Protecting Your Church’s DNA: Jon Delger on Building Culture Within a Fast-Growing Church

Thanks for joining us at the unSeminary podcast. We have Jon Delger with us today, the Executive Pastor at Peace Church in Michigan—one of the fastest growing churches in the country. 

Whether your church is growing a little or a lot, change to the people making up your church will change your culture. How can you protect your church’s DNA and reinforce culture during growth? Tune in as Jon shares best practices for guarding and building your church’s culture among your staff and congregation as you grow.

  • Face the challenges. // Peace Church has experienced remarkable growth in the last three years, more than doubling in size and expanding to two locations in Michigan. Despite the many challenges that come with rapid expansion, such as space constraints and the need for additional services, protecting our church culture is the most important problem we’ll face during growth.
  • Clearly communicate. // Every new person at our churches brings a unique set of beliefs and expectations that can influence the church’s dynamics. The key is to integrate these individuals while maintaining the church’s distinct identity. To protect their culture at Peace Church, they have implemented strategic steps in the assimilation process to communicate the culture clearly. From newcomers’ lunches to membership classes, they ensure that each step reinforces the church’s core values.
  • Be honest about fit. // At membership classes Jon and his team talk about who they are and what it’s like to be a part of the Peace Church family. Rather than pushing people towards membership, they address reasons why Peace Church might not be the right fit for some, directing them to other great churches in the area. This level of honesty and clarity is crucial in building a cohesive community.
  • Three key parts. // There are three key parts of the Peace Church membership class: theology, ministry philosophy, and commitments of being a member. In theology they talk about what Peace Church believes about the bible and hot-button cultural issues. Ministry philosophy talks about the church’s size and what people can expect. Membership commitments talk about giving and serving in the church and what’s expected of members.
  • Have a distinct hiring process. // With attendance growth, a church also needs to grow its staff. Jon emphasizes the need for a clear and distinct hiring process in order to vet who joins our teams and protect our cultures from rapid change. Peace Church has a hiring process that begins with a phone screening and then a minimum of two in-person interviews. The final interview is with Jon and the lead pastor, at which point they’re only asking culture questions.
  • Onboarding, developing, and improving. // After hiring, Peace Church uses three processes for staff management: onboarding, leadership development, and a performance improvement process. In addition, one-on-one meetings are the cornerstone of staff management at Peace Church and have been instrumental in maintaining a thriving church culture.
  • Care, clear, and coach. // Jon has provided us with a PDF that offers best-practices for effectively leading one-on-one meetings with staff. At Peace Church they recommend that the one-on-one is twice a month and includes three aspects: care, clear, and coach. We need to spend time caring for our direct reports, make sure tasks and priorities are clear and understandable, and offer leadership development to team members through coaching.

You can learn more about Peace Church at www.peacechurch.cc and download the 1:1 Meeting Guide here.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Super excited that you’re tuned-in. Really looking forward to today’s conversation. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. Jon Delger with us, Delger is with us today from Peace Church. He’s executive pastor. You know we love executive pastors here at unSeminary. Peace Church is a, get this, gospel-centered, family-focused, kingdom-minded church—love that. It’s also one of the fastest-growing churches in the country. They have more than doubled in recent years. They have two locations in Michigan. I know I’m going to love this because Michigan is not the kind of place that you say, you know what? There’s a place where churches grow fast. So super-excited to have Jon on the the call with us today. Jon, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Jon Delger — Thank you, Rich. Appreciate it. My honor to be here.

Rich Birch — Yeah, sorry for flubbing your name there too. You know, right off the top.

Jon Delger — Oh hey, it’s all good. It’s all good.

Rich Birch — Jon, fill in the picture, if people were to arrive at peace church this weekend, what would they experience? Kind of give us a sense of the church, kind of fill in the the the painting there a little bit for us.

Jon Delger — Yeah, definitely. Ah, the main thing they’d experience is a church that loves Jesus, that loves the bible, ah that preaches it loud and clear. That’s the main thing that we talk about at Peace…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jon Delger — …and that we would attribute our growth to. God has just been doing an amazing work. Especially the last three years we’ve been 30% growth year every year…

Rich Birch — Amazing.

