Scott Bixby on How a 127 Year Old Church Grew to Over 90% in Groups and 2,000+ People


Welcome to this week’s podcast and thank you for joining us today. We’re talking with Scott Bixby of Northridge Church in Rochester.

We’ve highlighted Northridge Church in the past in this article about theater churches, and we’re happy to be talking with them again. Northridge Church has been around for 127 years and was a typical Baptist church when Scott first came there. Since then, it has transitioned to a multisite church with three campuses in the Rochester area that better reaches people in the community. The team pared down a lot of the things they had done and began to use a simpler approach to church. Part of that process was removing the adult Sunday School classes and using a group structure instead.

Scott is with us today to talk about how they transitioned into a groups model and the impact it’s had for Northridge.

  • Be a church OF groups, not a church WITH groups. // Typically the first point of contact with a visitor and a local church happens during the Sunday morning service. Create an environment where the newcomer feels welcome and then invite them to take their next step in joining a group. At Northridge the groups are a constant topic within the church, as well as part of the assimilation process. As Scott notes, “There’s no way we could have grown from a few hundred to 2,200 without our groups formed and functioning well.” Keeping groups in the forefront on Sundays exposes visitors to the group culture, plus reminds people in existing groups why their group is important in their lives and spiritual growth.
  • Create a clear method for joining and sharing groups. // Northridge uses a method of trimesters to have people transition into and out of groups. Three times a year everyone has the chance to join or leave a current group. There are feedback forms so that the leaders can be aware of anything they need to change or continue to do in their groups. Each group has its own plan, but there are churchwide topics that are given to the groups to be discussed. The trimester method Northridge uses has groups starting fresh in September and meeting for 10 weeks. They then take a break for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and kick off again in January. After another 10 weeks they take a break for Easter, and then reboot for 10 weeks in late spring/early summer, taking a break before the September kickoff. While people can join a group in the middle of a trimester, most of the time people are joining and changing groups during the break periods.
  • Train and coach group leaders. // Training and coaching community group leaders is of utmost importance at Northridge. To train group leaders, Northridge will have a large training event twice a year in which the group leaders from all of the campuses come together. There are a number of breakouts at that event and the leaders get to choose which ones they want to attend. In addition to the training event, Northridge helps develop their groups by having coaches visit the groups a couple of times a year. Scott notes that the group leaders are so key that Northridge staffs so that they can support their leaders well. As a result, staff members—such as a campus pastor—are the ones that coach group leaders. New groups will be visited more often by the coaches to see how they’re coming along. Older groups that have been around for a while and are comfortable in their progress may not be visited as often.
  • Multiply groups to encourage growth. // Each group has a set “capacity” so when they reach a certain number of members, usually around 20, they multiply. Some members will branch off and start a new group from the original one. The basis for this new group can be a missionary mindset, where a couple of people are sent off on a mission to start and grow a new group. Or the new group can be based on something like geography. When Northridge starts a new campus, members who are closer to the new campus go to start new groups. The advantage to multiplying into new groups is that it keeps the groups small and open to new people. After a while, new people may feel that the original members of the group have been together so long it’s kind of a clique, making them less open to talking during discussions. Starting a new group allows new people the chance to start from the ground up and be an involved member of that group.

Learn more about Northridge at www.northridgerochester.com.

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Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Pocket Casts

Ministries Following // Northpoint, 12Stone Church, LCBC

Influential Book //Axiom by Bill Hybels and Larry Black; Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by by Scott Sonenshein and Mike Chamberlain, The Volunteer Project: Stop Recruiting. Start Retaining. by Darren Kizer and Christine Kreisher

Inspiring Leader // Bill Hybels

What does he do for fun // Get outdoors and do projects in his yard

Contact // www.northridgerochester.com

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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.