good.
Ken Nash — But there’s a that’s a messy middle in there.
Rich Birch — Yes.
Ken Nash — But it’s holding on to it loosely rather than holding onto it with great control that I’m going to say no to most things.
Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, love it. Love it. That’s I love that, you know, FAN: face-to-face, ask questions, network with others. I just love that. I think I think that’s really clear and the idea of ask lots of questions, yeah, that’s our job. Like that’s and we and we’re not we’re not positioning ourselves as like, hey I’m the the either the rubber stamp that lets you do it, or the or the gatekeeper that’s just going to, you know, close it off. It’s like, hey, let me help you process this. It almost feels like Ephesians 4, like our job is to maybe equip people and like yeah, it’s a very novel idea, like it’s very very New Testament. So just love it. So good.
Rich Birch — Well, this has been a great conversation. Anything else you’d like to say just as we wrap up today’s discussion?
Ken Nash — Yeah, honestly I love your unSeminary podcast around the idea of saying, okay, what would you if I could go back to seminary twenty-some years ago, I would literally say I wish I had been trained in how to give authority away to the right people at the right time. If I had just gotten that one concept. But but of course school of hard knocks is just you learn a lot, so over the last you know 10 years you know first ten years I learned all this, the last 17 years I’ve been able to practice it and live it out. So school of hard knocks taught me but that is a lesson I wish if we can get pastors to get out of the way and to really believe in the calling of the priesthood of all believers, it’s not just a cliche set at conferences. It is the secret sauce to watching us have an influence in this culture for Christ.
Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. Well it’s great. So where do we want to send people online, Ken, if they want to track with you, if they want to track with the church, if people are interested…
Ken Nash — Yeah, thanks.
Rich Birch — …I’d encourage them to you I think you know is a big great church for you to follow along with.
Ken Nash — Yeah, yeah cornerstonemi.org just check out our church and you know I’d love to interact with them and anybody have any questions, I’d love to to care for them in that way.
Rich Birch — That’s great. Thanks so much… thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Ken Nash — Thanks, Rich.