Jon Delger — …for 3 years straight now. Just the grace of God.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing.

Jon Delger — It’s not it’s not me it’s not our our other leaders. It’s just the Lord is doing something amazing and we’re humbled to be part of it each week. So, yeah, we we’re we’re hovering around 2000 people or so on Sunday mornings at our main campus, and then we just launched this fall our first secondary campus. And actually our vision is to plant campuses that become churches, independent churches, over the course of 3 to 5 years.

Rich Birch — So cool.

Jon Delger — And so we’ve actually launched out a guy who preaches live every Sunday there. Um, so we do full live worship and preaching and all of that at the secondary campus, and that’s been going great. So.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Well I know um, you know, the fact that you’re growing at 30% a year, that’s that’s incredible. That’s amazing growth rate. That is, you know, puts you in super rare air across the country. Just to kind of, you know, calibrate that for folks that are listening in. So um, less than 5% of churches make it over 1000 people. Less than half a percent of people make it over 2000 people. And you know, even rare air are growing at that rate. So super honored that you would take some time to to talk with us today to help us understand a little bit about what God’s using um, and to hear more of the peace church story – pumped for that.

Rich Birch — But I know it sounds great, having worked and and led in actually multiple churches that have grown like that. It sounds great from the outside, but on the inside, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot to kind of keep all those plates spinning. And I’d love to talk a little bit about that. You know, when you when we we think about growing, you think about, Okay, what, you know, how do how do we sustain that? What how do we going what would be some of the kind of pain points, the pressures you’re experiencing um in with that kind of growth? What are some of that what’s that look like for you, particularly from your seat as executive pastor?

Jon Delger — Yeah, definitely. So we all we often say here that we’ve got lots of problems, but they’re good problems. And so we’re so thankful to be blessed with the challenges we have…

Rich Birch — Um, gold plated problems. Yeah.

Jon Delger — …but they are definitely. That’s right, They are definitely problems, challenges.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Jon Delger — Ah, there’s all kinds of um I mean physical space is one that we’re facing right now we just um just wrapped up a capital campaign and are doing a building project here on the main campus. We opened that second campus, we’ve been doing the video venue thing, just to just to create enough space.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — We actually created some dirt parking up up in our grass field next to the church just because we’re running out of parking every Sunday. Ah so so the space is one of the issues, but I would say if you had to take all the issues that we face and talk about what’s the most important one. What’s the heart of it, the center of it? I would say it’s protecting our culture as a church…

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah.

Jon Delger — …um as a whole church and especially as a staff.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Jon Delger — You know, even if, you know, whether you’re growing a lot or whether you’re growing a little bit, any kind of change to the people in your church changes your culture. Right? That’s that’s just kind of how that works. You bring in these people who have a different DNA, a different set of expectations, a different even theology. You know, um at Peace we’ve just been growing by people from all different tribes. So there’s plenty of people coming that are secular – they don’t have a church background. Or actually in West Michigan one of the most common stories we hear is, yeah I grew up in church, but I haven’t been back in 10, 20, 30 years…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — …and now I’m just coming back to church. Or there’s a lot of I would say our primary demographic at Peace is people who, you know, maybe grew up going to church but haven’t been since high school. And now they’re in their late twenties, early thirties, they got kids…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — …and they’re like, that’s right I grew up going to Sunday school and now I want my kids to have that experience.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — So they’re coming back, but they’ve got all these different backgrounds there. We’ve got lots of, from Catholic backgrounds, or Baptist, or Reformed, Non-denom, um, Presbyterian, you know, or no church background. Just all these different people with different theology, different expectations, different sense of what does my pastor do? All those different kind of expectations and just trying to figure out: how do we make sure that we protect who we are and actually bring people into a culture, not just a church that doesn’t have a distinct identity.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s so good. Just to underline that for our listeners. You know, you rattled off all kinds of logistical, practical, you know, new parking, video venues, you know, keeping up with kids space, you know, raising money – all of that kind of stuff to try to keep on top of it. And I I don’t want you to miss this, listeners.

Rich Birch — You know, what you came back to ultimately was something that could seem really soft, like oh, we got to protect our culture. Like um, but that just is not, you know we see this time and again with fast-growing churches – that actually at the end of the day if we want to continue to sustain our growth, a part of what we’ve got to do is get really clear on our culture. We’ve got to be, you know, rabid about it. We’ve got to clarify it. We’ve got to keep it in front of our people. We have to keep thinking about it. Sometimes it’s like rearticulating it. So let’s unpack that a little bit. How what when you when you talk about, you know, protecting your culture, um, what does that look like for you? How have you had to do that as a leadership team?

Jon Delger — Yeah, definitely. So we try to make it a part of just about everything that we do. Um, we especially look at each step in the assimilation process. So when somebody comes into Peace Church, you know, what are the steps that they take, and how do we make sure each of those steps very clearly communicates our culture?

Jon Delger — So for us, um, the first step in the assimilation process after you’ve, you know, come, checked in, maybe met somebody, you know, done the follow-up process via text and that kind of thing. The first event that we push everybody to is we’ve called it two different things. We’ve called it, sometimes we’ve called it The Newcomers Lunch. Or recently we’re calling it Meet the Pastors. It’s got a little bit more of a down-home church family kind of feel to it.

Jon Delger — And so at that event, people come, and we usually have 3 or 4 of our pastors there. And they have lunch and, you know, we go around as pastors and just sit with people, talk with people. And then about halfway through the event we get up and sit behind microphones and we have a moderator. We just do so kind of some Q and A. We have some prepared ones. And then we let the group ask questions. But what we make sure and do is we make sure as pastors that we just come back to some of the core things that make Peace Church Peace Church. We talk about, you know, what is our, you know, what is it that makes us unique and distinct. So that’s one of the tactics we use.

Jon Delger — The next step in the assimilation process is the membership class. And for us that’s a huge – that’s the point… So I think I’ve been a part of churches in the past where the membership class is the place where you try to convince people to stay at your church, and and I get that. I get that mentality. I understand, you know, where that comes from. But for us we actually spend that class kind of talk about maybe why you shouldn’t be at Peace Church.

Rich Birch — Right, yeah.

Jon Delger — We we open by saying, hey, we’re just here—we repeat this throughout the class—hey, we’re just here to tell you about who we are and what it’s like to be a part of this church family. And if that’s not a fit for you, that’s totally okay. There’s other great churches around. We’re not the only ones who preach the bible around here. Um, and we actually I actually usually name a couple of other churches that are good bible preaching churches, but are different than us in size, or in style or and things like that.

Jon Delger — Um, yeah, but we just tried to be really clear, hey if you came, you know, and you thought, man, I want to be a part of this church, but I really wish this church did nothing but sing hymns. Well, hey, we love you, but we’re not changing. We’re, you know, we’re committed to what we’re doing, and that’s going to stay the way it is. And so if that’s not a fit for you, that’s okay.

Rich Birch — Rght.

Jon Delger — So those are some of the main things that we that we do. We just try to be really clear. This is who we are. It’s not changing. We’d love to have you part of this church family if that fits for you. But if it doesn’t, then hey, there’s other places you can go.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. I um, you know for years I had a a friend of mine who in those contexts, he would say something I would actually would explicitly say that. He would like, hey… So let’s say he was a leader at Peace Church. He would say, if you’re if you come to the end of this conversation and you’ve said, you know, I really love Peace Church, but I wish…and then insert whatever. He would say, tell me what you would insert in there. I wish, like you say, you sang more music, you were more Charismatic, you were whatever, that whatever that thing is…and let me help but you find a church that is that. Because what I what we’re looking for is we need people who are fully engaged on mission with us.

Rich Birch — Now when you when you talk about some of those distinctives, what’ll be some of those things you come back to that that are you would say got a bit of an edge to it, that would say, oh I’m not sure I’m really, you know, um, but people may not stay over this. They they, you know, we always think about culture stuff that’s like oh hey, this is great. But what are the things that might actually encourage someone that maybe they should look somewhere else? What’ll be some of those things…

Jon Delger — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …that you articulate that kind of push people to make that kind of step?

Jon Delger — Yeah. Yeah. Our progression in our class we kind of we say that we kind of have three, three key parts of the membership class. We talk about theology, then we talk about our ministry philosophy, and then we talk about ah the commitments of being a member. So so in each of those we try to hit a few different things. So in theology, we talk first and foremost about how Peace Church believes in the inerrancy of the bible. It’s true. It doesn’t have any errors in it. It’s from God. And so. And then we talk about some of the outworkings of that. We talk about sexuality. We talk about gender. Um, we talk about just all kinds of different, any kind of hot cultural issue and we just say, this is where we’re at loud and clear. Um and we just try to be super abundantly clear about those things. We try to draw these are these are some people that might disagree with us and this is how. I can get more into some of the theological specifics if you want. But ah Ministry philosophy-wise we we talk largely about church size because that’s new for us, because we’ve been growing so much.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — We talk about, hey you know, if you came expecting to be able to get your lead pastor on the phone in ah in a heartbeat, then hey, this might not be the place for you…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jon Delger — …or you’ve got to change your expectations.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — You know, we have a ah several different pastors. We also have elders that do a great job of caring. Their emails are right on the website. You know, there are people that are there to care for you and love you. But the lead pastor you’re not going to be able to get them on the phone quickly.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jon Delger — Um, so I talk about that. I’ll also talk about just some of the um some things that people aren’t maybe used to in a larger church, such as just how structured and organized we are. You know, we have to be pretty strict with how we do things. Um, which means that, you know, most most ministries are led by staff rather than volunteers. Um, but so I give I give usually an apologetic kind of explanation of how actually having staff-led ministries leads do more volunteer involvement, not less.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Jon Delger — So that’s one big thing I talk about in the philosophy part. When we get to the last part, talking about membership commitments. We’ve used Thom Thom Rainer membership book before. We’ve had people read that. That does a good job. We talk about giving. We talk about, hey we believe that the tithe, 10 percent, is what should be going to the local church. That that’s not a, we don’t get legalistic about it. You know the bible doesn’t say that explicitly, clearly the new testament, but we say hey we believe that the tithe is the biblical minimum, and that it should go to the local church.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — And if you want to give to other things, that’s awesome, but that should be on top of that. Um talk about how you must serve. Hey, if you’re not here to be involved in serving, then we might not be the right church for you…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — …because we, you know, we invite members to be involved.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. I love all that. That’s that’s so good. I love love, talk is through kind of even practically so I understand that kind of meet meet the pastors. That’s has a high relational edge. This is one of the things we’ve seen, again, friends, as churches grow you actually have to work harder on the relational side of what we do. You have to be way more intentional about that. And so I love that. And then going into membership class, how long is membership class? Is that like multiple weeks? Is it one class, literally one unit, or is it like, you know, five weeks, or how does how does all that work?

Jon Delger — Right. We’ve played with different different lengths. Two to three weeks has been our our norm. So right now we’re at two weeks and that’s mostly because of kind of some practical reasons with the church calendar. Ah three weeks I think was probably better – that was probably the right place to be in terms of the membership class itself, but you got to balance that across other things going on. Um, so we’ve done it either as um, as a 3-hour thing, or a kind of 2-hour thing. And we’ve offered it sometimes we’ve offered it um on Sunday morning during one of our three worship services. Sometimes we’ve offered it as a Saturday morning thing. Other times we’ve done it as a couple of evenings. So we’ve done it a few different ways.

Rich Birch — Um, okay, that’s cool. Now are there any other kind of steps in the assimilation process that you you find that actually continuing to stay focused on the the DNA, or the culture of the church is, you know, is effective or important?

Jon Delger — Yeah, I would say another key one, and and normally you wouldn’t think of this as a part of the overall church assimilation process. But for me, it’s critical and that is our hiring process for staff.

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, for sure.

Jon Delger — Um, you know with growing in attendance, you’ve also got to grow your staff. And so yeah, our staff has increased enormously over the last few years. And you know if we weren’t protecting who it is that comes on our staff, then we’re to our cultures going to change rapidly. So our hiring process has been very clear and distinct. Um, you know we do kind of the typical things you think of. We do a phone screen and then we do a minimum of two interviews for anybody, even if they’ve been at the church for 20 years, um, minimum of the interviews.

Jon Delger — The final interview is with ah with myself and the lead pastor – lead pastor, executive pastor. And by the time they get to that point, we’re asking only culture questions. Ah so, you know, we assume that talent and all that kind of stuff has been evaluated by this point. But they’re coming and they sit down. And I usually give them a speech um a little speech about a few different distinct aspects of the Peace staff culture. So I usually say—I’ll rattle them real quickly—I say hey, ah the the, you know, the Peace staff culture one one key point is that we are hopelessly optimistic. You may have been a part of other workplaces where people get cynical about initiatives that management bring. But here we say that we are hopelessly optimistic. When the lead pastor or the executive pasture get up and say here’s where we’re going, we’re going to take that hill. Nobody rolls their eyes and says yeah, that’s that’s cute. That’s the the initiative of the week. Everybody says, awesome! We’re doing that.

Rich Birch — Right. Let’s go. Yeah.

Jon Delger — Um and it gets done because the whole team believes in it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — Um, yeah, one of the things I say is that we are scrappy and stretchy.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Jon Delger — So those are kind of kind of kind of cheesy words for me, but you know so in our location we’re outside of the city. We’re in a little bit more of a country area um sort of on the the outside of the city. And so, you know, resources, financial resources are not quite as readily available as they would be in other parts of our area. I mean I’m not complaining – the Lord’s blessed us abundantly.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Jon Delger — But we’re just not one of those churches that has lots of money…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — …sitting around. You know we are blessed. We have what we need. Um but you know I know of other churches that are our size and they’re actually asking the question, how do we spend all this money that God’s given us? That’s not really the question we ask.

Rich Birch — That’s not your problem.

Jon Delger — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Jon Delger — So so I tell our staff, hey guys we’re scrappy…

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — …which means that we’re the underdog in the fight. You know, we have the resources God’s given us and we’re going to use them to the absolute maximum that we possibly can.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jon Delger — And then we’re stretchy in the sense that things are always changing and adapting, and you got used to that. We joke a lot about our office space. We make offices out of closets. We’ve got we’ve got 40 people on staff right now, and I think we’ve got probably what should be about offices for maybe 12.

Rich Birch — Sure..

Jon Delger — So I mean we just are packing everybody in whatever space they can go…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Jon Delger — …and moving them all the time

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. We went through a similar phase where our lead pastor would joke. He would say this felt like the election campaign season of officing, like it was like we were our offices had that kind of like yeah, everybody’s just everywhere. You know, we, you know, even the idea of we had an office felt kind of like, okay you’re really stretching it. We have rooms where lots of people are packed into. But yeah, I love that.

Jon Delger — Totally.

Rich Birch — Yeah I think that’s great on the hiring piece. The other interesting thing too, I wonder, is um, are you seeing the dynamic…there’s this weird interesting dynamic that shifts that as the church grows, there was a time where you were just like amazed that people wanted to work for you. It is like, oh my goodness, people want to be on our team.

Jon Delger — Yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing. But then if you stay there, you’ll end up hiring people you shouldn’t hire. And what happens is eventually you have to change that polarity, and I find you have to discount their enthusiasm for working for you. You have to discount that in the conversation. It’s like, okay, that’s fine; I’m glad you’re excited, but we have to get to will, you know, will, you know, will you actually line up with our team culture, you know, performance, all that.

Jon Delger — Totally.

Rich Birch — Let’s stick with the staff thing for a second. What about on the other side someone gets hired and I’m sure this is purely theoretical, but let’s say you have someone who maybe is not aligning with the culture. You’re struggling to get them to kind of um, you know, align with what’s happening at the church. What does that process look like? How are you kind of helping people stay connected, stay plugged into the the mission, the vision. What is it God’s called Peace Church to look like?

Jon Delger — Yeah, yeah. So formally we have ah sort of three processes. One is our onboarding process that we put people through. Another one would be our leader development process. And these second two, not everybody goes through them, but we use them as needed. And then the final one, of course, is the um the PIP process…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jon Delger — …performance improvement process, which we hope for people not to land in, but they do sometimes. We try to do that well. So onboarding-wise um we use a few resources. We use ah The Ideal Team Player – we use that book, and so we walk every new staff member in their first ninety days. They either read that book or read I wrote a short so like a 4-page summary of it, so they have the option they can just read the summary if they want. And then they discuss that with their supervisor and what that looks like. And we also do quarterly we do a presentation on one aspect of ideal team player. So we use that just to kind of…

Rich Birch — Oh that’s cool.

Jon Delger — …try to keep us on track and keep that as normal, everyday language of our staff.

Rich Birch — Is that like at your all-staff meetings, like it just it’s inserted…

Jon Delger — Yes.

Rich Birch — …in that month’s all-team kind of thing – here, we’re talking about this?

Jon Delger — Yeah, we do we do what we call Staff Chapel twice a month.

Rich Birch — Okay, yep.

Jon Delger — Um, and so one of those presentations is ideal team player. Yeah, um. Yeah, and then yeah, just kind of the normal leader development process, especially with our upper level leaders, we try to just always be talking about who we are, and what it’s like to be part of the Peace staff and our culture, and just try to have I mean the way I kind of visualize is that we try to have a thick enough culture, it’s it’s sort of you could reach out and grab it in the air that it deters people or or um galvanizes people. You know, it either it either makes it really clear that they are supposed to be part of this, or that they’re not supposed to be part of this.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. Well I I would assume I know that a part of this too is just even how you engage in kind of one-on-one meetings with your people. You provided a great resource for us here. This is a template to think about how to effectively lead ah, one-on-one conversations. Talk us through what do one-on-ones look like within Peace Church. How how do what’s the normal rhythm?You know, ah, what do what are your what do you tell tell your team to expect? Or what do you tell your managers to they’re required to have one-on-ones…

Jon Delger — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …and then let’s dive into this this particular resource. So helpful for folks.

Jon Delger — Yeah. Yeah, I hope it’s helpful to people. Um, it’s it’s been helpful for us just to clarify across the board what does a one-on-one meeting look like. And so what we say in it is that um, it’s the bread and bread and butter of meetings at Peace Church – that the one-on-one is where real work kind of happens between supervisor and staff member. We recommend that they’re twice a month, not every week we recommend. They’re 45 to 60 minutes long. And then I’ve given this as a presentation, and it’s in the document as well, but we talk about three aspects: care, clear, and coach.

Jon Delger — So care. You’re supposed to spend some time caring for your staff member. And I often say, you know, yeah we put we publish this document to the whole staff. So on the one hand, you know, that your supervisor is required to care for you. But I hope, you know, that that actually also comes from their heart.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jon Delger — I say that to my my direct reports. I do care about you. We put it on paper because I want to make sure it happens, and we don’t ever forget about it.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Jon Delger — But I do care about you. I care what’s going on in your family and your personal life as well as professional.

Jon Delger — Then clear is kind of the to me it’s got kind of a dual meaning of on the one hand you’re kind of clearing the table,, clearing the things that um, that need to be checked off. But also you’re making sure things are clear, understandable, clarity. And so we use Asana as our project management management software. And so every meeting uses an Asana project and so we walk right through it. And so we um, you know, we check off things that we discuss or that we accomplished. We make notes in the comment section. We add subtasks. So that’s kind of the bulk of the meeting is you got your laptop out and we’re just walking through what are the discussions we need to have, and then writing down decisions we’ve made…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Jon Delger — …which is, you know, so we don’t get to the next one-to-one meeting and it’s like, hey last meeting we talked about this, but what in the world did we decide to do? And we try to avoid that…

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Jon Delger — …by by making records, and setting tasks, and knowing who’s responsible for what. That’s a big part of the one-to-one.

Jon Delger — And then coach. Coach.We say that supervisors you do have something to offer to your employees. We just gave that I just gave that that speech kind of at our last, we call them department leaders department leaders meeting. We talked about how supervisors, you know, I know because you are all so humble, which is awesome, that’s why that’s part of why you’re a great leader. But because of your humility I know it’s sometimes tempting. It’s like I don’t have anything to offer to these people. You know, I’m just here to kind of direct and kind of make sure they’re doing their thing.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Jon Delger — Um, but no, you really do. You’re in your position because you have something to offer, so think about it, write it down, maybe shoot a video, or at least, you know, get on YouTube and find ah, thing that you’re thinking about that your staff member should hear. So we encourage that at most one-to-ones you’re providing some kind of resource – a video, an article, or just some kind of, you know, thought-provoking thing that you’ve thought of yourself.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good. I love that distinction. I think particularly on that coach part, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone articulate that, that it’s like hey let’s make that a formal part of this. Like let’s actually ensure you’re coming to I love that push of like, hey you are ah, you’re you’re humble. You may not, but you’ve got all kinds of stuff going on in your head that has brought you to the place where you are where you’re leading today. Let’s just pass that on to other people. I think we often think of that at like a team level, or you know, at a kind of at a a whole church level. But I think that’s what that’s a great that’s great tool. Love that.

Rich Birch — Um and how often are you coaching your managers on one-on-ones? What does that rhythm look like? Is that like it just a normal part of your I’m assuming you are obviously modeling this with your people who then are modeling it down, but is there, you know, how often do you actually work through this, through three C’s with them?

Jon Delger — Yeah, good question. It’s maybe not as consistent as I would love.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Jon Delger — It’s ah like you said with the main thing is trying to model it. And unfortunately I don’t always, you know, I’m just like every other manager, I get busy.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Jon Delger — And is tempting to let those one-to-ones become, hey what do you need from me? Okay, we’re done.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jon Delger — Ah, you know it’s easy to let that happen. But that’s part of the reason that we give the guide to all staff so that supervisors and employees know what’s supposed to happen. Ah, that way we can kind of hold each other accountable a little bit when we’re, you know, if I do that to one of my staff, they can say, hey, you know, last couple of meetings it hasn’t been 45 to 60 minutes and we haven’t actually covered the three C’s.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — You know, they can say that to me so that’s an important part of it. Um, so modeling it we try to do. But then ah twice a month we have what we call our department leaders meeting. So that’s ah, that’s most managers. It’s our it’s our upper level managers. So there’s about there’s about eight of us in the room or so. And each of those meetings it’s a requirement, we have it on the Asana every time there’s a leader a leader development presentation, either by myself, or our family pastor, or our lead pastor. Um, and so one-to-ones is a regular topic brought up in those referred back to the three C’s. Um, but we use other topics as well. But that’s that’s the main thing where it probably comes through.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Um, now kind of stepping back in a slightly different direction. So there’s been, you know, accelerated growth over these last three years. Um, what happened four years ago like what what was it that kind of preceded this, you know, this growth?

Jon Delger — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And, you know, what what’s your read on that? I know sometimes it’s hard. It’s like the it’s hard to read the label from inside the jar. But what what is it that has, you know, that shifted or changed or maybe you do have total clarity on what exactly that was?

Jon Delger — No great question. It’s it’s actually a little bit of a wild story. It’s ah so, you know, that was 2020 basically was the turning point for us.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Right.

Jon Delger — So um, you know, headed into 2020 we were we were experiencing growth, but it was it was probably you know 5 to 10 percent a year, which is still great.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it’s amazing.

Jon Delger — You know, statistically across the nation. We’ve been at that. We were at we were at that rate probably steadily for the past ten years leading up to covid.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jon Delger — We’re at steady kind of growth five, ten percent – sometimes a little bit more. Um but in 2020 covid came um, restrictions in Michigan were heavy, so we we were shut down for a period of time. And actually during that period of time. The guy who was our lead pastor and who had been there for 10 years felt the call to go elsewhere.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Jon Delger — So he moved elsewhere and right in the middle of 2020 the guy who was the executive pastor became the lead pastor. And then I was the community pastor and I became the executive pastor.

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah.

Jon Delger — So right in the middle of 2020 was that leadership change.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Jon Delger — And then as we launched out of 2020, we we said a few different things. I think the main thing is just that people were so hungry for truth at that point.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Jon Delger — And we happened to be a church that was just really really clear about what we believed about gender and sexuality and every other topic that the bible talks about, topic of life. And so ah, by January of 20… you know we had relaunched in the middle of 2020, under new leadership, and we thought, man, after you know, this this other pastor had been here for 10 years and we thought, you know, statistically we’re going to decline, right?

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, yes.

Jon Delger — We’re going to decline for a few years before we get going again. Um, and so we were…

Rich Birch — And a once in a hundred year pandemic. You know they’re throw that in there.

Jon Delger — …oh yeah, yeah, totally.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Jon Delger — Yeah. We got going at 2020 and our new kind of leadership role’s thinking, all right, we’ll we’ll take it easy for a few years. You know, we’ll just kind of rebuild relationships get the get the foundation set again and and then we’ll, you know, kind of pick up and hopefully get growing again.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — And you know, we kind of had a very casual approach to things. And so we relaunched at maybe four five hundred after being at 800.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jon Delger — Um and then by January of 2021 we had already broken a thousand.

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Jon Delger — And we’re running out of room. We actually after only two Sundays over over 1000 we made the decision to invest like 150 grand in in reshaping our worship center to seat more people. Um I think people were excited about the fact that we were going to respond to growth quickly and so more growth happened. Um and it just things just took off from there, and we just have been holding on for the ride.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s Amazing. That’s cool. What a cool story. Love ah, love hearing what’s happening at Peace Church. So cool to see and, you know, fun to hear about, you know, some of those pivots and changes. And that’s you know, hopefully encouraging for folks that are in who maybe are at the at that, you know they’ve just stepped into a role, they’ve just kind of reconstituted leadership. I think… so were both you and the current lead pastor were existing. How long had you been at the church? That’s kind of an interesting, piece of that puzzle.

Jon Delger — Yeah, he had been around for maybe seven years or so before that. And then I’ve got an interesting background. I had only been on staff for about a year um, but I had I actually grew up at this church as a kid.

Rich Birch — Um, ah, interesting.

Jon Delger — And so I’ve kind of been here and gone a few times. I went away during college, did youth ministry at another church, but in the area not too far away.

Rich Birch — Right.

Jon Delger — And then I came back during seminary, did a 4 year internship as kind of like a pastoral resident kind of thing.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Jon Delger — And then went out and was a pastor at two other churches – associate pastor and then lead pastor. And then I and then I got to come back in 2019, and then we rolled into this.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Jon Delger — So both of us had history and background.

Rich Birch — Well and then even your your seat at the table there, there is that kind of—um I’ve seen this in other contexts—there’s the ah, call him the the outsider insiders. They’re like you were you had an insider knowledge because you had been around. You knew the church. But had been outside for a while. And there’s that is a really valuable seat to be in because you give you all kinds of trust. You’re like oh that guy’s been around and he knows us, but you have experience to bring to bear that that can add a fresh kind of perspective and spin. Um, that’s great.

Jon Delger — Yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s cool. That’s really cool to hear, and interesting. Well this has been great. Anything else you’d like to share, Jon, just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Jon Delger — Man, thanks so much for talking, Rich. Yeah, I I just hope and pray for everybody listening God’s blessings on your leadership out there, pray that God grows this church not just at Peace but everywhere.

Rich Birch — So good.

Jon Delger — Preach the gospel and I hope people come to know it and have eternal life.

Rich Birch — So good. Thanks, Jon, I really appreciate you being here today. Thanks for being on. If people want to track with you or with the church where do we want to send them online?

Jon Delger — Yeah, peacechurch.cc is our main church website. Actually in January of 2024 we’re launching a platform called Resound where there’s gonna be more media coming out from Peace Church. We’re excited about that but peacechurch.cc is great place to find us and find resources like this.

Rich Birch — Thank you so much. Thanks for being here today, Jon.

Jon Delger — Thank you, Rich. Appreciate it, brother. It’s been a pleasure.


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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.